Chris Haddad is an interesting fellow with a very bright future full of loads of potential. The BenGil Post was able to catch up with Chris at the airport before he departed to the Caribbean, wow.. we can now claim we have interviewed one of the most successful entrepreneurs to come from the BenGil area.
After Chris graduated a semester early from Gillespie High School in 1994, he started life as a soldier. He did miss out on his final Prom and “a few other things” by graduating early, but he joined the Army National Guard after being influenced by Mr. Jack Burns, history teacher at Gillespie High School. Mr. Burns was Chris’s favorite teacher throughout high school as well as his football coach during his star football days and then later became his sergeant in the Army.
After basic training in Fort Benning, Georgia, Chris went away to start his college life at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. College was a fun time, but there was more on the horizon for Chris and he was edging to figure out what it was. He later graduated in December of 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in Science. A half of a year rolled by and Chris decided to pack of life and move to Florida. In Florida, Chris first lived in Orlando temporarily until he settled down in the Tampa Bay area. With income being a high priority at the time, he decided to start supporting himself like many other college graduates.. working in beach bars. The beach bar work was great, but after 6 months passed – he knew it was time for a change.
During his stay in Tampa Bay, he met a new friend from Australia who had always influenced him to expand my travels. Before the final goodbye, Chris packed up the Florida life and drove back to Gillespie to work for relatives at Broom’s Orchard in Carlinville. Broom’s Orchard lasted 2 months and once again, he was on the move – this time to Austria! Chris jumped on a plane and was off to Sydney, Australia to celebrate the millinieum.
In Australia, Chris had to make a living so he acquired a one year working visa and supported himself once again in the hospitality business working in pubs and restaurants. After traveling all over Australia, Chris landed a job bartending at an outdoor 18 day party venue at Sussex Lane for the Sydney Olympics in 2000. According to Chris, “This one of the best experiences in my life at the time and I definitely starting to hear my calling.” Shortly after the Sussez Lane gig, one of his Aussie working peers asked him if he would like to set stake in Australia and open up their very own bar/restaurant. Chris said they both had very similar ideas and of course they were also filled with the same passion – so the first restaurant was in the works.
After finishing his travels in Australia, it was time for a change of pace. Chris headed to Southeast Asia (Thailand & Indonesia) for a short amount of time before his visa expired and then he was then back in the United States. Chris decided to set up fort in the States for about one year. During that year, Chris worked at many different styles of restaurants, pubs, nightclubs, hotels, and lounge bars – just trying to educate himself with a variety of different styles of hospitality establishment. After being in the United States for 14 months, he received a call from his new business partner saying it was time to come back to Oz. Chris and his business partner had set up their companies and registered their business name via emails, fax and phone since Chris was no longer an Australian resident. Chris’s partner requested his presence was needed within 2 weeks back in Austria for their business.
A little shy of 3 weeks, Chris was back. In February of 2002, Chris arrived in Cairns, Australia and then drove south six hours to a little place called Airlie Beach. Airlie Beach is the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands and is up close to the Great Barrier Reef in North Queensland, Australia. In May of 2002, Chris and his partner had opened a small trendy lounge bar in this area called Armada. For five “amazing years”, they built up the business and operated the day-to-day operation. After those five years, they sold the establishment and became the “richest poor guys in town.”
Chris and his friend then headed 3 hours north to a city called Townsville and opened up another restaurant/bar in 2007 called Jamaica Joe’s. By that time, Chris had acquired permanent Australian residency at this stage. But later in 2008, Chris felt the need to become a true blue Aussie and he applied and later received his citizenship. Presently, his passport wallet included an American passport accompanied by an Australian passport.
Jamaica Joe’s has been extremely successful after 4 years of hard work and dedication. In the time being, Chris opened up two other new restaurants for friends, but his main focus was always concentrating on his work in Townsville. Jamaica Joe’s has allowed him to still travel, since that is his number one passion. After feeling the need to have a good time, Chris just went to the Caribbean to participate in Carnival in Trinidad & Tobago.
Well, now we are in the year 2011 and Chris made his first visit to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) Vietnam for a 4 day business trip. Chris later came back to Australia in April and started the construction of a new bar/restaurant concept called Hog’s Head Tavern & Wine Bar which is situated in the infamous Bitexco Financial Tower in Saigon. Presently, Chris is one week from the opening day of Hog’s Head and is involved in some intense staff training. This has been his biggest business challenge yet, he told us. However, Chris spoke highly of the citizens, “The people and the country are amazing.” As of now, Chris is between Australia and Vietnam at the moment balancing his businesses, but still visiting them to make sure operation is running smoothly.
Gillespie will always be home to Chris, but Australia has taken him “in like an adopted son. I do feel a bit more Aussie these days, but I will always have a bit of of the red, white and blue still running through the veins.” Chris expects to return to Gillespie within 2 years for a visit, he misses his family and close friends the most. His motivation to travel and see the world has led him to where he is now and he would not trade it for the world. In 5 years, Chris sees himself possibly still is Austria, but the Caribbean is in his eye for the future. His next stop: the little beach bar in the Caribbean with the dive shack and the beach volleyball net set up at the front.
We, The BenGil Post, give Chris a huge thank-you for being halfway around the world and responding to our questions in 6 hours!