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TAMPA -- Jim Mellody never imagined his idea for a family-oriented Irish sports pub would become an empire. He just wanted a little place of his own.
After struggling for years in the restaurant business, Mellody went back to his roots, borrowed his mother's maiden name, and opened the first Beef "O' Brady's in Brandon in 1985.
His dream flourished into an Southeastern empire of nearly 100 restaurants in seven states.
Mellody died Saturday at 63, after battling cancer.
"All he ever wanted to do was take care of his family," said son Jim Mellody Jr. "It was a neighborhood pub that kind of evolved."
It began with some pain.
The Pennsylvania native decided to pack up his family and head for Florida in 1971, after throwing out his back shoveling snow.
He worked 80 hours a week attempting different concepts in Tampa, from Italian restaurants to pizza shops.
Finally, he tried an Irish pub. He made it a place for families to gather.
When he found out some of his customers wanted to watch local star Jody Reed play second base for the Boston Red Sox, Mellody hooked up a satellite television to carry all the games.
He had rules. No liquor. No pool tables.
Today, all franchises are required to follow those rules.
"He kept it family-oriented," Jim Mellody Jr. said. "He had (the rules) written into the bylaws."
Over the years, the restaurant grew into a franchise. Now it's owned by Family Sports Concepts.
At the time of his death, Mellody still owned a few restaurants. Six months ago, he purchased the franchise at 37th Avenue and Fourth Street N in St. Petersburg. He asked Aaron Carricato, 24 and a loyal employee of his son Sean in Tampa, to come on board as a partner. He even loaned Carricato money.
"He was the type of guy who would want something to go well and would do whatever it took to make it work," Carricato said.
Mellody is survived by his wife, Jeanette, two sons and a daughter, Melissa, and four grandchildren.
Serenity Meadows Memorial Park in Riverview is handling funeral arrangements.