Dewey Forward Interview: Night Club Owner Pivots to Popcorn Shop
Diana Landau | December 04, 2023
Carl interviews music promoter/serial entrepreneur Dewey Forward this week. Just some of Dewey's accomplishments include organizing and promoting over 4,000 concerts, opening Peabody's Cafe and Peabody's DownUnder in Cleveland Flats and also developing the Sohio/BP RiverFest, (which was Ohio's largest festival in history with over 1,000,000 attendees). He has produced concerts for Spyro Gyra, Pearl Jam, Etta James, Wynton Marsalis, REM, Donovan, Bon Jovi, Bo Diddley and countless others. Dewey is also now the proud owner of an iconic popcorn shop in picturesque Chagrin Falls, OH.
Like Carl, Dewey grew up in Shaker Heights, a suburb of Cleveland. "It was a 'Leave it to Beaver' childhood, " he says. Enterprising even at the age of 9, Dewey started a "canteen" in his basement, selling refreshments and a place to hang out to the neighborhood kids. He also says he was a troublemaker in school and was on a first name-basis with the Principal.
After trying out three colleges, Dewey settled on Hartford where he says he didn't learn much in class but learned a lot about producing successful events. "I learned how to organize and promote concerts and events and how to create a crowd." He founded SAW--a student organization against the Vietnam War, organizing bus trips to Washington D.C. to protest.
Fun Fact: Dewey Forward is a "Jr.", his last name of English descent. "No one forgets my name!"
Carl notes that being a concert and event producer is a high-stress, high-risk career. "Yes, my parents were aghast but I didn't listen to them." In 1977 Dewey opened Peabody's Cafe and Peabody's DownUnder, two successful ventures in the up-and-coming Cleveland Flats neighborhood. His mother gave him the money to start both businesses. "I paid her back and I'll forever be grateful." By the time Dewey moved on, the area had grown from 5 restaurants and bars to 53. "When I look back on it, it was a blast but also so stressful."
Dewey retired for the first(!) time at age 50. Not one to sit still, he started a new business every five years. Now at 74, he's learning not to add more stress into his life. He does a lot of physical activity, including bike riding. "It clears my head and is good for my heart!" He and his girlfriend love to travel and he's building a second home on Lake Erie. His five words for the (un)retirement good life: "Keep moving and no stress!"
Dewey Forward's (un)retirement tips:
"Get rid of that negative voice in your head that tells you that you can't do things. We are a very capable generation!"
"Don't be too old to retire. What I mean is, do not keep working until your body is too old to do anything else."
"I'm not a planner. I just say, 'That looks fun!' and then I put blinders on and go for it!"
Diana Landau is the Content Wrangler for Pickleball Media. After 15 years in corporate marketing, in 2012 she pivoted to write and wrangle content for Niche Media's weekly blog. She now manages the "I Used to be Somebody" blog.