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The Bar Dog of Bar Dogs

In tiny Hollowayville, Izzy is the main attraction at Hollywood & Vine
by Phil Luciano | Photos by Phil Luciano |
A dog sitting on a bar stool in front of a bar
Izzy, the popular mascot/greeter at Hollywood & Vine saloon in Hollowayville, pauses atop a barstool, a frequent perch for her. Customers stream into the rejuvenated old saloon not only to visit with Izzy but buy stickers and T-shirts boasting her friendly face.

In Hollowayville, at this old burg’s lone watering hole, the staff’s friendliest face belongs to Izzy. 

Of all employees at the Hollywood & Vine tavern, Izzy might not seem like the best. She spends a lot of time perched atop barstools. She sponges snacks off customers. She even can be seen snoozing under the sink.

But she is a customer favorite. She greets visitors at the door, dances merrily upon request and always adds a fun-loving twinkle into days and nights at the old-time saloon.

She is lively. She is loving. She is a dog.

It’s not unusual to find a pub that allows dogs. But it’s really rare – maybe even a one-of-a-kind set-up – where a four-legged staffer serves as the establishment’s hostess as well as the face of the operation.

People stream in not only to visit Izzy but to buy stickers, t-shirts and merch boasting her happy face.

“I think she’s sweet and cute and loveable,” said co-owner Jennifer Nichols, 38. “Everyone kinda gets a chuckle out of seeing her.”

“She makes everybody happy,” added Nichol’s husband and co-owner, Marshall Nichols, 36. “Everybody’s happy to see her.”

Izzy is a big reason why Hollywood & Vine, a 19th century saloon that recently underwent a structural rejuvenation, is enjoying a surge in popularity in rural Bureau County. A good crowd can temporarily double the population of Hollowayville, whose 36 residents make it one of the smallest incorporated municipalities in the state. 

In this undated photo, customers ride up on horseback to the Hollywood & Vine saloon, 101 S. First Ave. in Hollowayville. (Photo courtesy of Hollywood & Vine)

As far as names and settings go, Hollywood & Vine might be considered ironic, as compared to the famed intersection in Los Angeles. There, Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street became renowned a century ago as the hot spot for radio and movie production. Today, the spot still hosts the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  

Meantime, the heart of Hollowayville features two square blocks of clapboard homes – plus, right in the middle, one throwback saloon. The bar was built in 1894, during Hollowayville’s heyday as coal mines dotted the Illinois valley. Though never huge, Hollowayville — named after an early doctor, S.S. Holloway — once sported four bars, a general store, several eateries and other businesses.

Way back when, it got the nickname Garden City for the most logical of reasons: “Everybody had a garden,” Marshall Nichols said.

Like many communities throughout the area, Hollowayville thinned out as mines shut down during the first few decades of the 20th century. But Hollywood & Vine continued to thrive into the 1940s and ‘50s. The business never featured much more than four walls surrounding a rectangular bar. But crowds kept coming mostly due to the fun-loving spirit of owners Dom and Peggy Paglia, who served shots and beers and smiles. 

Plus, there was their dog, Lulu. According to legend, Lulu – later, maybe several generations of Lulus – was on hand for decades to greet customers.

“Izzy kind of looks like Lulu,” Jennifer Nichols said. “The dog tradition continues.” 

In a photo likely taken in the 1940s or 1950s, then-owner Peggy Paglia takes a seat while clutching a tambourine outside Hollywood & Vine. With her is Lulu, then the mascot of the bar. (Photo courtesy of Hollywood & Vine)

Actually, for a while, it was unclear if any tradition would continue at the saloon. At times, the pub got a wee lean and threadbare. Under one ownership, at wintertime the thermostat was kept so low that shivering customers used bar-top candles to warm their hands. Sometimes, to stave off the chill, they’d borrow community clothes – dubbed Vine Wear – hanging on a coatrack inside the front door. 

In the years leading up to 2020, Hollywood & Vine would open sporadically, then shutter. Jennifer Nichols, who owned a clothing shop in Princeton, and Marshall Nichols, who owns Nichols Outdoor Lawn Care & Snow Removal, dreamed about one day buying a bar or restaurant. In mid-2020, the couple saw a “for sale” sign at Hollywood & Vine and decided to give it a whirl. 

The couple – they grew up together in nearby Malden and still live outside that town – faced a lot of work in repairing and rehabbing the weathered building. They encountered a lot of wood rot, along with a sagging floor punctured with multiple holes. 

“The joke here was that you didn’t sit on the north side of the bar, because your chair might fall in,” Jennifer Nichols said.

But the elbow grease paid off. The saloon retains an old-fashioned atmosphere, paying homage to days of yore with ancient photos dotting the walls, while simultaneously flashing a renewed sparkle. Plus, the couple added an outside bar and patio, along with a grassy lot for bags, bands and other fun. 

But perhaps the most important addition might’ve been Izzy, a squatty, 5-year-old mix-breed that is 50 percent German shepherd, 50 percent beagle and 100 percent adorable. 

“I’m assuming the beagle was the female,” Marshall Nichols said. 

Jennifer Nichols used to bring Izzy to her clothing shop, a practice she continued when she changed her day job to saloon proprietor. Izzy immediately made the place her home away from home.

Says Marshall Nichols: “She’s a good bar dog.”

As such, she’s good for Hollywayville. Mayor Bob Barnes said the village — which has just one other business, a barbecue joint, to help fuel an annual budget of $65,000 — has enjoyed a boost in sales tax revenue from the bar. In fact, more and more outsiders are flowing into Hollowayville to take a peek at the revived saloon, he said.

“The Vine has surprised the village with the amount of interest it is generating,” said Barnes, 52, a lifelong resident. “Both the older crowd and newer crowd have a place to come together and create new traditions.”  

One of those new traditions involves brisk sales of Hollywood & Vine merchandise. In fact, t-shirts boasting Izzy can increasingly be seen around Bureau County and beyond, which tickles the Nicholses. 

“It is fun,” Jennifer Nichols said with a smile. “She’s probably our top-selling shirt.”

“The Vine has surprised the village with the amount of interest it is generating,” said Barnes, 52, a lifelong resident. “Both the older crowd and newer crowd have a place to come together and create new traditions.”  

One of those new traditions involves brisk sales of Hollywood & Vine merchandise. In fact, t-shirts boasting Izzy can increasingly be seen around Bureau County and beyond, which tickles the Nicholses. 

“It is fun,” Jennifer Nichols said with a smile. “She’s probably our top-selling shirt.”

Phil Luciano

Phil Luciano

is a senior writer/columnist for Peoria Magazine and content contributor to public television station WTVP
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