The "R" and "P" of RP Tracks stand for Rick (Johns) and Peter (Moon), the founders of the venerable college bar, which has operated near the University of Memphis for 29 years. Last year in June, Bernard and Mary Laws bought the place, and they immediately determined that BM Tracks would not work at all.
And so it goes. Under new ownership, RP Tracks is still RP Tracks through and through. The Laws claim that not a change has been made. There are the great burgers, that photo collage on one wall, the English prof plaques on another. The famous vegetarian barbecue nachos are still around, of course, and every time a train goes by ...
- New(ish) owners, Mary (left) and Bernard Laws, the same neighborhood bar by the tracks
"Okay, so that's an urban legend. Everybody seems to think they get a shooter for a dollar or a free shooter or a shooter half off," Mary says. "I have talked to Rick and Peter about it many, many, many times, and they have said it has never been $1 shooters or half off. Never. It's always been a buck off when the train goes by."
Bernard, 41, started at Tracks in 1997 as a dish washer, eventually making it to the front of the house. He left, came back, left again. Meanwhile, Mary, 40, started in 2000 and left and returned as well. For a long time, their paths never crossed, until they did. And did they ever. They got married three and half years ago.
"We had always talked about owning our own place, but we had never thought it would be here," Mary says. "Never in a million years had we thought we would own it, ever. It just never seemed like that was in the realm of possibilities."
It was Johnson and Moon who approached them about buying Tracks and RP Billiards across the street.
Mary recalls, "I said, Do you want to buy it? And he said, Do you want to buy it? And we both said, Yes, let's do it. So we did.
"We're here all the time anyway," she adds.
The decision was made to keep the sale of RP Tracks quiet for a year.
"Rick and Peter didn't want us to get overwhelmed right on the front end," Mary explains. "They knew what we were walking into, so we kind of all just agreed that the first year would be a learning curve."
And, yes, it was stressful. Though both the Laws had worked at Tracks and knew the business well, they didn't know everything. (Also, Mary found out she was pregnant the week the contract was signed.)
"There were a lot things that Rick and Peter did that we had no idea they were doing, and they made it look so easy all the years that they did it," Mary says. "And then they say, Here you go and handed it over to us, and I was like, What does this mean?
"It's like having a giant baby, a very expensive, giant baby," Mary continues. "It does sleep from 3:30 to 8:30 a.m. a day."
RP Tracks attracts a revolving set of college students, young professionals, and longtime regulars. It's about the cleanest, well-lit college bar you'll ever see.
"It's a college bar, but it's also a neighborhood bar," Mary says. "I would say that 75 percent of the people who come in here live in the neighborhood.
"The overall thing I like about Tracks is that it's just easy. Coming in here is easy. You feel at home right when you walk in."