Mothers Day Special - A Bar-Side Chat with Sharon “Mom” Fairless
| I didn’t know what to expect, but I definitely didn’t expect what I thought would be a 30-minute interview to last over three hours! Sharon “Mom” Fairless is fantastic, energetic, high-spirited, and a sweetheart to talk with. She is a light that shines brightly, and the only sad part was that three hours wasn’t nearly enough.
Born in Farmersville, Texas, Sharon moved to Irving, Texas when she was 3. The entire family has been here for generations. Mom did disclose her age a number of times while we were talking, but the greater part of valor will prevent me from disclosing it. Suffice it to say she is old enough to know better and still too young to care.
Mom came to the Ice House at Strokers Dallas when son Rick led her into the empty building next door and told her of his plans to open a bar for bikers. They could watch the bikes, watch friends’ bikes, talk bikes, and it would all be in the open—male bonding at its best. Sharon had her doubts. She questioned the idea of mixing bikers with beer. Rick explained that it wasn’t like the 50s and 60s. Everyone rides now. Mom took over the bar, and it has been a smash. She loves it and continually refers to her customers as her friends and family.
I asked about being called “Mom,” and Sharon explained to me that it had started out with folks calling her “Rick’s Mom” and was just naturally shortened to Mom. She never dreamed that she would have literally thousands of folks calling her Mom. I was told of one incident where a friend called the bar and asked for Sharon and was told that she didn’t work there.
Rick never wanted a partner; he didn’t want the hardships associated with a business partner. Sharon tried to discourage Rick from the beginning, but he persisted. Mom was concerned for his family. Rick did whatever was required to build his business. It is a success and she is thankful. The customers are all Moms’ friends. Some have been with her since the beginning. One, a gentleman named Mike Conley of Keller, Texas, has been there since day one. She tells me of many of her business dealings with customers. Her home addition, air conditioning, etc., are done by customers from the bar. They are very much family to her. She loves her clients, extended family and strangers. I believe she would go to the grave supporting, defending and praising their accomplishments.
Son Randy, it is told, claims that if folks were to listen to the television and all the interviews, they would think that Rick Fairless is an only child. Mom says she catches hell for that, but she is laughing when she says it and has a gleam in her eye. She spent quite a while telling me of her children’s accomplishments. Sons Ricky and Randy, daughters Micah and Denise are all successful. She says she is blessed to have a great family. Out in the wings are more generations to be thankful for, 12 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Speaking of generations, Rick’s grandmother Mammaw (I didn’t verify the spelling, but that is close), Janell Wright recently passed away. Mom spoke about how Rick sent Janell flowers every Monday for the last three years of her life. Alzheimer’s had taken its toll and although Janell didn’t have a clue who sent the flowers, just that she loved them. But at the end she recognized Rick and called him her boy. Rick was the first grandson. Rick sends flowers to his wife Sue and Mom as well. He also donated a TV to the nursing home his grandmother was in.
When we speak of causes, Mom Fairless literally lights up. She is so passionate about her chosen charity St. Jude’s Hospital that she just bubbles. She is equally proud of Scottish Pride Children’s Hospital and also praises the public library system. “They bring me hours and hours and hours of pleasure, free…free.” All of her books, whether purchased or given to her, wind up going to the library as a donation.
Mom works three days a week at the Ice House (Friday through Sunday) and loves it. I don’t think I have ever seen a younger person as excited about work as Mom is. For that matter, work standards are higher in the Fairless clan than I have ever seen. Rick hasn’t missed work in 20 years! But, it is not really work to her; she is socializing with her friends. She would rather hang out with the 30-somethings than with a crowd her own age. Once a month all of her classmates gather at Strokers for a reunion, but she generally does not attend. “Young people talk about fun stuff,” she says. “People my age talk about Medicare, Medicaid and who has died lately.” She says “I’m still living life on my terms. Knock on wood, I don’t know for how much longer. Sometimes I pay dearly.” And, “As long as I can get by with doing it my way, I’m doin’ it my way.”
Son, Randy is taking Mom gambling in Tunica, Mississippi. She is thrilled. But that is just one aspect of life. “I have everything I have ever wanted,” she told me. “I thank God for everything I have, my health being the first.” Smiling and reflecting, she continued, “I’m so grateful to Ricky for getting me into the business. I’ll be eternally grateful to him because the last 10 years have been a dream. To see him go where he has gone...what more could a mother ask for? It is just so gratifying to watch what he has done with his life.”
As previously mentioned, Mom is an avid reader, but when it comes to television, Judge Judy makes the world come to a stop for her. No calls, no beepers, no interruptions during the trial proceedings. She also talked about Tivo and how it helps when interruptions are unavoidable.
During the entire time we spoke there was classic rock coming from the bar’s speakers, and while Bob Seger was singing “Night Moves” in the background, Mom gave the following advice to new mothers, “Kids are more knowledgeable today, but we must teach kids to respect adults and figures of authority, teachers and police. The world is different now,” she says, and mentions again her great respect for teachers.
As conversations will, we eventually drifted around to discussing Viet Nam. Speaking of veterans, she said, “Those boys went over there to do their patriotic duty, to serve their country. And they didn’t deserve what they got upon their return. Viet Nam, I don’t think we’ll ever figure out Viet Nam. I remember that 19-year-old boy that went to Viet Nam and the guy that came home. We didn’t even know him.”
Mom had her first son at 16. Having no education to speak of, she eventually earned her GED. She tended bar and was good at it. She raised her family the best she could. When I asked about Rick’s tie-dyed shirts, she replied, “Rick’s an old hippy and he never was a hippy. I don’t know where he got that stuff; he just likes it.”
Well, that pretty much wraps it up. I cannot express my gratitude enough to Mom for taking time to sit with me for this interview. She is an exceptional hostess; Sue and Rick and the whole crowd are awesome. If I get back to Dallas and the timing is right, I fully intend to talk more with Mom, her life and attitude are refreshing and motivational.
Thank you, Mom.
Interview and photos by Michael Lousha