Welcome back! Buzbee’s partners with Garwin native to reopen Fiddle and Whistle

From left to right, Aaron Buzbee, Michele Buzbee, Adam Damman, and Sadeigh Damman. The Buzbee's and Damman's have recently formed a partnership to get the Fiddle and Whistle up and running again, and the Main Street staple has been reopened for just over a week now. Photo by Susanna Meyer

The Fiddle and Whistle Irish Pub is a Marshalltown Main Street staple, and from the moment the doors closed in 2020 due to the pandemic, thirsty residents have been anxiously clamoring for the day it would reopen. After a little over two years, the wait is finally over.

Business owners Aaron and Michele Buzbee recently formed a partnership with Adam and Sadeigh Damman (Adam is a Garwin native) to get the Fiddle going again, and it officially reopened last Thursday, Sept. 15. It was a great feeling for the Buzbees who faced the very real possibility that they wouldn’t open again.

The tornado, pandemic, and then the derecho affected the Buzbees alongside the rest of Marshalltown, and Aaron said there was a point in November 2020 when they decided that the best course of action would be to close the Fiddle and Whistle permanently.

“We thought, ‘We’re just going to kind of get through the holiday season and probably close early in 2021.’And then that time came, and we couldn’t do it,” Aaron said.

Michele said they would set closure dates — and they’d be sad to do so — but they were resigned to it. But every time they returned to the pub, they found that they just couldn’t say goodbye, and they realized they wanted the Fiddle to stay on Main Street for years.

The Fiddle and Whistle Irish Pub officially reopened on Sept. 15, and regulars poured through the doors to visit the Main Street staple. Behind the bar, business owner Aaron Buzbee holds a beer, ready to serve the awaiting customers. The Fiddle will be open Wednesday through Saturday from 3 p.m. to midnight. Photo by Robert Maharry

“We’d step back into this room and just go, ‘We can’t, we can’t do it.’ Or we’d run into a bunch of customers that would say, ‘Oh, I just miss the Fiddle so much,’ or they would tell us memories about the Fiddle, and it just would tear at us, and we would go, ‘We just can’t give it up,’ especially with all the great new things that are going to be happening downtown,” Aaron said.

They just kept holding onto it, not really sure where it was going, and then in late 2021, they realized finding partners would be the best way to move forward. They spread the word within their own circles, and they even hosted a Connect Marshalltown event at the Fiddle in May in search of people who might be interested in working with them.

That same month, the Buzbee’s were connected with the Damman’s through a mutual acquaintance, and after meeting several times and getting to know each other better, the long-sought partnership was born. The Damman’s have a background in bartending, and while they are familiar with the Marshalltown area, they live just north of Montour.

Sadeigh and Adam operated a bar out of Zearing, but they are both excited to embrace the change of scenery the Fiddle offers. When asked what initially drew them to the Fiddle, Adam Damman said the cozy atmosphere was one of the most appealing aspects.

“It’s a very intimate space,” Adam said. “There’s not very many bars that I can see my mom drinking at, (but) this is one of them.”

For Sadeigh, bartending is a job she’s been passionate about since she got into the field four years ago, so when the opportunity arose to partner with the Buzbee’s at the Fiddle, she could barely contain her excitement.

“(Bartending) was the very first job I have ever actually loved, and so, when it got brought upon us, I felt like a little schoolgirl, to be honest. I was like, ‘Let’s do it, let’s do it, let’s go!'” Sadeigh said.

The Fiddle’s first three days open again were Sept. 15 through Sept. 17, and while they were hoping to open quietly and only relied on word of mouth to publicize it, that ended up working a little too well. Crowds poured through the doors, and everyone was excited for the pub to be open once again.

Aaron and Michele said the process was both exciting and emotional for them.

“Seeing so many faces and old customers that come, seeing them in this room is special,” Aaron said. “To see so many friendships that have started here and then kind of watch that perpetuate. We’re seeing the same connections and the same groups of friends come in, and it feels like we haven’t skipped a beat.”

Michele had similar feelings, and getting to see regulars coming back after all that time struck a chord in her.

“I said welcome home many times to our regulars that came back. There were lots of hugs. I wrote in our Facebook post that I was proud of how many tears I held back. I kept them all in, but it is emotional in a positive way,” Michele said.

Sadeigh and Adam got to meet the regulars too, and they were both excited to start serving the Marshalltown community. Sadeigh said the experience was somewhat emotional for them as well.

“We’ve had quite a few people following along with us, and that has been emotional on our part. Having so many people from our previous clientele come here and support it has been a really big thing for us, and it’s exciting. I feel like this is my second home. I want to be here like half the time,” she said.

Adam echoed Sadeigh’s thoughts and said he always wants to come in early and stay late. The Buzbees are excited to work with the Dammans, and they’re ready to deliver the same Fiddle experience patrons know and love.

“It’s been fun watching them. It takes us back to 11 years ago when we started. To watch that emotion, you can see it in their faces and the excitement when customers walk through the door. It’s how we felt when we were brand new to this, so it’s kind of a proverbial passing of the torch in some ways,” Aaron said.

The Fiddle and Whistle will be open Wednesday through Saturday from 3 p.m. to midnight.