The Butcher & the Boar restaurant in downtown Minneapolis had 1,200 Facebook friends even before it opened in 2012. Like its sister property, Bar La Grassa, it was an immediate hit — and one of the hottest places to drink and dine in the Twin Cities.
Both reflected the confidence, skill and larger-than-life personality of their co-owner and developer Tim Rooney, who was a frequent presence at both places as he greeted friends and customers with his famous charm.
"He just had absolute conviction in his view," said his brother and longtime partner Chuck Rooney, in explaining the success of whatever his brother touched. "He never wavered, he never doubted himself."
Rooney, described by his brothers as "a creative spirit the size of a mountain," died peacefully on March 1. He was 55.
The brothers came by their love of the restaurant industry through their father, Dave Rooney, a well-known jazz pianist and nightclub owner.
When Tim and Chuck Rooney were teenagers, their mother moved back to her home state of Montana. They convinced her that they could take care of themselves in Minneapolis — and they did, by selling newspaper subscriptions and delivering them in the early mornings, among other jobs.
"Tim excelled at anything involving sales," Chuck Rooney said. "He was born a star."
The brothers shared a house on Russell Avenue in north Minneapolis, the place that became their first project. Together they transformed the modest little house into an ultramodern, California-style showcase.
"That's how they got their start," said Bill Rooney, Tim's older brother.
Tim Rooney never went to college — he started out as a waiter in 1988 at the venerable Manny's Steakhouse in the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Nicollet Avenue. It was a place where the waiters were the performers and the show revolved around them and the high quality of the food, Chuck Rooney said. Tim Rooney, with his good looks and effortless charm, "excelled," he said.
That's also where he met the financiers and businessmen who would go on to vouch for him and fund his later restaurant and development projects, said Bill Rooney.
Even before venturing into the restaurant business, Tim and Chuck Rooney developed a condominium complex in the high-end neighborhood of Kenwood in Minneapolis. They also took the dilapidated Fairmont Hotel — made infamous by the Tom Waits song "9th and Hennepin" — and turned it into the elegant Chambers Hotel.
After that, they turned to eateries, first with Barrio restaurants, which featured Latin cuisine and tequila bars, and then Bar La Grassa in Minneapolis' North Loop, which became famous for its pasta and warm earthy decor — and so popular that reservations soon became difficult to get.
In quick succession came Butcher & the Boar, an immediate hit with its meat-and-sausage-centric menu, and most recently the 4 Bells on Loring Park.
All the restaurants reflected Tim Rooney's high standards for food and service and his eye for creating beautiful spaces, said Bill Rooney, and all have been highly acclaimed by local and national food critics.
"He loved to make people happy," Bill Rooney said. "I was always proud of him."
Tim Rooney is survived by his sisters, Kathy and Lori Ann, and brothers, Bill and Chuck, and his fiancée, Kellie Hogetvedt.
A celebration of his life will take place at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Butcher & the Boar, 1121 Hennepin Av., Minneapolis.