I love interviewing people because you never know how crazy their past was or how different it was from your pre-conceived notion. Don McKeon is the perfect example. Ever a gentleman, well groomed and dapper, I honestly thought he was going to tell me he was a V.P. of a Fortune 500 Company, or a retired lawyer, or maybe even a politician. So I was giggling inside when I was hearing him tell me that he’s done a myriad of interesting careers from owning a head shop to owning/managing upscale retail women’s wear shops. I love it!
The abridged version of Don’s exciting life went like this: grew up in a small town called South Hadley, Massachusetts. Don’s grandparents owned a pharmacy and the whole family worked there. After college and an engineering career, in 1970 Don opened a lifestyle complex (head shop) called “Goodbodies”, which he sold in 1980. Real Estate was another one of Don’s careers, but living in Mass. became so bitter cold that he figured at the age of 40, he was free to go wherever he chose to, so why not Sarasota? Don settled into the Florida lifestyle by living on a houseboat at Marina Jacks for a few years, before moving near the Ringling Museum, and then on Bird Key for 13 years. In those years, he got married and co-owned upscale women’s clothing stores on Martha’s Vineyard and on St. Armand’s Circle named Dream Weaver. He also founded a marketing business named Island Specialties, which focused on products for the cultural industry, which he then sold in 2000. Don presently lives on Lido Key, after being evacuated from the ill-fated Dolphin Tower three years ago.
In this completely music-based area we live in, there are dozens of clubs around town and more springing up, plus great jams, karaoke and open mike nights. For a long time it was impossible to find out who was playing where, and what time. Don, then approaching retirement age, was knocking around the idea of having a database where musicians, listeners and club owners could go to see what was happening around Sarasota/Bradenton. In 2009, he was ready to get serious about the whole music scene and bringing it all together. The idea of Where Will We Go Tonight was about to be born. Then there was the task of loading all this information into a database, hiring a web design firm, and relying on the club owners to do their own data entry on the GoTonight platform. That gave birth to wherewillwegotonight.com (or the new short version, gotonight.com,) which at the present time draws well over 100,000 page-views a month and is still growing rapidly, having expanded organically throughout Tampa Bay.
Any good businessman knows he can’t do a job of this magnitude alone and be a successful. It’s far too heavy a load, so McKeon surrounded himself with business/marketing-savvy people, including his COO, Chuck Englemardt, Sherry Englehardt, Rich Cloutier, Tom Straub, Dan Zink, Ali Kelly, and Joy Kay. This team of media and marketing experts believe in the concept and the idea so much that at the present time they are devoting many of their efforts pro bono. They believe they will see the fruition of GoTonight.com being a multi-city, national service that promises to be a win-win, no matter what market you’re talking about.
Thinking into the future they are watching how the Tampa test market does. Bringing GoTonight into the national marketplace is the goal of Don and his team. It would be a fabulous boost to all venues as well as musicians and fans. The scope and possibilities are huge, and right now the challenge is in creating the corporate and financial infrastructure to make the dream come true.
After talking about the future possibilities of GoTonight, Don started to look cautious. I could read his mind! The thought is huge! If you think about what’s entailed, manpower and otherwise, it’s a daunting task. But to think about it being in places all across the U.S., it’s just so tempting to go forward with it. Fitting this in with a desire to be “retired” spending time relaxing with friends on his boat, or with a book on the beach is a bit of a challenge.
I said, “This is tremendous. How will you do it?” Don used the word “Quixotic” to describe the task. The definition of quixotic is “foolishly impractical especially in the pursuit of ideals; especially : marked by rash lofty romantic ideas or extravagantly chivalrous action.” I thought about that for awhile. We all have our dreams and some of us get discouraged when we realize what lies ahead, but Don McKeon isn’t a dreamer; he’s a do-er, and I share in his excitement about an idea that is phenomenal. Best of luck, Don!……….Oh! Don’t forget to check their website-