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Sunday, March 18, 2012

New Business in Illinois town

When Stoney Falk was looking to start a new business, he came up with an old one.

He renovated an old building to create Side Pocket Billiards in Moweaqua, a town of about 1,900, 20 miles south of Decatur.

"The original floors were just completely gone," explained Falk, 31, who got a lot of help from his family. "We drove skid steers in here and just cleaned it all out."

Now, new wood floors and four pool tables glint under refurbished overhead lights. The building, more than a century old, is back to what it used to be before it fell into disuse and decay: a pool hall.

"It had been a pool hall for 100 years, and I wanted to bring it back, to make it something cheap and affordable for people but also modern and nice and kind of classic," Falk said.

The renovation took 18 months, and the business opened in November. Players can rent tables at $3.50 per person per hour and cues for $1.

In central Illinois, the terms pool and billiards are often used interchangeably. Strictly speaking, though, pool is another term for "pocket billiards," as other billiards games are played without pockets.

Falk's father, Dave Falk, 53, describes pool as a "game of mathematics." He adds: "You've got to be able to figure out the correct angles to get around the table. You've got to be able to see which way the ball is going to hit, where it's going to go next."

Moweaqua player Fain McFarling, who regularly oversees the Side Pocket for Falk, said pool is fascinating because you are either thinking offense — sinking the balls yourself — or defense — stopping your opponent from sinking his.

McFarling, 62, says pool has also benefited from an image break over the years, as sleazy pool halls have been replaced by such places as Side Pocket, which welcome families.

Starship Billiards & The Enterprise Grill has been in Decatur for 16 years and offers a full dining menu and caters to a family audience and lots of league players.

"On Saturdays now, they offer a junior league because a lot of people playing in the adult leagues found their kids were getting into it," said Michael Trostle, the kitchen manager for Starship. "They want to play because Mom and Dad play, and now we're planting the seeds of the future with these little kids."


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