School closings and delays

Millionarie 101: Follow Your Dream

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Most of us think the life of a millionaire is something that happens to the other guy. It turns out--we are the other guy, and Jim Callam was too before he followed his dream.

"Our vision was to have a great neighborhood tavern and exceptional food," he told Call for Action Reporter Lorrie Taylor as they talked about the road that led him to success.

Callam got his start 29 years ago. He couldn't afford to start his own restaurant, so he leased the kitchen of a Bedford Heights bar that wasn't serving food.

He told Taylor he was just a line cook at the time, he had no formal training and very little money.

"We were focused on our food, on our customers, on our staff and over time we kept getting more feedback, we got busier," he said.

Within a year of leasing the kitchen Jim had enough money to buy the rest of the bar—and that is how the first Winking Lizard got its start.

"We didn't have a big pot of gold, we were really putting everything we had back into the business for the first, twelve, thirteen fifteen years, there was not much coming out," said Callam.

He took on a couple of partners. When they invested, they did it as a team and they didn't leave the employees out, everyone had access to a retirement plan.

"He was an average guy when I met him," said J. Burner Crew, Managing Partner at Nirvana Analytics in Cleveland.

Crew was just another customer, who happened to be an investment counselor, when he met Callam in the 80's. He offered the aspiring restaurateur advice on how to grow his business; maintaining a sense of patience was at the top of the list.

"That is the key to building wealth over an extended period of time," said Crew.

Today there are 14 Winking Lizards across northeast Ohio, another three locations are about to open and there are two Lizardville Stores serving whiskey and beer from all over the world.

"It was a lot of hard work, a lot of passion," said Callam as he looked back over the road to becoming a millionaire.

So take your time, follow your heart and the money will follow you, just ask the "other guy”-- his name is Jim Callam.