Above the Norm at McCray's

You can call him Al. But Norm might be more appropriate.

Like the old "Cheers" character, Al Stilo has a bar stool he prefers. Unlike Norm Peterson, Al's has his name on it. And like most things regarding a tavern, there's a story behind it.

The gist of this tale is the director of sales and marketing for Lawrenceville's Aurora Theatre has something many men covet. As a guy who enjoys a cold adult beverage and who will turn 40 in May just like Stilo, I'm more than a little jealous of his seat of honor.

"Of all the things I wanted to accomplish by (age) 40, I got a bar stool dedicated in my honor," Stilo said. "There are a lot more wealthy and powerful people in the world who would want to have a bar stool at McCray's. It is funny - I do."

What's also funny is the way life deals the cards. Often, the neatest things are the ones you don't expect and can't buy. Stilo, who has been with the Aurora Theatre for four years, is proof of that. He was just doing his job for the nonprofit company when the unique opportunity presented itself.

As director of sales and marketing, Stilo is in charge of putting together the playbill for the Aurora shows. Back in 2006, McCray's was planning its move to the Lawrencevile square and wanted to advertise with the Aurora. Trouble was, the establishment didn't have a full name.

That's something Stilo needed for the ad. Trying to meet his deadline, Stilo pushed for a tavern title. The folks from McCray's asked for a suggestion, and the name "McCray's Tavern on the Square" came to mind.

The appreciative tavern owners liked it so much that they ran with it, asking Stilo what they could do for him in return. His request proves that it never hurts to ask.

"I was half joking and said: 'If you want to, you can give me a bar stool when you move in,'" Stilo said.

The request was happily granted. So if you've been to McCray's, that's why one of the stools at the bar has a small plaque on it bearing the inscription: "Al Stilo, friend of McCray's." It's where you'll see Stilo perched when he visits, drinking his favorite English beer, Newcastle, and holding court.

And if you happen to be sitting on that stool when the burly, bearded Norm-like character arrives?

"I didn't get a verbal confirmation (from the owners), but I think that if someone is in my chair I just have to show them the plaque and they'll probably let me have it," Stilo said.

After all, thanks to the plaque, everybody at McCray's knows his name.

E-mail Todd Cline at todd.cline@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Tuesdays.