Kurzynowski found a home at the bar where everybody knows her parents' names

Dawn Kurzynowski visited various bars with regularity after moving to Columbus 20 years ago, but none of them felt quite right.

“I never had a place that was my place,” said Kurzynowski, who would often wonder why nothing seemed to be a perfect fit. For a while, the Michigan native thought a Short North watering hole could be the one she'd been looking for, but it wasn't until Quinn Fallon opened Little Rock Bar at North Fourth Street and East Second Avenue in Italian Village in 2013 that she realized she'd found a home.

“It's everybody's bar,” said Kurzynowski, 45, seated next to one of Little Rock's huge windows on a sunny Sunday afternoon. “You could be in your 20s, your 60s, you could be a corporate professional, you could be a college student, a career bartender — there are all kinds of people who come here. … There's no pretense here. Everybody is welcome.”

The friends Kurzynowski has made at Little Rock take care of each other. They give each other rides to the airport. She dog-sits for Fallon's canine companion, Harvey, and she exchanged house keys with another friend she met at the bar.

“I have friends in Columbus I have known for 20 years that I would say is my original, core group of friends, but people here know more about my everyday life because I see them two to three days a week,” she said. “It's almost like when you live in the dorms. You get a more intimate connection. … I'm super extroverted, and I feel like, most any time, if I want to come and see friends, they're going to be here.”

Not long ago Kurzynowski was going through a tough breakup, made worse by the isolation she felt working a marketing job from her home on First Avenue. She found herself sitting in the house all day feeling sad, but after walking the couple of blocks to Little Rock, she began to open up to her friends at the bar, and they, in turn, were there to listen and pick her back up.

“It started to be a place I would most talk about it, and then it was like, ‘OK, Dawn. You're talking about this too much. You don't want to turn into the crying-in-my-beer person,'” she said, laughing.

Kurzynowski is also a big music fan (she counts Van Dale, Andrew Graham, Bridesmaid, DANA and Garbage Greek among her local favorites), and Little Rock has become a regular hangout for many of the city's musicians. Owner Fallon fronts local act Los Gravediggers and previously ran Andyman's Treehouse (now the Tree Bar), and patrons can find musicians like Joe Peppercorn of the Whiles and Patrick Koch of Garbage Greek behind the bar.

But Kurzynowski is just as likely to be rooting for alma mater Michigan State at Little Rock as she is talking local music. And she loves that in addition to all the craft beers on tap, the bar also offers cheap domestic drafts and cans. (“You don't have to feel like you're this cool person to hang out here,” she said.) She looks forward to the book club every fourth Tuesday (they're currently reading The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn) and the informal movie group on other Tuesday nights, when Gateway Film Center flicks are $5.

One of Kurzynowski's favorite Little Rock memories, though, comes from a day she wasn't even there. “I brought my parents in here one time when they visited. Everybody was like, ‘Oh, hey! Dawn's mom and dad!' Everyone was hugging them,” she said. “And then when I went to Mexico, my mom and dad came down here and watched my pets, and they came to Little Rock by themselves. So I get this text in Mexico. It's from Quinn, and it's a picture of all these people and my mom and dad. It was so heartwarming. Everyone was totally jazzed to meet my parents and be in a picture with them.”