Ace of Clubs celebrates Joe Veloni’s retirement

Joe Veloni is turning 84 on Monday, but this Sunday he and his team at Ace of Clubs Tavern are celebrating another Veloni milestone — his retirement.

His retirement is effective Monday.

Veloni, who wanted to be a salesman since he was about 15, said he never even really thought about this moment. He’s enjoyed the ride.

Kimmy Nebel, Queen Bee of Ace of Clubs, has been working on the retirement for a while, posting on social media, spreading word of mouth, and checking in with text messages to make sure people will be celebrating with Veloni at Ace of Clubs — 2603 Simpson Ave., in Hoquiam.

The party starts Sunday and Veloni “will plan to be at the tavern around 4 p.m., for a (celebratory) toast,” according to the Ace of Clubs’ Facebook post.

It might get a bit rowdy at Ace on Sunday, but that’s OK so long as it’s fun and memorable for the venerable bar owner of 38 years. Veloni bought the Ace in 1986. He always wanted to be a salesman. After 38 years of owning the Ace, he definitely accomplished that goal.

Here’s what Veloni’s current staff said about the man and longtime owner of the only true tavern in Hoquiam.

“Joe’s career is an absolute success,” Nebel said. “He’s worked hard. He’s made friends with everyone and he has always made people feel welcome at the Ace. This career would continue on forever if he could. But his body says different than his mind. He’s ready to slow down and take it easy.”

Nebel has worked for Veloni for about 20 years. She had a daughter during that time and took a break to “enjoy being a mom” before she made her comeback. She’s glad she returned.

“We work so well off each other,” Nebel said. “We make our customers laugh and ourselves (laugh) quite often. There’s never a dull moment working with that man. He’s been great to work for.”

Cue more laughs

Ashley Robbins has worked as a bartender for Veloni for the last seven years. She said it’s been “great” to work for Joe.

“Joe is a really down to earth guy who loves to joke and have a good time,” Robbins said. “(But, he’s) serious when he needs to be.”

Robbins said working at Ace has a “special bond between all of the employees and the customers,”

“We are all family,” Robbins said. “That all started from Joe.”

Speaking of family

Becky Beer Stump has worked for Veloni for six years and she said it’s been “such a great experience.”

“The Ace has a fun, family environment,” Beer Stump said. “Employees and customers are more like family. Joe is a great boss and has always been so kind.”

Beer Stump said everybody has treated her like family from the point she started working at Ace of Clubs.

“Now it’s hard to imagine the Ace without (Joe),” Beer Stump said.

New bartender

While Debbie Evans hasn’t worked as a bartender long under Veloni — four months — she knows he’s well-respected.

“I get to hear about him all the time,” Evans said. “I can say I have met a lot of great people in the short time I’ve worked for him.”

Evans loves the camaraderie there.

“I really enjoy working for the Ace,” Evans said. “The girls I work with are a great team and have been great about making me feel like I’m part of the team. The Ace has a family environment, the customers all watch out for each other and I couldn’t find a greater place to work for (as) my second job. I’m local born and raised, so I grew up with a lot of the patrons so that has been fun as well.”

38 years – a milestone

“I can say his staff and his customers are very loyal to him and it shows,” Evans said. “He will be missed by a lot of them, but I’m excited for him to get to retire.”

While Veloni’s retirement means he will get to spend more time with his biological family, his Ace family will miss him a lot.

“Joe has impacted so many lives for so many years,” Becky said. “He is everyone’s favorite dad, grandpa, uncle, brother, and best friend. He has played many different roles in the 38 years of being a bar owner.”

Throughout the years Nebel has worked for Veloni, she started as a bartender and now she’s more like a daughter to him. That means her teenage girl is more like Veloni’s granddaughter, because they’ve become that close.

“In the beginning, I was the night girl who could bring in the business,” Nebel said. “Now, my daughter and I are considered their daughter and granddaughter. We are family.”

The last half of her career, working days instead of nights, Nebel’s gotten closer with her boss.

“Half of my career, I’d barely see him with me working nights,” Nebel said. “This second half of my beer pouring, pull-tab pulling career we’ve worked closely, side-by-side, daily for the last 10 years.

Maybe now he’ll call her “boss”

While Veloni is officially retiring Sunday, Nebel — “Queen Bee” of Ace — will still need some assistance from him.

“I’m going to need a little help over at the tavern still from him, here and there, so I don’t think he will be very far,” Nebel said. “It will be a nice role reversal. Maybe I can call him boss. I’ve been working on getting him to bring back his famous General Joe’s fried chicken and jo jo (potatoes) he used to sell at the TipTop Tavern for his retirement project. Not a day goes by in that tavern that someone doesn’t speak of how delicious his chicken was.”

Best wishes to retirement

While Veloni’s team at Ace can’t wait to celebrate the earned Sunday that should promise to be one to remember, or one to forget but with flair, they also wish he could stay.

“I am very excited to celebrate Joe,” Beer Stump said. “He deserves the biggest ‘thank you’ from the whole town.”

Evans said it’ll be a fun event, but sad at the same time and that he’ll “definitely” be missed by everyone.

The two longest-standing employees, Nebel and Robbins, mentioned his life after Ace, which will include more time with his lovely wife, Susie.

“(I’m) really excited for him and his family to get time and adventures together,” Nebel said. “He and Sus are great parents and grandparents to their family.”

Robbins isn’t looking forward to Veloni’s departure, but she’s happy for him and is ready to celebrate.

“It’s a bittersweet moment,” Robbins said. “I am excited for him to start his new adventure that he has worked so hard for, but it’s hard to let go. I’m sure he feels the same way.”

Contact Reporter Matthew N. Wells at

Joe Veloni and Kimmy Nebel dressed as Fred and Wilma Flintstone for Halloween.

Joe Veloni and Kimmy Nebel dressed as Fred and Wilma Flintstone for Halloween.