By Brandon Martin
Tim and Carmen Osgood, the owners of Top Shelf Billiards in Collinsville, have turned their shared passion for billiards into their first business venture.
The establishment on Wheeler Avenue has been a dream in the making, according to Tim Osgood. For 13 years, he said he has gone through the process of learning how to cover pool tables and develop a name and logo.
He even bought an “Open” sign six-years ago “because I hoped I’d get to use it someday,” he said.
Top Shelf officially opened its doors on June 5.
Even with their shared passion for the game, opening the business came with several obstacles. The first was finding the time, according to the Osgoods, who both work full-time jobs — Carmen is a nurse with the Virginia Department of Corrections and Tim is a dispatcher with Mabe’s Trucking in Eden, N.C.
Opening during the coronavirus pandemic posed another big obstacle, they said.
Business licenses were obtained in April and May, but the couple had to wait until COVID-19 restrictions were lifted to officially open, Carmen Osgood said. And, given the restrictions, the duo had to come up with creative ways to handle some of the administrative requirements.
For instance, for a preliminary health inspection, “we used our phones to take pictures of what it looks like coming through the front door and multiple other vantage points to create that feeling as if he (an inspector) were to walk in through the front door,” Carmen Osgood said.
Now, “we’ve got two businesses that we run out of the same location and they both work hand in hand,” Tim Osgood said of the Southwest Virginia North American Poolshooters Association (NAPA).
“The NAPA side of it is your pool leagues, which have a huge variety of things that you can offer. Then there is the Top Shelf and restaurant side of things,” he added.
The affiliation with NAPA means “I own the rights to Henry County, Martinsville City, Patrick County and Pittsylvania County,” he said, and explained that “all NAPA play that goes on in those counties, goes under Southwest Virginia, which I own the franchise rights to.
“What I want to do now is branch out and get leagues formed in Danville, Chatham and other areas,” he said, and added that through NAPA, tour events are held across the country, and amateurs may enter. Until Top Shelf opened, he said Lynchburg, Va., and Fayetteville, N.C. were the closest stops for the tour.
“Now that we are with NAPA, and when they start getting tour schedules up, the ownership has told me that this place will be a tour stop,” he said, and added that will translate into revenues for Henry County because the tournaments attract players from other states.
“The people in Lynchburg said they have people coming in from Florida, from Kentucky. So, what this is going to do is, when we can operate as a tourist stop, the revenue will come in,” he said, adding that he expects each tournament event to attract about 100 players from across the country.
Until then, Tim Osgood said weekend “chip tournaments” are geared to help beginners, with participants drawing a numbered chip. The numbers correspond to a table, and “whatever chip you get is what table you play on and who you play against,” he said.
“What makes it competitive is someone, who would be considered one of the stronger players, can only get three losses in a tournament. Somebody who is lower skilled gets eight losses in a tournament,” he said.
“Some of the winners are not the top players. It’s a great format. When you’ve got a person just beginning who is completing, placing and winning money in the tournament, then that is pretty awesome,” Tim Osgood said.
Newer patrons to Top Shelf are generally considered to be low-level, but their ranking can be adjusted.
There is a $15 per person cover charge for the weekend tournaments, Tim Osgood said. He added that covers the table fees for the night, which are typically $1 per game. This “green’s fee” is $5, and the rest of the cover goes towards the prize money for the night.
A first-place finish on a typical Friday night tournament nets approximately $500 for the winner, he said. The tournament play keeps them “pretty slammed. We have a tournament Friday night, a tournament on Saturday night, leagues on Sunday, leagues on Monday,” Carmen Osgood said.
He said he also would like the business to be a venue for sports lovers to catch a game on Saturday or Sunday. “We’ve got everything you need for the game.”
Although Tim Osgood said he has always been a fan of games like bowling, billiards didn’t really become a serious part of his repertoire until 2006.
“Once I started playing pool, that was the bug,” Tim Osgood said. The best part of the game is “the crack of the balls” on the first shot of the game, often referred to as the “break shot.”
“You come in here on a Friday night and you’ve got six or seven games of pool going, then all of a sudden you hear ‘Kapow.’ To me, that’s my high,” he said. “I live for that.”