As she looked forward to her graduation, Lindsay Locke followed a well-worn path for seniors, juggling interviews and offers for entry-level corporate jobs that held out the promise of hard work and big rewards.
Somehow, though, the cubicle workstations that are often the first stop on the path to the corner office didn't fit her dream. She turned away from the corporate track to work for an even more demanding boss--herself.
Having tended bar her junior and senior years, she recognized a gap in the Durham scene, she says. "The nightlife was not reflective of the people who were here."
Impelled by her own frustrations of "having nowhere to go," she set out to create an upscale gathering spot for after-work drinks, nightcaps, or dancing.
She found an investor and located an early-1900s commercial building in Old West Durham--close to East Campus. She plunged into seven-day workweeks, during which she juggled planning the business, designing the bar's interior, and working with neighborhood groups and city agencies to get a zoning change and construction permits. "What I didn't know, I learned," she says.
Hard work was nothing new for Locke. Growing up in Potomac, Maryland, just outside Washington, she worked as a child actor and model, earning her first pay check at age two.
She covered her living expenses at Duke with summer jobs in a law firm and a labor-union office and part-time jobs during the school year, waiting tables and bartending.
Once she cleared the initial hurdles for the new bar, Locke acted as general contractor during six months of heavy construction.
She oversaw the transformation of a building that, in other times, had seen duty as a soda shop, antique store, grocery market, and gas station into an upscale lounge featuring faux marble painted floors and a hand-crafted red oak bar with a built-in 155-gallon fresh-water aquarium.
The Sirens Lounge opened in January 2004, promising "distinctive sounds and spirits" and began attracting loyal patrons with live piano music, Eighties Nights, cosmopolitan lounge music, and weekend deejay-led dance nights. Bartenders stand ready to serve drinks ranging from a $3 Bud Light to $9 specialty martinis. For celebratory occasions, The Sirens carries $150 bottles of Dom Perignon, and if you're in the mood, you can indulge in a $15 Cohiba Robusto cigar.
The Sirens' success has brought no let-up in Locke's work schedule. The bar is open six nights a week, 7 p.m. to 2 a.m., and running the business soaks up many more hours each week.
But Locke, twenty-four and single, thrives on the pace. "I'm extremely passionate about what I do," she says, "and there's no better time to go out and do it. I've got the energy now."