Larry Connolly: Entrepeneur, news junkie, Starbucks aficionado

June 30, 2012 • Local News

Larry Connolly at [auth] his usual post at Starbucks. Julia Bergman Photo

Between the hours of 8:30 and 10:30 a.m., Larry Connolly can be found sitting at his habitual Starbucks table, honorably procured for him, where he has a plain view of those walking through the front door. The table, made to seat four, often expands throughout the morning to accommodate eight or even 10, as Connolly invites others to join him. He calls it his “morning job,” greeting locals as they fetch their morning brew, chewing the fat with friends, and getting his news junkie fix by reading an array of daily publications.

While he has lived in Roswell for only seven years, Connolly has become somewhat of a fixture in the community, and particularly at Starbucks.

He and his wife Ellen moved from Minnesota to Roswell to care for her mother. Two years after they arrived, Starbucks opened on Main Street.

Connolly would take care of his mother-in-law when she got up in the morning, from 6 to 9 a.m., and would go to Starbucks once she took her daily nap. It was on the second day that Starbucks was open that Connolly was dubbed Larry Latte by the manager at the time, a name that has fondly stuck with him.

At the time, Connolly said he knew only 20 Roswellites, so he committed himself to meeting new people. Now, he says he knows at least 500, although many estimate it’s more. As his friends say, “Larry knows everyone, and if he doesn’t, he introduces himself.”

The middle of five children, three girls and two boys, Connolly was born in Minneapolis, although he says he considers himself to be a true Twin Citian. His father’s side of the family all had a hand in the trucking industry and from a young age Connolly was enamored with the transportation realm.

In those days, small town hardware stores would receive incoming products via rail. As a young boy, Connolly would sit at the railroad freight docks and memorize where each train was headed. What started as a boyish pastime has evolved into a lifelong hobby. Nowadays, Connolly will travel to Vaughn with a copy of the New York Times and his latest read, spending the better part of a day counting the trains as they pass. His all-time record is a tally of 35 to 40 trains in one day.

Connolly graduated from a Minnesota private school among 27 peers, later earning his bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University in 1965.

He was a freshman at Georgetown at the same time John F. Kennedy was running for president. One day, his dorm monitor treaded down the hall asking if any of the young men on his floor had a tux. “My dad had given me a tux. He said you’re going off to college you should have a tux.” The tux earned Connolly a position as an usher at the Kennedy Inaugural Gala. A blizzard descended upon the city on the night of the gala and the expected 30,000 attendees diminished to 10,000. Once everyone was seated, the ushers were allowed to find a place at one of the tables. “So I sit down and suddenly (I turn and see) the most beautiful woman in the world … it was Angie Dickinson. That’s something I keep on remembering,” he laughs. Connolly said he subtly kept twisting his neck to get another glimpse of the stunning actress.

Connolly describes living in Washington at that time as “the greatest thing in the world.” He often saw JFK and Jackie walking in the neighborhood or at church, as the Kennedys lived just four blocks from campus. He was just four blocks from the White House for Kennedy’s inaugural parade. Connolly climbed up the frame of a construction crane, 50 feet above the ground, to watch the event. He will always remember where he was when he heard the news of JFK’s assassination: sitting at the bar of a newly opened pub in Georgetown, 1789, eating a hamburger.

Connolly was in Washington during other pivotal events such as the Cuba Missile Crisis. He recalled at that time, “everybody started going to church.”

Returning to Minnesota after graduation, Connolly started a transportation business with his father in the early ’70s. A year and a half later, he became president. The company prided itself on its service standards, a challenge during the cold, harsh Minnesota winters. Connolly’s speciality was customer service. He left 25 years later once the company went public. “I like family companies, not public companies,” he said.

The company, which started as two employees, grew to between 1,500 and 2,000 by the time Connolly left.

Connolly enjoys reading, and names some of his favorite publications as The Wall Street Journal, the Sunday New York Times, and The Economist.

Reading has enabled him to overcome certain life obstacles. “I’m dyslexic and I couldn’t make small conversation … I learned to read and do a lot of reading. I could talk about current affairs with people, but I could not go up to someone and introduce myself. I never got to that point until I was 50,” he said.

Connolly is drawn to the friendly people of Roswell and fascinated by its industries, namely dairy and oil. The first book he read upon arriving to the city told the history of the Permian Basin. Connolly consistently keeps abreast of happenings in Roswell, often attending City Council meetings and public functions. He has immersed himself in the history and personalities of the area, and can relay stories of happenings that occurred long before he arrived in Roswell. It was this interest in the area’s history that encouraged his friend, historian Harry Rose, to ask him to be a docent at the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico.

Connolly’s two children, Ned and Charlotte, reside in Denver.

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