BARTONVILLE — Pam Williams was targeting a job change in 2010 when she tossed a bullseye with The Shot Spot in Bartonville.
The humor in her owning what many believe is the No. 1 dart bar in central Illinois is not lost on her.
"I've played darts for years, or, I try," Williams said, laughing. "But I'm not very good."
As the owner of The Shot Spot, Williams has game, though, when it comes to business.
Williams, 37, grew up in Bartonville, where she spent time in cross country, cheerleading and basketball, and building a lifelong friendship with Nicki Haggard, who would one day work with her at The Shot Spot.
Williams graduated from Limestone Community High School and went on to Lincoln College.
She was bartending in 2002 for what was then known as Puppy Dogs, and she studied the business and dreamed of owning her own bar.
"But in 2010, I was six months pregnant and thinking maybe I should find a different job," she said. "Being a mother of two kids and working in that business is hard. Just being able to juggle being a mom while running a bar, that was going to be a huge challenge."
Her father, Rick, stepped in and helped her acquire Puppy Dogs in 2010, and they renamed it to The Shot Spot and he helped her run it, as well as delivering sound advice.
"My dad has been my partner, and I couldn't have done this without him," Williams said. "I leaned on him and we did this together. I started out as a bartender and now I'm an owner, and I absolutely fell in love with this business."
It's a six-person operation, and the bar's identity is built around a destination for cash-paying dart tournaments, drawing in high-end players from as far as Galesburg, Streator and Bloomington/Normal.
"I love The Shot Spot," said Julie Weger, a cty of Normal employee. "I play in a tournament now about once a month. I started playing at The Shot Spot since back when it was Puppy Dogs."
By the way, Weger is a world-ranked darts player who spent five years on Team USA and has traveled around the nation and to multiple countries to play. She led USA to a third-place finish in the 2017 World Championships in Hong Kong.
But she'll tell you there's no place like home. And home is The Shot Spot.
"It's a terrific place to play, they operate tournaments very well there," Weger said. "It feels like home to me.
"A big reason for that is Pam, she treats the dart players like family, does a really good job of taking care of people who come in to play.
"They make it so enjoyable there."
Williams saw the dart culture take root when the venue was known as Puppy Dogs, and when she assumed ownership she took aim at making the place a destination for dart players.
The Shot Spot has at least 10 high-end electronic dart boards set up in multiple rooms.
There is, of course, a bar for food and drinks, TVs set up for all things sports — beware, the owner is a Cubs, Blackhawks, Bears and Bulls fan — and video gaming machines.
And lots of dart tournaments, with cash payouts that attract teams stocked with top players. There is league and tournament play scheduled on March 2, 8, 15, and 22. And the St. Paddy's Day Tournament on March 17, at which there will be a noon lunch (Reubens, shepherd's pie and more) available. On March 30, there is a tournament tasked for St. Jude Rides.
"We have professional-ranked players who come in here," Williams said. "But you don't have to be a good player to play here and enjoy the game.
"Darts were an avenue for us to connect with the community. The players all come together, they are very nice, caring people.
"Over the years, they become family."
Dave Eminian covers the Rivermen and Chiefs for the Journal Star, and writes the Cleve In The Eve sports column for pjstar.com. Reach him at 686-3206 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @icetimecleve.