UPPER EAST SIDE — The owner of Iggy's New York died last week of a massive heart attack at age 52.
While Ignatius "Iggy" Hughes' Second Avenue bar has gone through many iterations — opening first as an Irish bar in 1995, then transforming four more times before finally becoming the karaoke family bar it's known as today — his motto has remained the same: "Come as a stranger, leave as a friend."
Hughes, known to friends and locals as the "king of industry," beloved father and a neighborhood fixture, died on Sept. 26, leaving behind his wife Caroline and three children.
"If you met Iggy, you loved Iggy," said Hughes' close friend Michael Rosenblatt. "Yes, he made everybody who walked into his bar leave as a friend, but he grew into a wonderful, doting father of three, who would get up in the morning to live for his wife and his family."
Hughes owned Iggy's New York, at Second Avenue and East 76th Street, for 22 years. And worked at other bars across the city including Fleming's Bar, and opened Iggy's Keltic Lounge and Avalon Bar.
But aside from his bar business, he was also a generous member of the community, his friends say.
Almost a decade ago, Hughes helped a then-homeless, troubled man who frequented Second Avenue and told him in his thick, Irish brogue, "I'm going to give you a house," according to Rosenblatt.
Hughes made the man a busboy in the bar and paid him a salary. Now the man works as a superintendent of two buildings downtown and has two children, Rosenblatt said.
"He'd still be a homeless mess if it weren't for Iggy," he added. "He'd give a stranger the shirt off his back you can only imagine for what he did for friends and family...this has destroyed me. He was my guardian angel on earth."
Twelve years ago, Adrice Hynes, started working as Iggy's manager, "helping him run his empire, his legacy, his bar," she said.
"He always had a 'hello' for the entire world," she said. "He was the king of industry, our leader, our boss, a father, a husband. There was nothing you could ask that he wouldn't do if he could. We lost a man who can never, ever be equaled."
Hughes was born the fifth of seven children in Ireland and moved to the U.S. when he was about 18, and he quickly went from a new face to an old friend, according to Rosenblatt.
"Everybody who went to Iggy's knew him," Rosenblatt said. "You came in as a stranger but left as friends or family."
Hughes will be memorialized in Westhampton on Wednesday.