Love on the Rocks: One Couple's Secret is Talk of the Town
After ten years as a mad-about-you couple, Beau and Jenna Black have a newborn and a two-year-old to contend with. As Jenna puts it: one keeps them up all night, while the other talks back. Their love, it seems, is on the rocks and, yet, they couldn’t be happier.
“Owning and running a business together has been one of the most rewarding things we’ve done,” Jenna confesses. She is referring, of course, to the talky two-year-old—also known as The Bookcase and Barber, Durango’s quirky speakeasy, which turns three this winter.
“The Archive has its own bar and is perfect for booking private parties,” Beau brags like a proud papa about the newborn—that is, the recent expansion into the old Sushitarian office and storage space.
Like other speakeasies trending across many metropolitan centers, The Bookcase and Barber occupies a rather nondescript building. Upon entrance, the visitor encounters a real (and really busy) high-end barber shop. Uttering a password or phrase triggers a hidden door to a vintage, velveteen turn-of-the-last-century cocktail bar. The Archive—nested inside the speakeasy—sports cozy leather couches and sleek wingbacks. Its aura practically hums The Great Gatsby. Tinted windows prevent the curious from spying in, but allow people-watching aplenty for the patrons cached inside.
“Once you’re behind that bookcase door,” Beau explains, “you have the feeling you’re in a special place and you have a guaranteed seat. And you can slow down and enjoy yourself. You don’t have to be go-go-go!”
Despite crafting the ideal ambiance, the Blacks initially worried about mandating password for entry. “Was that going to be too much to ask?” recalls Jenna, a former hostess who works as a nurse full-time and moonlights as the Bookcase’s co-owner and social media rep. “Everyone really loves it.”
Opening a speakeasy was supposed to be just a novel nod to the Prohibition, when from 1920 to 1933 in the U.S. alcohol was completely banned. However, venture has birthed a renaissance of meaningful social interaction. Instead of everyone sitting together in public and staring at their devices, the speakeasy atmosphere kindles the almost old world art of face-to-face, IRL conversation! The Bookcase and Barber antidotes modernity’s very virtual and very public culture.
Initially, the speakeasy sported a flat screen TV, airing classic, black and white films. The Blacks soon felt compelled to remove it. Beau says, “It was almost like a social experiment. People would come in and hang out and have conversations, but then their eyes would drift up to the TV. So that came down quickly.”
Without the 24/7 hyper newsfeeds, tweet barrages, and selfie tsunamis, The Bookcase and Barber gives patrons plenty to the talk about. First, there’s the unusual cocktail menu. As a longtime chef who often cooked for celebrities, Beau relished the challenge to research and recreate recipes from the Prohibition. Back then, many of the herbal or egg-fizzed ingredients masked the horrid flavors of homemade hooch. Under Beau’s supervision, they are liquid interpretations of gourmet techniques. To honor his bookworm heritage plus the bookstore which formerly occupied the speakeasy’s spot, the Blacks offer a selection of “authors.” These original recipes, some over a century old, represent an early 20th century author’s most beloved tincture.
The rest of the menu features “stories.” These innovative combinations not only put a modern spin on a classic recipe, but also reflect creative collaborations among the bartending staff which keeps a thumb on the pulse of craft alcohol trends. (In fact, about 14 new stories just stormed the menu in time for monsoon season!)
Beau encourages the staff to kick off discussions about each drink and its contents. “What we practiced from day one,” he says, “was knowledge about the cocktails and the ingredients going in there. And then teaching people that. Whether it’s the history or where it comes from or who makes it. When we pick our ingredients, we look for the best back story.”
“Everything has a story,” Jenna indicates the hand-picked, top-quality liquor selection behind the bar. “It’s fascinating to hear that so much goes into the whole process, all the way from shrub to shake.” She notes the unexpected benefit of sharing those stories, “I think we’ve earned the trust of the community. They look to our bartenders and ask: what should I try next?”
Even the barbers provide many men with the rare chance to pamper themselves. While women can flock to diverse salons, men often have too few options. Beau notes, “Some regulars have made it a weekly ritual. They come in, get a shave, and end the week with some relaxation.”
Yet another way the speakeasy opens hidden doors for its visitors.
By making the location a haven for the unique and unforgettable, the past and present, the comfortable and comforting, the connected and conscientious—in other words, a reflection of their love for each other—the Blacks have concocted a triumph!
To slake your curiosity, visit http://bookcaseandbarber.com and learn more about The Bookcase and Barber. There, you can sneak a peek at the password and visit them at 601 E. 2nd Ave, Suite B.
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