The Bookcase and the Barber celebrated their six-month anniversary on June 5, 2016. Without even realizing it, Partners Beau Black and Thomas Gibson, opened their “speakeasy” drinking establishment on December 5. In 1933, on that date the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was ratified that repealed prohibition.
The partners modeled their business after those in the era of prohibition. Thus, when you walk into the barbershop, you enter the “speakeasy” through a secret door disguised as a bookshelf. “Back in the day, speakeasies were hidden watering holes, that were tucked away and a password was required to get in,” explains Beau Black.
He and Thomas had been reading about Speakeasies popping up in big cities like New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. They thought Durango would be the perfect place to have an upscale establishment that served fancy drinks. For the store front, they chose a barbershop since both were getting their hair cut in salons and they also thought Durango also needed an upscale barbershop specifically catering to men.
Voila, their dream started becoming reality when the bookstore in the slightly hidden corner between Sushitarian and the Wild Horse Saloon became available.
Beau grew up in Bayfield, went away to Culinary School and was a Chef for 16 years, six of those in Vail. He wanted to come home to be closer to family. Partner Thomas ran Fixed Based Operations at the Durango Airport. With no entrepreneurial experience, they decided to go for it and create the novel enterprise.
Thomas consulted with First National Bank regarding a business loan and was referred to the SBDC to get help with writing their business plan. They worked with advisor Tom Phare who helped them put together a basic spreadsheet and do some forecasting.
Beau admitted getting caught up in the excitement and looking at the big picture and “not the small details of what it really costs to open the doors.” Their work with Phare helped them create an in- depth budget that included items like the demolition, new electrical system, new flooring, and new bathroom that was ADA (American’s with Disabilities Act) compliant. Then of course, they added the furniture, shelving and inventory.
“The SBDC saved us from getting started and then running out of money. They helped us be incredibly realistic about the expenses,” explained Beau. Their business plan helped them get a loan from FNB and a bridge loan from the Region 9 Economic Development Alliance.
“The SBDC has been there with on-going support. The amount of available resources is amazing.” Beau clarifies that marketing was “in the back of our minds but we didn’t really focus on it. It ended up being very “speakeasy-esque.” Their soft opening was mostly organic and word-of-mouth. They ended up having a line out the door and realized a need to take reservations for their cozy, hidden location with only 29 seats.
They do not allow standing and want it to be a comfortable but classy environment to come and chat with friends. Bar Manager, Bridgett Tesmer discovered recipes for the drinks that were the favorites of authors during prohibition. The original recipes are simple, delicious and refreshing. Sneak in the back room and try a favorite drink of Hemingway, Steinbeck or Fitzgerald. No password required.
Beau loves being in business for himself. “Coming out to the front from the kitchen and interacting with the customers is fun. It doesn’t feel like work at all. Thanks to SBDC for helping us to make this happen.”