Playing in Phoenix: Bar salvaged from popular Chicago nightclub

Posted By Mike Padgett

Sept. 24, 2008

One of the coolest artifacts near downtown Phoenix is a piece of Chicago architecture with history.

It’s a long wooden bar, probably mahogany or walnut, that Steven and Andi Rosenstein say was the focal point in the Black Orchid Club when the nightspot was on Rush Street.

The Rosensteins have installed the bar with history in their 1928 Anchor Manufacturing Building at 525 S. Central Ave., which is just south of downtown Phoenix. The vacant building, with 14,000 square feet, has good bones.

If you want a close look at the Art Deco bar, the Rosensteins’ red brick warehouse will be a featured stop on the SoDo Tour from 1 to 5 p.m. Sept. 27. For details about the South of Downtown Phoenix tour and other upcoming downtown events, check the schedule and map at www.urbanaffairaz.com/pages/.

The Rosensteins say the Black Orchid, which has since relocated to North Avenue, was a popular Chicago hangout in the 1940s and 1950s. Standing behind the salvaged bar, the top of which is nearly as long as a semi trailer, Rosenstein said his and Andi’s parents “used to hang out there, back in the late ‘50s.”

If the bar could talk, it might share stories about celebrities, politicians and others swapping details about contracts, deals and agreements.

“We can feel the people standing here, drinking their drinks,” Rosenstein says.

The Rosensteins found the bar through a friend at Architectural Artifacts, an antiques and architectural salvage company in Chicago. The bar, with its flaming red wood, was their second choice. Their first was a bar their friend had imported from Dublin. But he sold it before the Rosensteins had a chance to visit his shop. He told them about the Black Orchid bar arriving the next day. They returned and bought it.

The top of the bar is one piece that Andi said barely fit inside an enclosed semi trailer. The bottom of the bar and the backbar were disassembled into several pieces that filled the rest of the trailer and were hauled to Phoenix.

The old bar anchors a section of the Phoenix warehouse where the Rosensteins envision a bar and restaurant. The rest of the building has potential for theater performances, art exhibits, receptions and other events.

Other possibilities include space for a new line of custom clothing the Rosensteins are considering, since that is their business background; and a farmers market with a juice bar, a coffee bar, fresh produce, dairy products, pasta, bakery goods, fish, flowers and a variety of other items.

Listening to the Rosensteins talk, one can almost smell the cheeses, bakery goods and fresh coffee.

Such challenges are routine for the Rosensteins. In 1995, they renovated an old jukebox factory in Chicago into the headquarters for their Fitigues Clothing brand. They sold their company in 2007 and moved to the north Scottsdale home they bought a few years earlier.

Today, they have plans for the 80-year-old Phoenix warehouse. They already have a design for the kitchen, and they’re finalizing a menu and a new line of clothing they plan to sell out of a part of the warehouse. Now they’re searching for a restaurant operator.

“We want to find that guy to do the bar and restaurant,” Steven says. “We can do the rest of it.”

Andi says, “We’re not looking for a big name chef. We’d rather have a young, hungry guy. Young and hungry is what we want.”

The rest of the warehouse space would be leased to others for the farmers market and other businesses.

Early fourth quarter 2009 is a tentative date for the Rosensteins to have their new venture up and running.

“It’s more than just a market or a bar; it’s almost like a little neighborhood within a building,” Steven says. “It’s a true extension of us. It’s what we love.”

 

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Sep 24th, 2008

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