Crowd-funding for locomotive libations (sorry, had to go for it).
5.1.15 | Issue #16
“It’s kind of an out-there idea.”
It started with ice cream. Specifically, cocktail-flavored ice cream. Dreaming up scoops of Americano, Negroni, or Aviation was something Kevin Mabry and Domingo-Martin Barreres would bat around at work, half-joking as they tended bar alongside each other at Boston’s jm Curley and its bar within a bar, Bogie’s Place. It was a pipe dream, a what-if type mental exercise. Neither really gave much more thought to the idea, until Mabry starting digging.
“I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mind. I’ve always wondered how we could do things differently in this business,” Mabry says. “The more I looked into it, I knew it wasn’t just a side project. The fact that this hasn’t been done before on this level appealed to me.”
He stumbled upon the recently passed 12-seat catering license, created specifically so that caterers could serve alcohol at private events. When he realized it didn’t have to be just ice cream, that he and Barreres could feasibly take their talents to the masses, the bones of a business plan began to take shape.
“Right away, we knew we didn’t want the generic box food truck. We wanted something really unique that would separate us even further,” he says. “So we started looking, and we found this bus.”
Rosie, as she’s been christened, is a 1953 Flxible Clipper model bus. She’s 35 feet long, and built entirely in one piece, from the chassis to the top roof, and The Barmobile team is currently fundraising a full renovation: the engine, the transmission, brand-new drive change, gages, diesel swap, and new tires.
Flxible was founded in Ohio in the early 1940s, and mostly produced transport-model buses for sight-seeing tours and airports and regional commutes. Rosie’s former life was spent ferrying nuns for a convent. You can’t write this stuff. “They were the Greyhounds before there were Greyhounds,” Mabry says. “Everyone that I’ve talked to that owns a Flxible bus or has renovated one is so emotionally attached to it, it’s crazy. Every little nuance and detail, they freak out about.”
What group rivals those levels of obsession? Cocktail enthusiasts, naturally. Boston has long been approaching a saturation point with ambitious new food businesses going brick and mortar, but the field of innovation for bars is considerably smaller. “Has it been an inspiration of mine to open my own place and move forward? Of course it has,” he admits. “I think it’s everyone’s pipe dream to have their own place. But I know that right now, I can bring hospitality to people’s doorsteps with this bus, and that’s a niche that hasn’t been filled. If I can fill it, then that’s a way I can give back to this city.”
The logistics of a rolling bar is where this gets interesting: banquettes inside double as holders for bottles and equipment. There are two side by side wells, with their own pop-out windows. The back bar will be a drop-down cooler. Glassware will be actual glass upon request and rented; otherwise they’re embracing plastic. “We really have to make the most out of the square footage available to us,” Mabry says. “It’s all about spatial integration.”
He does admit the initial perception is that they’ll be serving Manhattans and Whiskey Smashes on Boylston Street. It’s a nice thought, but The Barmobile is strictly for private events, folks, at least for the first incarnation. “I definitely have those hopes of grandeur, and getting to a point where we can do some more public appearances, or have a residency at the SOWA market, and be able to transform the city in some small way,” he says, “But I’m excited about bringing that customizable experience to someone. Whenever we turn the key and go somewhere, it’ll be different every time. The venue, the menu, the cocktails, the style of service, the quantity…it will never be stale.
“I’m really taking this project personally,” he adds. “I’ve put everything I have into it. I want Boston to be just as proud and take just as much ownership of it.” The team hopes to be on the road by August, and has just over a week left to fundraise Rosie’s facelift.
“Man, I cannot wait to drive this thing. It’s gonna snap necks,” he says. “You won’t be able to take your eyes off of it.”