Concert promoter and former Chicago boy Jeremiah Gratza of Stateside Presents long dreamed of owning a cool but comfortable neighborhood bar, something that evoked both a specific time (the 1970s) and place (the Midwest). After three years of searching, Gratza and his partners – Brett Boyles and The Hot Guy Band bass player Jake Wiedmann – found the perfect Melrose spot, parked at the end of the historic building that also houses Melrose Pharmacy and Restaurant Progress. It’s a quirky time capsule of a space, decked out with memorabilia Gratza collected over the years, including lamps and chairs from former girlfriends and their grandmothers. The bar’s name references country legend Marty Robbins’ favorite westside hangout, the old Thunderbird Lounge in Glendale. Gratza says the bar, which opened in April, “brings me back to my childhood.”
1 Retro Bar Effect
No big-screen TVs for this neighborhood bar. Gratza enlisted high school buddy Mike Faulkner, president of Public House Creative, to custom-build the retro-looking art piece – a softly glowing red, yellow and brown ovoid – on the wood-paneled wall behind the bar.
2 ’70s Décor
In addition to a small TV playing cringe-worthy ’70s movies like the Blaxploitation flick Black Samson, the lounge’s nostalgic vibe is quickened by spun vinyl lamps purchased in Melrose, and vintage lamps (circa 1969) bought from a Sun City couple over the alcoves.
3 Bowling Bar Tops
Both the bar top and tabletops are overlaid with the pine wood slats used as bowling lanes from an abandoned bowling alley in Globe. Look carefully and you might find the indicator dots and arrows that serve as bowling guides.
4 Arizona Rock
Lining the alcove walls with fieldstone (Arizona rock containing traces of turquoise and copper), made a “Midwest meets Southwest” statement, Gratza says, given that fieldstone was a popular look in Chicago taverns and homes in the ’70s.
5 Old Tech
A raised, recessed area near the entrance boasts a ’70s-era cigarette machine, free arcade games (including Ms. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong Jr., Super Mario Bros. and Tetris) and a rare CD-playing jukebox featuring a range of artists from the era, including, of course, Marty Robbins.