Mixing Pleasure With Business

Contributing Photographer

Tucked in behind the highly visible Barry Wooley Design Studio on the corner of East Main and Campbell streets is a – what? – private club, hangout, event space, dance floor, party room, artist’s studio, musician’s jam room, salvage warehouse, storage room, antique stall, rental property or (to use that currently way overused term) man cave.

Actually, it’s a little of all of those, an unrented space in the large industrial complex that the owner – an inveterate collector as well as ping pong player – has turned into a multi-use setting that’s mostly the World of Imagination.

It’s dark and dim with the windows bricked-over, a room of mystery, and that includes the identity of the proprietor, who’d prefer his name not be used. But when there’s a party going on, it’s easy to see the vibe of a 1970s disco scene.

Its various functions – whether for parties or collectors and shoppers – grew pretty much organically.

“I bought the property eight years ago, and this unused space started out as a place for my friends and me to play ping pong. We had a weekly Pong Club. But word of mouth spread, and pretty soon people were showing up here at night, just to hang out.”

Like a speakeasy, but without a special knock or secret password.

“I was also renting out the upstairs to artists and musicians, and they would come in here to take a break from their work.”

Cool, interesting, creative people attract other cool, interesting, creative people.

“And, as one of my sidelines, I do visual design for music festivals, like Forecastle. So I’d store my props in here.”

Eventually, all that storage comprised a collection. And everything in the room is also for sale.

There are period pieces, like old neon beer signs, formica kitchen tables from the ’40s and ’50s, a set of 1930s kitchen appliances that came out of a barn, a bowling table from a bar with a functioning electronic scoreboard, an old sanded shuffleboard table, vintage furniture and clothing, medicine bottles, liquor bottles and World War Two-era beeswax candles.

There are the electronics from the past that you’d expect – cathode ray TV sets and turntable Victrolas – and one you wouldn’t expect: a set of movie video discs and a Hitachi video disc player, the home entertainment device that had a very short limelight in the late 1970s, between reel-to-reel film and the emergence of VHS tape cassette technology.

The discs are about the size of old record albums (which is what you think they are at first). They’re mostly useless without the projector but the covers still make good wall-hangings, the way people frame and hang movie posters.

They also provide a great entertainment feature during the parties here. On a recent afternoon, the projector was playing “And God Created Woman,” the steamy 1956 French movie that made an international controversy out of Brigitte Bardot.

“I found them at a flea market. I paid $25 for the entire set, including the projector!”

There are odds and ends, like a set of lobster traps and muskrat traps and an old department store Santa. And the room is strewn with artists’ work, like a coffee table made out of a tractor tire, with the cover of an old, very large film reel serving as the tabletop.

Perhaps the most expensive item in the room is an original horsehair-covered Le Corbusier recliner chair from the 1960s.

Upstairs is an identical room, except completely empty, which he rents out to artists or musicians.

“The cars in front of Garage Bar were retrofitted here.”

There’s yet another room on the property full of more stuff, including a Triumph convertible from the 1970s or ’80s. While these items are for sale, most of them can also be moved into the party room or rented out as props.

The room is still for rent. A big sign outside says FOR LEASE: RETAIL CORNER AVAILABLE.

“Someone could turn it into a cool bar or restaurant.”

Before that happens, to reserve the room, or any part of the property, for a party – or to rent the office space – or to make an appointment to shop the gallery of items – or just to come down for a game of ping pong – call 502.819.5405.

Photos by CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-Tribune