Reviving spirits of days gone by
New downtown business focuses on recreating the in-home bars & drinks of yesteryear
When Seth Allen starts talking about his passions and the reasons behind opening Libations & Company, it becomes clear his mission is about reliving perfect moments. Moments belonging to both himself and his customers.
For Allen, the in-home bar is a place to put the ingredients needed to resurrect things both complex and simple. A way to bring himself back to a time he recalls with fondness, or even just help a friend recreate that perfect cocktail they had on vacation.
The physical structure of the bar is as much an ingredient for Allen as are the spirits, bitters, mixers and glassware you find in his new downtown Lee's Summit shop. The space at 23 SE Third Street has been stripped bare, exposing the original brick walls and ceiling tiles, giving customers a feel of stores and bars thought to be long past their time. A copper still sits in his front window and just past the two leather chairs stands a 19th century wooden cabinet which once sat in a San Francisco, Calif. house of ill repute. Every piece of the store was designed to offer the feeling of simple comforts and joy of times gone by. "I've had some older customers come in here and really be taken by the way things look and what I'm offering," Allen said. "They look around and they say 'this is what they used to shop for in the 50s for their bars.' And that's what it is for me. A way to get back to the past.
"Going as far back as when I was kid, people in my family always had some sort of bar in their house. And each one was unique to their personality. They all took pride in how their bar was set up and how they stocked it. The bar area was the social area of the house and the party. So you used to get excited about whose house you were going to and if they had the fixings for a Shirley Temple for us kids."
In college, Allen would spend time working as a bartender, and while he often dreamed of opening his own bar, the timing was never right as his priority was on his family. But a love of cocktails and things happening behind the bar never left him. And when corporate downsizing left him out of work, he went to his wife wondering if the timing was right for him to make the business idea he'd had for years a reality.
For Allen, building a perfect home bar is about setting oneself up with all the tools and pieces necessary to recreate memories and relaxed social settings for family and friends. The physical bar is important, as is having on hand the right glassware, and of course, the right spirits and mixers to make yourself and your guests the perfect cocktail.
"I love the ingredients, and the glassware. All those little things you need to put it together," he said. "It's like a big chemistry set. "I love architecture and history too. All these things seem to go together. I guess I'm kind of a geek like that. Alcohol has played a major part in American history, and world history too. So this store really has all of the things that I really enjoy. I just figured out a way to twist them together and this is what's come out."
What's come out is a store filled with nostalgia, offering customers the feel for 19th century Americana, through prohibition and up into the home cocktail parties of the 50s, 60s and 70s. Libations and Co. has a flair for the local as well with a large majority of the stock coming from Kansas City area businesses. The tasting table, cashiers counter and the sign hanging outside were all from Lee's Summit's Fossil Forge and most of the spirits hail from the Kansas City area's 7 distilleries.
The store will offer a variety of tastings, to highlight the local spirits, bitters and other ingredients. Events will be posted on the Libations & Co. Facebook page.
"I think a lot of people are surprised at how many distilleries are in our area," Allen said. "They're surprised, but also pleased to know there's such local involvement in a growing trend. There's a lot of interest in spirits and what people can do with them. There are a lot of great bars around, like The W here in Lee's Summit, where you can go get amazing cocktails made by some of the best bartenders you'll meet. But there's also a lot of interest in learning how to make good cocktails at home, too.
"I'm seeing people in here from their late 20s and early 30s, all the way up to their 60s. I'm seeing people who are interested in cocktails and how to make great drinks for their friends and family. I even had someone come in who had a cocktail on vacation in Seattle and they showed me pictures of it on their phone. So we did what we could to figure out the ingredients and what they needed to do to recreate that special drink."
And there it is again, Allen's real passion. Mixing the right ingredients to bring back fond memories and times of days gone by.
Libations & Co.
Tuesday — 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Wednesday - Saturday — 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Sunday — 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
23 SE Third Street
Lee's Summit, MO 64063