This is the first of hopefully many posts that will take you into the world of The GarBar and my weird and crazy passion for rethinking the most under utilized space we have in our homes... the garage.
When my wife and I bought our first home we settled in a quaint New Jersey suburban town called Maplewood. Maplewood is known for attracting New York apartment dwellers who have found themselves married or living with their partners, with young kids or kids on the way. They are entering a new phase of their lives and realizing their dreams of raising their children in the big city are a bit more challenging than they had once thought or had just postponed that frame of thinking until it was unavoidable. It hits you pretty hard and often out of the blue. Call it suspended denial that runs its course. And when reality hits it's pretty harsh, with the crazing housing costs in NYC and perhaps the most daunting realization...what it takes to find your children a good environment for their education. "Interview me and get me to write an essay so my kid can go to kindergarten? And pay what? I don't think so." Well I guess this is just one faction of us. The one I belong to. I certainly have friends who had no intentions of staying. They always meant to make their way to suburbia once the clock ran out on bachelorhood and dinkhood. Whatever the reason, what I have found is that the cool people find Maplewood. They come from Manhattan, Queens, The Bronx, Hoboken, Jersey City and most come from Brooklyn, especially in recent years. You can read all about it in the recent New York Times article entitled, "Maplewood, NJ: If Brooklyn Were a Suburb"... Since the move, we are all now very Jersey proud but we take this reference as a compliment for sure.
But, I am not here to write about real estate and the dynamics of this great little town. We're the cool kids that moved to Jersey, that's all you need to know... and despite some early fears about living in the burbs, we are more than making the best of it - we're loving it. As I like to say, "We did not come out here to die." We enjoy ourselves and we do it right here in the burbs. I am here to tell you about one way we have made our living situation a little more reminiscent of our lives back in the city, when your "local" might have been literally 50 paces from your apt building. When you could pop into your favorite bar and see the regular faces that made that big daunting city feel small, intimate and home like. And then you could just walk home, one of the best parts of city living. Well due to New Jersey's silly and very restrictive liquor laws which limit the number of liquor licenses by population, we have very few choices in our town for places to grab a pint (currently 2 in Maplewood) and they are not really walking distance for most, although it can be done. So we've had to get creative.
Now-a-days I walk to my local in less than 10 seconds. I see all my neighborhood friends and share a few freshly poured pints of Brooklyn Brewery beer and throw a few games of darts. But now-a-days my local is not the Spring Lounge on Spring and Mulberry, where I met my wife just three blocks from my apartment on Elizabeth Street. Nope. My local is in my garage. It's not a business. It's just my home where my friends gather for some FREE pints. And going forward I will be posting about how this place came to be and how it continues to evolve into the space that I have dreamt up. A place that, like a time machine, transports you. It transports you out of a suburban backyard and into a local pub or tavern in the West Village, the Lower East Side or Williamsburg, you decide. It's an evolution and we are just getting started. But the passion is contagious and it will spread as we will begin this Spring with various projects at other residences where, with the help of some handy friends, we will reinvent a few friends' and neighbors' garages into GarBars (Garage + Bar). I hope you enjoy reading these posts. Eventually, as we begin The Garbar projects we will be filming the process of transforming garage spaces into the ultimate "locals" that will reflect the personalities of the home owners. Please send me any thoughts or suggestions you have. Stay tuned and Cheers! - John