BRATTLEBORO — When Marty Griffin and Kate Barry heard Arkham was closing, they had a 10-second conversation that expanded into much longer ones, eventually leading to the decision to lease the space and make something of their own: The Collective.
“We were pitching some ideas around,” said Griffin, co-owner of The Collective. “We wanted this to be a space that embraces local art, local music and local community issues, as well. We want this to almost be a think tank.”
The Collective at 55 Elliot St. is where Metropolis had been before it closed in 2017. Metropolis and Arkham were bars in back-to-back spaces owned by Alan Blackwell, and the new lease agreement allows for Barry and Griffin to attain the Arkham section at some point.
Griffin said he wants to offer a late night spot where people feel safe and welcome. In addition to open mic nights on Mondays, he plans to have karaoke and trivia.
The Collective will host gay pride events, baby showers, bachelor parties and dance parties. Chairs are set up in a way in which they can be easily moved to accommodate different purposes.
The Collective won’t have televisions but games such as chess, Scrabble and Exploding Kittens. Someone is working on a building a large cribbage board for the business.
“We want people interacting as groups,” Griffin said.
The plan also is to work with local charities in the area, including Groundworks Collaborative, which helps individuals and families facing homelessness and food insecurity.
Barry and Griffin are Brattleboro neighbors who have known each other for more than seven years and have previously worked together. Between the two of them, Griffin counts about 40 years of experience in the bar and restaurant industry.
“This always has been a dream of mine,” Griffin said, adding that Barry never thought she would get back in the bar business again after Arkham closed. She worked at Arkham and managed Metropolis.
Arkham closed during the pandemic, a time when many regulars of the bar suffered loss following the deaths of friends from overdose and despair. That got Barry and Griffin talking.
“We wanted to bring back a space not just for the younger kids but more of the working professionals in the community to come and enjoy,” Griffin said, explaining how the conversations led him and Barry to pursue the endeavor.
Right now, he said, there are no late night destinations downtown. He noted the Whetstone Station Restaurant and Brewery closes the latest at 10 p.m., and added that local bartenders and wait staff like to have a place to go after their shifts.
Griffin said he wants The Collective to provide “tasty food” and “things people will truly enjoy.”
To bring in extra income during the pandemic, he began selling homemade salsas and dips through a new company called Momma’s Boy Cooking. Customers would purchase the food via social media and he would drive around the region dropping off orders.
With The Collective opening, pickups will be made there.
“I’m not a chef whatsoever,” he said. “I consider myself a home cook. That gave me the confidence to bring food to the menu and provide something people will really enjoy.”
The Collective officially opens Friday. A soft opening during Gallery Walk on Friday brought in an “overwhelmingly huge response from the community,” Griffin said.
Artwork on the walls is made by local residents. Everything but the furniture is for sale, Griffin said.
Each month, a different artist will be featured at The Collective. During Gallery Walk on the first Friday of every month, multiple artists will be stationed at the establishment.
Griffin said he’s waiting on a liquor license before he can start serving alcohol.
“The health inspector for the state retired like four weeks ago then we were waiting on the replacement, so that kind of set us back a bit,” he said, hoping to secure approval by September.
Mocktails are available for now and will continue to be a staple after the liquor license is obtained. The list currently includes Fresh to Death, which has pineapple jalapeno simple syrup, and fresh lime and orange juices with a Tajin spice rim; Brattleboro Breeze, which has hibiscus and red raspberry leaf iced tea, lemon balm syrup and soda; Spice of Life, which is made up of cold brew coffee, coconut milk, cinnamon and turmeric; and Revitalizer, which has mint and ginger simple syrup, and coconut water and coconut milk with a dash of cardamom.
For food, chips can be dipped in Smokin’ Embers Salsa made of smoked chipotle peppers, jalapenos, onion, bell peppers and tomatoes; Hella Kahiki Salsa made of slow cooked pineapple, habanero, brown sugar and a hint of lime juice; and Mama’s Texas Queso made of queso blanco, Cojita cheese, tomatoes, green chilies and fresh pico.
“We will also be doing hummus, antipasto skewers and slow-cooker specials on Fridays and Saturdays,” Griffin said.
Hot coffee and tea will always be available.
In the beginning, The Collective will be open Thursday through Monday from 4 p.m. until at least midnight. Once alcohol can be served, the business will be open until 2 a.m. Families are welcome until 7 p.m., when only those who are 21 and older are admitted.
“If the food really takes off,” Griffin said, “we’re open to increasing our hours especially Saturday and Sunday.”
Renovations include a remodeling of the stage and the removal of wallpaper. The drink and food menus appear on chalk boards.
Jake Grover is credited with custom designing shelves and a table behind the bar. He cut the wood himself and helped in other ways to get the building prepared for opening, Griffin said.
The lease started in June and the owners wanted to open in late July. Griffin said, because of unforeseen issues, the process took longer than anticipated.