Thompson's Bookstore and Cocktail Bar is hiding a delicious surprise. Located in the old Vybeck building in Downtown Fort Worth, patrons can settle into velvet and antique seating once inside.
"We completely renovated the top two floors of the building," says Clinton Bohn, Director of Marketing for AngMar Retail Group, the conglomerate behind Fat Daddy’s and Mama Angie’s in Mansfield. AngMar bought Thompson's nearly two years ago and the entire building a year later. The original bookstore closed in 1993 after operating successfully for over 20 years, but business owners have used the space for various purposes since 1910.
"The 2nd floor is now our Event Center, and on the 3rd floor is the Cigar Lounge. It was a multi-million-dollar renovation that took one year to complete."
The upstairs bar is nestled in a restored library, with aged books and leather to keep moody drinker's company.
The Cigar lounge is on the top floor of Thompson's where guests are welcome to lounge in leather armchairs or plush sofas as they calmly smoke. The room showcases its cigar collection in an oversized humidor to ensure a memorable experience for enthusiasts.
"The renovations were carefully planned to ensure seamless integration of the speakeasy concept within the existing structure while preserving the building's historical charm," says Bohn.
The staff even considered musical selections for historical accuracy, and in 1920, jazz was king.
"Jazz music permeates the air," says Bohn. "Transporting guests to the vibrant nights of the Roaring Twenties."
The group's efforts are well executed; the renovation is spotless, a period-accurate triumph. And the similarities to the time aren't limited to the styling, because the basement hides a secret, but this old house isn't haunted, it's hobnobbing.
During the renovation process, AngMar turned the space under the store into an authentic speakeasy only accessible through a bookshelf with a password (found on the bar's Facebook page every night).
"Adorned with a beautifully crafted wooden counter," says Bohn describing the space. "The bar is well-stocked with a selection of premium spirits allowing our mixologists to craft exquisite cocktails reminiscent of the clandestine era."
All of the nostalgia of the remodel doesn't mean the bar lacks modern twists, though. The design concept for Thompson's aims to blend literary charm, Prohibition-era nostalgia, and a touch of sophistication.
"Wooden bookshelves line the walls, filled with carefully curated volumes, creating an atmosphere of intellectual intrigue," says Bohn about the bar interior. "Soft lighting and plush vintage seating areas invite visitors to browse the literary treasures and enjoy a cocktail."
Design elements like exposed brick walls, vintage wallpaper, warm colors, and ornate ceiling moldings strike a decidedly cozy yet moody atmosphere.
"We are proud of the journey we have undertaken to create this unique establishment," Bohn affirms. "And we look forward to welcoming our dedicated and enthusiastic customers to indulge in the captivating ambiance and exceptional offerings that Thompson now provides."
The owners were also concerned with honoring the neighborhood's history.
"The building that Thompson's Bookstore is in, holds a rich history deeply rooted in the colorful past of Hell's Half Acre, the historic precinct of Fort Worth, Texas," says Bohn. "Hell's Half Acre gained notoriety as a vibrant and raucous red-light district that thrived during the early to mid-1870s in the era of the Old Wild West. This precinct, which encompassed the area around the Thompson’s building, was infamous for its lawlessness, violence, and general atmosphere of revelry. It earned the moniker Bloody Third Ward due to the frequent clashes and criminal activities taking place within its boundaries. By repurposing this building and embracing the speakeasy concept, Thompson's Bookstore pays homage to the area's vibrant and tumultuous past."
One such nod to the area's past is a bootlegger's still inside the speakeasy, a historical artifact and tangible connection to the fascinating history of Hell's Half Acre and its place in Fort Worth.
"It serves as a reminder of the area's transformation and the resilient spirit of those who lived and thrived in the face of adversity during the Old West era," Bohn muses.
And the feelings of reverence for the history of Thompson's have trickled down to the staff, who regularly share information and the significance of the building with interested guests.
"Thompson's Bookstore, speakeasy, and cigar lounge are often fondly referred to as a little slice of Heaven in Hell's Half Acre," explains Bohn. "This affectionate phrase captures the unique juxtaposition of the establishment's enchanting ambiance within the historically vibrant and notorious precinct of Fort Worth. It conveys the idea that despite Hell's Half Acre's tumultuous past, Thompson's Bookstore offers a haven of refined elegance and delightful experiences." Proving that a lagoon mirage still exists in the dusty hellscape of the Wild West, a promise of a brief respite from the troubles of the day or era. The same promise that Thomspon's makes to its community and patrons: that the past still makes for the perfect escape.
Article by Hannah Barricks
Originally published in West Fort Worth Lifestyle