By Lela Nargi
Just over a year ago, Kim Bosse, a social media consultant, and her friend Sharon Provins, hit on a brilliant idea: a top-secret, members-only club that would appeal to grownups—if not exclusively parents, like them—who were looking for a low-key, no-kid night out that didn’t have to end right after dinner was over, or devolve into a bar crawl.
Says Bosse, whose husband, Jeff, is now full-time managing the product of this brainstorm, Birch Road Cellar, “A lot of parents appreciate a night away from the kids and night out, but they don’t necessarily want that to be a big scene. They just want to break out of the house!” And that counts for Kim and Jeff as much as anyone. Read on to learn more!
Tell us a little about your “clubhouse.”
Kim Bosse: It’s pretty simple. What we offer is a comfortable, casual environment where our members can hang out. They can keep their own spirits and wine in our wine cellar, which makes getting out of the house easy. Parents have so much on their plate it can be hard to plan stuff. But here, you can get takeout, open up a bottle of wine, and actually talk to your partner, because the music’s not too loud. There are also plenty of other couples you can connect with, if you want to.
Sometimes, Jeff and I will get a last-minute night out. There are all these new restaurants in Chicago I’m always dying to try, but you have to reserve three weeks in advance. It completely turns date night into Chipotle night. But even Chipotle night can be fun if you’re eating it in a nice space with a bottle of wine!
What is it that you guys most like about hanging out in the space you created?
Kim: I grew up in the suburbs, where we had secret neighborhood spots that we kids would ride to on our bikes. It’s something I valued as kid, and also now as a grown-up. The idea of everyone serving themselves here [there are no waiters or bartenders at Birch Road] came from our own lives. I like craft spirits and buying local beer, but when I go out and look at restaurant lists, I can’t remember what I’ve had and liked before. Also, it’s impossible for a bar or restaurant to stock what everyone likes but here, whatever you’ve tried that you like, you can buy it and put it in your locker at Birch Road and it will be waiting for you the next time come in. Or maybe you have special bottle of wine someone gives you as gift but don’t want to open just for yourself; you can’t wait to come in and share it with another member you’ve met here.
Was having a clubhouse-y feel important to you?
Jeff Bosse: We’ve got very much of the living room set-up. People seem to really like those kinds of comfortable spaces.
Kim: We tried with the décor to make it as comfy as home, but to still functional like a bar. A lot of seating at bars and restaurants is intentionally designed to be not comfortable long-term, because they don’t want you to stay. Here, we want you to sit back and enjoy! We have “studio spaces” that are like mini living rooms. If you want to be more interactive with other members, you can sit in the bar area. There are sofas and easy chairs, but they’re not pushed together, no one is listening in on your conversation or intruding.
Are all your members parents?
Jeff: Only about 30% of them are parents, but among them, we have parents with kids of varying ages: babies, school-age, some who are even older than that.
Kim: One of the things I love about coming here versus other social opportunities we have as parents is that people branch out and the center of the conversation is not always our kids. I love talking about my kids [son, Reese, is 8 years old and daughter, Sophie, is 6] and I could easily talk about them all day. But it’s nice to feel like a grownup and have a conversation about other things. We’ve got a diverse group of members in here, so the conversation naturally steers away from childhood stuff, to food and drink and movies and shows.
Parents in Chicago embrace diversity for families and kids—we’re always looking for diverse experiences—but social clubs here tend to be industry-specific. We have a number of private clubs that are dedicated to finance, to lawyers; these are places people join to further their careers. But Birch Road is unique because we offer the private club experience without it being a resume-building environment; it’s just a place where you and your peers can meet. And most important of all: we’ve got a no-kid policy!
Do you have a favorite kind of night at the club?
Jeff: One of the things I've really enjoyed since opening Birch Road is being the best host for Dad's Night Out. Before, I would host literal "garage parties" where we would drink beer and play darts in my garage. Now we're sipping Scotch and playing darts in my private club!
Photographs by Thomas Kubik of TK Photography