Soft jazz, clinking glasses and happy chatter filters out of an old one-room schoolhouse in Braselton.
It has no sign to mark the building, but Blake’s of Braselton has drawn crowds since it held a soft opening in late March. People can find it next to the gristmill on 36 Frances St. in Braselton.
Ron Blake — who owns the business with his wife, Mary — said he felt inspired to transform the nearly 130-year-old schoolhouse into a speakeasy because of the vintage look of the building.
The speakeasy offers indoor and outdoor seating and serves a range of wine, cocktails and small plates.
Blake said every furniture piece in the 850-square-foot space was specifically selected to fit the ambiance, including the velvet curtains and antique lighting fixtures.
Blake hired local interior designer, Patti Bothwell, to reflect the look of a speakeasy found during the Prohibition era. He said most of the pieces were bought at consignment stores in Atlanta.
People have the option of purchasing a membership to the speakeasy, an idea Blake said he formed after Chateau Elan ended its wine club. With no place to drink free wine and socialize with his friends, he took matters into his own hands and started his own speakeasy with a membership option.
“We have an environment where people feel comfortable,” Blake said. “Our motto is to drink what makes you happy with friends who make you laugh.”
Since opening the business, around 170 people have locked in memberships.
Through becoming a member, which costs $90 quarterly, people receive benefits like a choice of two complimentary wine glasses each week, seat reservations and a 20% discount on all food and beverage orders.
“We’re going to go out of our way to take care of members,” Blake said. “We really value them.”
People can apply for a membership by visiting blakesofbraselton.com/membership.
From 9-11 p.m., the speakeasy shifts into Blake’s After Dark, or as Blake says, “B.A.D.”
Mea Ingleheart, the general manager, makes a select list of cocktails during this timeframe. Most of these drinks were popular during the ‘20s like the bee's knees and Prohibition punch.
By the end of the summer, Blake intends to start the second phase of his business. He will build a 2,700-square-foot building, which would connect by a patio to the current speakeasy.
The additional space would include a round bar in the center of the building, kitchen, seating and deck fit for live entertainment.
While owning a speakeasy is a first for Blake, he has experienced his fair share of other business opportunities.
He previously owned a bed and breakfast in Australia, an RV resort in Franklin, North Carolina and a country inn in Manchester, Vermont.
When Blake started conducting market research for his speakeasy, he saw Braselton right on the cusp of becoming a major attraction
“This is what gave me the assurance that what I was doing wasn’t a foolish old man’s dream, that it would actually bear fruit, and so far it has,” Blake said. “The response and what we have created has been phenomenal.”
When talking to anyone in the area, Blake said they’ll tell him there’s a “buzz” about Braselton’s growth. He plans to catalyze the process and help make the town more of a destination.
“There’s something for everybody,” he said. “Everything from the high-end, high-dollar Cotton Calf, to the brewery with the outdoor decking where you can sit and have a great brew with your dog.”
Blake’s of Braselton’s hours are from 5-11 p.m. on Wednesday, and 4-11 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. For more information about the speakeasy visit blakesofbraselton.com.