Recently, my fiancée and I wanted to go out and do the usual: heady talk – plus nonsensical talk – while listening to music and absorbing many Blue Moons. But we wanted “the usual” to be somewhere different and, since moving into Germantown, both of us had been curious about a hole in the wall named Pop’s Place. So we went.
What we found, while peering into this “hole in the wall,” was a sizeable new venue for a diverse range of musical talent, and a cozy vault that aims to become an emblem of tolerance – on turf not historically known for socio-demographic diversity.
The three-inch LEO ad that drew Liz and me through the door was more statement than advertisement, calling for “Awareness for Unity in The Community.”
A former local pizza franchise manager, Sandy Sexton opened Pop’s Place along with her wife, Lynne Robinson, as a family-owned spot to unwind ... or wind up. The two women expressed a vision of melding the Germantown formula of a neighborhood bar with a place known for spectacular live acts, where everyone is welcomed and called by name.
“There’s a lot of younger people moving in,” said Sexton. “Hopefully, they’ll bring their family and friends here. There’s a revitalization in Germantown. I’m happy to be part of it.”
Business has grown for Pop’s Place since the doors first opened in October 2008, especially with the raucous band spectacles on weekends. The evening of our visit, though, was a limpid Tuesday night when the only two other people on our side of the bar were motorcycle-jacket-clad indigenous Steve – capped with a bandana – whose earnest friendliness was only surpassed by his love of furry animals; and Sean, a 20-something graduate of something, in a button-down, blazer and slacks. This unlikely pair laughed it up like lifelong friends. It was clear that the air of acceptance and geniality here was what spawned Pop’s Place regulars.
On this night we also met Ophelia, the diminutive and fearless “momma cat” who had shown up many weeks before and wouldn’t leave. Before Sandy and Lynne realized the petite feline wasn’t a kitten herself, she produced two of her own. Within weeks, her spaying was funded entirely by the tip jar, which bore a sign in favor of precluding further offspring.
The two kittens, Sierra and Nevada – one jet black and one white and black like her mom – grew up in Pop’s Place. They squeaked eagerly from the large cage Sandy had set up in the back room next to the pool table. Germantowner Steve couldn’t keep his hands off them. (Long since our visit, the kittens have been weaned to a good home.)
At one point, a woman entered, and before she had mounted a bar stool, Sexton began pouring. “I think I have a beer here with your name on it,” she said. Kay, the customer, did come for beer and also karaoke. During the week, Sexton plays DJ (along with co-bartending) to those who want to tune and croon with a bottle of their favorite poison in hand.
Every Friday and Saturday night, though, Pop’s Place hosts live bands ranging from punk to blues – from classic rock bands like Avalanche to talents like Big Poppa Stampley. Sexton is serious about establishing a live music mainstay, dead center between the Baxter Avenue corridor and Uncle Pleasant’s on Preston. Her business card reads “Local Musical Talent Welcome!”
“One of my aims,” she told me, “was to get bands in here who don’t have an opportunity to play elsewhere. They can come in and express themselves.”
Sexton wants to define Pop’s Place as a community venue, claiming, “I want to promote diversity and tolerance through my business. I want people to feel comfortable here, from Old Louisville to Okolona, from the Highlands to Portland ... We’re open-minded, showing respect to all who walk through the door. Sexuality, race, ethnicity – everyone deserves a good time.”
I agreed that music was a prime unifying agent for that. But isn’t that a pitch any proprietor would throw for her establishment?
“Well, the difference is ... I feel like if you come in here, you’re not just my customer – you’re my friend.”
Ophelia mewed loudly in the karaoke room, and Sexton declared, “She wants to sing. And then she chickens out when she gets up there.”
Pop’s Place is located at 935 Goss Avenue and can be reached at (502) 634-2294. Also, check their MySpace page (popsplaceoflou) and Facebook page by the same name.
Addendum: Ophelia was struck by a car on October 26 and died while Sexton held her little broken body. “At that moment,” she said, “Ophelia went from Pop’s Place’s pet to my pet. But I know she will be missed by the people who come in here.”
– Chris James Bayer, Germantown