By John Hood
Unless you’ve been at play in Siberia over the last month, you damn well know about a jumpin’ joint called Gramps. Operated by owner Adam Gersten, located smack in the center of Wynwood, opened coincident with that mad dash called Basel, and named in honor of one of the gentlemen who put Miami on the map back when there was a Rat Pack, Gramps is the kinda blast from the past that adds magic to right this minute. Think always has and always will, top it off with a splash of just-you-bet, and you’ll have some idea of what this spot so white hot — and a win-win for Wynwoodians.
Gramps is also a due and reverent tribute to the city in which it stands, and proof positive you can’t fake a damn cool place to hang. And Gersten’s got the pedigree to prove it too — not because he needs to, mind you; but because this city is in his blood. Literally. See Gramps is more than a moniker chosen to show its owner respects his elders (though there is that, in abundance); it’s in honor of one elder in particular — Irving Miller, maternal grandfather to Gersten himself. The namesake Gramps was in on everything from Sunny Isles strip hotels such as The Dunes, The Aztec, and The Newport, to the legendary Bowlerama, on 79th and NW 2nd, which was to bowling alleys what Gold Coast was to roller rinks; that is the be-all to where all the action takes place.
Like Gramps himself, Gersten’s got a gift for building the sorta place in the sun that’s fun for everyone. And, like all the gentlemen and -women who built this city, he knows the most fun comes by welcoming everyone under the sun. But while Gersten’s reverence extends to all Miamians, he’s particularly keen on aligning with the like minds most responsible for giving Miami its shine. And amid the echoes of Mac’s Club Deuce and fragments of Jimbos, you’ll also find imprints of such esteemed local talents as Johnny Laderer, Mike Del Marmol and Brian Butler, whose massive gator mural harks back to his mass appeal “Get Lost”, the Fordistas-backed exhibition that went down around the corner at Product/81 — and which put putt-putt golf into a whole new realm.
Since Gersten saw fit to give each of the aforementioned artists a literal place at Gramps’ table (yes, we mean the tabletops of each booth), Fordistas figured the least we could do would be to give each space enough to have their say — about Gramps and about Gersten. Consider it our way of saying Thanks for the many memories we’re already enjoying… and for many more sure to come.
I met Adam pretty soon after moving to Miami about three and a half years ago. I would run into him at music shows, openings, bars etc… I actually ran into him a few years back, after just meeting him, in Gainesville while I was doing an installation with the Church of Holy Colors who by some strange circle of events ended up doing the stage installation for the Spin magazine party at Gramp’s during Basel featuring Hundred Waters and Kool Keith.
A year or so ago Adam came by for a studio visit when I was still working in the Wynwood area. He mentioned, rather secretively, he was opening a bar and wanted to get a few pieces. I made several “snake skins” by butterflying old garden hoses and pinning them up like prize rattlers to found wood I fashioned into frames. I also made an altar to Jimbo’s made of wood and buoys Adam, being the dedicated Jimbo’s lover he is, salvaged the day after it was torn down. I cut and processed the materials as minimally as possible to maintain integrity. Hardware and the acrylic front are the only added materials. The acrylic front serves to function as a memorabilia showcase. So if anyone has cozies, stickers, or other assorted Jimbo’s ephemera we encourage you to add it. I also, along with several other distinctly Florida flavored artists contributed my effort to a table in the bar. Mine showcases a print made by taking the pod of a coontie plant (a Seminole and pioneer staple) and putting it on a paint roller handle. Its geometry also resembles something reptilian. Along with the print, under the resin, is sand from South Beach and some palm fronds.
A little bit of background on the table I worked on: the collage was created by Dan Hardie and me (Dan is my brother-in-law and an old school Miamian – his great grandfather was one of the first sheriff’s of Dade County). The collage consists of Miami newspaper clippings, old Miami announcements, and other random Miami-related images. Dan works in the design department at Miami-Dade County and sourced a lot of these images from old Miami Herald and Miami News microfiche archives over the past few years.
Mike Del Marmol, Alex Burnard, Andrew Barnett and I got involved with Gramps on behalf of CP+B. We loved Adam’s vision for the bar, and his enthusiasm for Miami heritage. We are helping build their visual identity, and the plan is to keep it super-authentic. We developed the look for the building, and influence the bar’s merchandise and promo materials. We got Miami’s king of street signage, $erge the artist, to paint the lettering across the facade, and we lent Adam a hand in bringing the gator show to the bar for Art Basel. Not many people know that the Miami River has a long history of Gator Wrestling, and we wanted to tie that heritage into Gramps right away.
A Hood in Wynwood is a weekly look at who’s who’s, what’s what and where it’s at when it comes to the ‘hood named Wynwood, as written by John Hood himself, who not only wows about Wynwood, he calls the ‘hood his home.