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Hannaford: New Bar at Covington's Mutual Building Will Share the Architect's Name

"It's an uptown bar with downtown grit."

That's how Andrew Salzbrun describes the latest project by Hickory Wald, a new bar opening in downtown Covington's Mutual Building, the nearly 100-year old 3-story landmark that was after decades of sitting mostly vacant was transformed into upscale apartments and commercial spaces. 

The new bar will be called The Hannaford at Pike & Madison, named for Samuel Hannaford & Sons, the legendary architecture firm that designed Cincinnati's Music Hall and City Hall, the Our Lady of Providence school building in Newport (now a condo building bearing the Hannaford name), and many others - including the Mutual Building.

More historic to Covington than the Mutual Building is the intersection of Pike Street and Madison Avenue, the traditional epicenter of commerce in Northern Kentucky. The front door to the Hannaford at Pike & Madison sits at an angle, peering out directly into the street corner.

"We wanted to shed light on and reinvigorate the intersection at Pike and Madison, which historically was one of the highest trafficked in the region at one point, and with the recent growth and renaissance of Covington, we want to continue that momentum and bring out that additional life into what was once a really awesome intersection," Salzbrun told The River City News.

The addition of the Hannaford at Pike & Madison arrives at a time in which that historic intersection is finding its footing again, as profiled by The River City News in December, 2015. On the northwest corner, Motch Jewelers continues its run as the city's longest-operating business at more than 150 years, and the 2 West Pike building is home to Durham Brands, and Renaissance Covington. The northeast corner is still home to US Bank (where the prominent Eilerman's department store once operated) and is near Huntington Bank where 100 more employees are due to arrive soon. The southeast corner has a new Barnes & Noble student bookstore that serves Gateway Community & Technical College's downtown campus, on the same block as the soon-to-open Hotel Covington, the crown jewel of Covington's renaissance.

And now, the Hannaford at Pike & Madison caps an impressive arrival of the rejuvenated Mutual Building, whose apartments rented out immediately and whose commercial tenants include Jimmy John's, Boost Mobile, Cutman Barbershop, flow - a shop for men, and The River City News

Inside the bar - which is still being constructed and polished for its October debut - more history is being uncovered. Salzbrun and his partners, Aaron Kohlhepp and Jack Weston - the Hickory Wald Group, uncovered the original mosaic tile floor that was laid with the building. It's been refurbished and brought back to shine like the diamonds that once sold at Getz Jewelers when it operated at the corner. "We've also kept a lot of the concrete foundational walls exposed," Salzbrun said. They found decades of old paint, and inscriptions from various laborers who had done work at the site over the century. "We're going to allow that to be visible becaue we think it's exciting."

The guys are also borrowing from their new neighbors. Some scrap timber removed from the old Coppin's building that is now known as Hotel Covington will be incorporated into the build-out of the Hannaford. "It shows a cohesive relationship," Salzbrun said.

The guys opening the bar have already proven themselves in an emerging part of the region. They own and operate Rhinehaus, a popular sports bar in Over-the-Rhine, and Nation Kitchen and Bar, a neighborhood tavern in Cincinnati's Pendleton neighborhood.

This is their first business in Covington.

"The approach here is pretty simple. We want to complement the existing entertainment venues that are already in place in the neighborhood and we want to be reallly respectful to Braxton and what they're doing with the brewhouse experience, Amerasia has the best craft beer selection in town, and with the Hotel Covington and the wine program they'll be doing, we wanted to develop a place with a really great cocktail at a fair price, something that feels substantial but that doesn't have any pretentious notes," Salzbrun said.

Something as simple as a gin and tonic can be a different experience when a talented bartender is working in a space that is clean and nonsmoking, and where seasonal cocktails reflect the attitude of the surrounding community, he said. The 45-seat establishment (no, they won't be using the basement - which was once a cafeteria for downtown business people - for guests) is expected to be ready by mid-October.

"We have built a series of bars with the goals and strategy of planting flags in neighborhoods and doing so in areas that create a sense of community," Salzbrun said.
This endeavor, brought on by the Salyers Group - which co-developed the Mutual Building and the hotel - reached out to Hickory Wald about the corner space, has its challenges. "You walk in and there is almost no right angle to the space, it's a weird, almost flatiron building. That was really interesting," Salzbrun said. But, "We fell in love with the space."
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher