"Don't come in this way yet," said a woman closing the door to C&I Studios. "It'll ruin the surprise."
I kind of took a step back, a bit put off. "Damn, they put a lot of work into this," I thought. Wednesday night's private VIP preview of Next Door, an extension of Fat Village's favorite media company, ended up worth the wait. Not your typical 9 to 5, run of the mill business, this eclectic place features cool local art, Jack Daniels soap bottles, and crafty cocktails. C&I also gets its philanthropy on by supporting three international children's organizations monthly.
When I was finally allowed in, I had to admit: I dug it. Although I am sworn to secrecy involving intricate details of the newest addition of the studio, I can say it was done in complete C&I fashion: classy, creative, innovative. It made you think, "How did I not come up with this?"
I'll tell you this, think sexy library (3,000 books to be exact) with total sensory overload. There's somewhat of a Northern feel to it, which is a rare find in South Florida where high heeled cougars and steroid injected guido-esque clubs have reigned supreme. The sexy library concept extended to their featured craft cocktails inspired by famous authors such as Maya Angelou and Edgar Allan Poe. Josiah Sampson, one of the four managers of C&I, particularly likes the straight edge menu of cocktails featuring the names of hardcore artists like Ian MacKaye and Ray Cappo. "I've never been to a bar with a straight edge menu," he said.
Ptah Quammie, a fashion photographer that often shoots at C&I, was fond of the overall concept. "It's amazing," Quammie said. "It's going to bring in more clientele. It's the best of both worlds. It's peaceful. Makes you want to come back more and more."
According to Josh Miller, the owner of C&I, that's part of what he is trying to achieve with the expansion. "There's creative space, great conversations and great drinks. There are more creative options. Hopefully people will talk about projects and such... You will talk to strangers. It's safe, warm, welcoming and inviting." Miller continued, "We were only doing three to four events a month? [insert skeptical head tilt]. We needed consistency. This will be the next 'Cheers'. Everyone will know everyone's name."
Miller and his crew put their blood, sweat, and creative tears in the four and a half weeks it took to make this concept come to life by painting the walls, buying those 3,000 books, driving to Maryland to buy window panes, and so much more. Projects such as community events and photo shoots will take place at Next Door. Oh, and did we mention there is a trailer that is actually a recording studio?
Needless to say, Miller is thrilled to give something back to the community. "It's not about what C&I is doing. It's what we are doing collectively [with partners Riverside Market and Brew]. We love our town, so what else can we do for our town?"
Next Door will be open to the public November 8, at C&I Studios, 541 NW First Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Visit their Facebook, or call 954- 357-3934.