Greg Medow was fiercely dedicated to his concept of turning the shell of an old Airstream trailer into gleaming, state-of-the-art mobile bar. So fierce that after he’d spent nearly a year and a half on the trailer’s exquisite refurbishing, the trailer was impounded for another year because some time back the trailer had been stolen, and was technically owned by a Canadian insurance company. Ouch.
“That was an additional year of pain and suffering,” says Medow. “But the whole restoration was difficult. I bought just the shell: no floor, just the ribs and outer skin. An Airstream restorer took my unique design and did custom work on everything—the stainless steel work for the multiple sinks, ice bins, shelving, coordinating the piping and electrical to fit and work well. But it turned out to be an amazing beacon,” says Medow.
What was the shell of a 17 foot Caravel became the Bar Car, which has had a steady stream of bookings for weddings and other events since Medow towed it back from New York to his home above the San Francisco Bay. The rentals include selecting from various liquor packages, a bartender, and a supervisor—often Medow himself—who’s there to lend an additional hand behind the bar, as well as to troubleshoot and to socialize.
“It’s like what you see at a catered wedding with a table with liquor and equipment; my trailer is that table,” says Medow. He has a catering liquor license, part of his long entrepreneurial experience in the restaurant and bar business in San Francisco. “I can do festivals and fairs, with additional paperwork,” he says.
Though San Francisco–based, the Bar Car is set up to travel three hours any distance in the Bay Area, but for additional costs, he’ll travel as far as Los Angeles or San Diego. Some companies don’t want to rent the trailer to serve alcohol, but rather to market their products. “Because of its high polish, it’s different than your standard food truck, and it draws people toward it who say ‘what is that?’ Companies put temporary logos on the trailer; it becomes a bar-themed product launch,” says Medow.
“People find value in it when I pull up,” says Medow. “I do events with food trucks, where they pull in, do the event and pull out. With the Airstream, it’s more of a production and a presentation. When I do an event at someone’s home, I usually do custom cocktails, often named after the street the people live on. Someone lived on South Clark, which is a great name for a bourbon cocktail. A client came out of her house, saw that I had that drink listed and said, ‘That’s amazing. I have to buy the trailer,’ he says.
Medow did about eight months of research before he bought the Airstream, even considering other brands. “I love the 60s,” he says. “I looked at some other kinds of teardrops whose brands I forget. But there’s something Americana about Airstreams. There’s nothing like that shiny, polished aluminum, the logo, everything. It’s a head-turner. When I drive down the highway, I get honks, and when I park, people pull up. It really draws attention—that’s what I was hoping for and what I got.”
Greg Medow had a pretty good thirst built up before his Caravel was up and pouring. But he and his customers will raise a collective toast to say the wait was worth it.
Check out the Bar Car at http://barcarsf.com
– By Tom Bentley