At a time when many businesses and innovators across the nation are searching to discover, define and share their identity, their story, in the communities they serve, it only seems fitting to track how narratives can play out on an economic stage. Stories travel, legacies live and themes seem to give customers an experience prompting return.
In Granite Falls Minnesota, the home of Prohibition Act author Andrew Volstead, the small community legacy is one known across the nation. The town itself recognizes this fantastic taboo history as well through numerous public programs, festive events, a prohibition era themed cooperatively owned pub, arts gatherings, plays and most notably, is the Granite Falls historical society that operates out of Volstead’s former home. A unique beast, this historical society delicately pushes the community envelope towards owning it’s history and dusting off the possibilities it carries as an economic draw for tourists. The citizens live and breathe Volstead almost daily, plaques and markers blanket the downtown district reminding guests of each location in town and how it connects them to their story...but its a story that the globe also has embraced to promote interests in their local economic asset.
Walking the streets of Spokane Washington while on vacation, this writer didn’t expect to wander by a small storefront bar with a small stark signing simply stating “Volstead Act”. The fire engine red paint demanded a stop. The interior had a modern day speakeasy vibe with a clearly visible entry, unlike the original speakeasy’s of the day. This prompted a question, just how far has our small towns legacy spread fueling industry of other regions? The answer might just surprise you.
From Volstead Bourbon made in Indiana to the Volstead’s Korean cafe and bar in Seoul South Korea, here is a rundown of places and people making economic impacts around the globe thanks to undone work of a local legend.
1)Volstead Act-Spokane Washington
Inspired by the speakeasies and 20s prohibition era history, The Volstead Act brings a piece of history to Spokane, WA through their hand-crafted libations and cocktails. The bar takes pride in the craft and art of cocktail making; with the presentation being just as dramatic as the drink itself. The Volstead Act uses fresh-squeezed fruit juices, herbs, garnishes, unusual liqueurs, syrups and bitters to create unique cocktails.
2)Volstead Lounge-Austin Texas
A classic vintage cocktail lounge mixed with a little bit of east side dive bar. Inspired by old world New Orleans, The Volstead serves everything from classic and seasonal house cocktails to old-world wines and your favorite tall boy beer. Craft draft beer selection is constantly rotating as if they are coming off the back of a bootleggers truck.
3)Volstead-Seoul South Korea
Opened in 2015, the Korean cafe and bars name comes straight from the 1920 law that kicked off the Prohibition Era in the U.S. In keeping with its namesake, Volstead recently opened in a basement space at the bottom of an unmarked staircase, review sites note expect crowds. The offerings are a mix of specialty cocktails paired with the acclaimed best Mexican food in Seoul. Head Chef D, originally from Los Angeles, serves carnitas,, chimichangas, tamales and more. Fans of cocktails will appreciate the ever changing drink menu, managers Alex and Justin update the menu nightly getting creative with seasonal ingredients.
4) The Volstead-Jacksonville Florida
Opened in 2013 the owners wanted to “be a part of the revival of one of America’s largest cities”. Asking themselves, Why not throwback to an era of elegance, prosperity, and change? At The Volstead operations strive to revive a time of elegance and intimacy, turning down the house music, playing old jazz and encouraging conversation. Also a focus was bringing back the art and craft of classic cocktails. “We tossed the chemical flavored booze, got the largest collection of small-batch whiskey our shelves could hold and hit the farmer’s market looking for interesting ingredients and pairings rarely seen in a glass” explains the ownership. The decor carrys a high volume of paintings and photographs highlighting times of prohibition and famous bootleggers during the 1920's era.
5)George Remus Bourbon-Lawrenceburg Indiana
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Volstead Act - and King George’s “creativity” in finding loopholes in that Act - George Remus Bourbon is proud to introduce Remus Volstead Reserve. This ultra-premium bourbon is a one-time release that has been aged for 14 years, in honor of the 14 years of Prohibition. Bottled-in-bond and 100 proof, the limited 2005-aged reserve bourbon has rich aromas of dried candied fruit and caramelized pecans to balance the robust flavors of rich oak and barrel char that intensify the tasting experience.Simply put, Remus Volstead Reserve is the ultimate tribute to the law that began George Remus’ legendary bootlegging empire.
6)Volstead Bar-Sandusky Ohio
“Locally owned and operated, Volstead Bar takes patrons back to the fascinating days of the speakeasy by artfully crafting classic cocktails. Housed in what was the old Dorn Winery and later the Green Door brothel, the Green Door Building is shrouded in Sandusky lore and has seen an array of tenants throughout the years. Combining these intriguing historical remnants with the speakeasy practices of the aforementioned years, Volstead Bar harkens back to the days of Old Sandusky amidst the New Sandusky renaissance.”
7)The Mob Museum-Las Vegas Nevada
The Mob Museum’s exhibits track the epic history of organized crime in America from the late 19th century to the present day, including how this history has intertwined with mainstream events along the way. Prohibition, a transformative period in mob history, provided a lucrative opportunity for organized crime groups to grow dramatically in size and sophistication by providing illegal liquor to thirsty patrons across the country. The Museum digs deeply into the fascinating history of Prohibition, exploring not only the era’s bootleggers and speakeasies but its wider effects on American culture and commerce. The digital exhibit covers a vast amount of the Prohibition era, from the temperance movement that created Prohibition to federal law enforcement to the profound impact on women’s rights.
8)The Volstead Neighborhood Speakeasy and Bar-Vrilissia Greece
Although this establishment sadly recently closed, it's important to note how many countries and cultures have found inspiration in the Volstead's history and a prohibition based theme. This neighborhood speakeasy just a stone skip from Athens Greece, was well reviewed by Patrons before its departure from the nightlife scene.
9)The Volstead House Whisky Bar and Speakeasy-St. Paul Minnesota
With cocktail classics from the 1800’s and early 1900’s Volstead House is a special find, sticking with the prohibition era standards of “using what can be found” to create a unique drink infusion of the period “We want to start a movement back to the basics, restoring these classic drinks of the past!” toutes their mission. Located in the home state of Prohibition Act architect Andrew Volstead.
10)Volstead House (the original, literally)-Granite Falls, Minnesota
A National Historic Landmark and home of the legend, legislator, and writer, behind separate acts both creating prohibition and cooperatives, Andrew Volstead’s house is relevant and bustling. The Museum boasts his history and numerous relics from his life and time in office. Even possibly more fascinating than the Andrew Volstead collection is that of his Wife and Daughter, Nellie and Laura, both magnificently gifted Minnesota Mavens and matriarchs of their times. The Granite Falls Historical Society who operates the site host a variety of events from reindeers in the front lawn, front porch speakeasies, to prohibition era beer tastings. All of which might make Volstead roll in his grave but exponentially ignites a fire of interest in connecting modern day residents and visitors with the history.
11) Bluenose Gopher Public House-Granite Falls Minnesota
A one of a kind cooperatively owned community driven pub, this public house harkens to both Volstead’s lesser known cooperative legacy supporting farmers, and the more commonly associated prohibition era act carrying his name. The original tin wall was preserved in the long running restoration of this community space which opened in February of 2019. Fixtures and decor are all prohibition era themed and the establishment only served Minnesota craft beers. There is a litany of events including live music, trivia, art installations, school fundraisers, educational classes paired with beer samples and board games are readily on display. The Bluenose Gopher team believes “being in the hometown of Andrew Volstead, Bluenose Gophers marketing can help create a heritage tourism destination as well as attract customers with a unique story”.
12) Volstead Emporium-Minneapolis Minnesota
Opened December 5th of 2015 with no sign, requiring patrons to walk down an alley to a red lit door, knocking three times only to enter to what owner Dave West calls a “utilitarian staircase” walking down to a selection of three doors, Visitors may have though they were in a scary movie, but knock on the right door and you are invited into the Volstead Emporium. A lush near grand ballroom style parlor of vintage designed wallpaper supporting a framed photo of Andrew Vosltead himself awaits. Era appropriate reasonably cocktails and from scratch, in house, small crafted food items pepper the menu. This hidden gem holds period style woodwork created by owners John Braun and Dave West themselves, who put not just their money but their love and sweat into transforming the space. Inspired by a speakeasy the two saw in New York city in the late nineties, the men dreamed and planned to create an establishment, genuine and connected to a local community, carrying an authentic prohibition era theme. They are better than the fake tommy guns and replica whisky barrels of many of their counterparts. Not surprising is the quiet launch of the establishment didn't stay quiet long, first relying only on word of mouth marketing, a line led out the door the first five months as more and more patrons discovered the secret. The clientele is diverse, every age group seems to enjoy the establishment, proudly West says “Volstead seems to have no boundaries”.
If the question is asked, how much impact can come from discovering and reviving local history? The answers may be infinite, from Seoul to Spokane, Austin to Athens, Andrew Volstead's legacy has influenced industries and nations across the globe. Each business, museum, pub, cafe and speakeasy has an economic stake in the communities from which they have sprouted, creating jobs, interest and opportunity. With this recognition, everywhere, has the potential to infuse the market of their community by looking inward, Good advice once said, “Start with the story keepers. Start with your historians”.
If the question is posed, How far can the story of one town with a population just under 3000 travel? The answer is around the world.