959 N. Second Street
By Wendy Kilmer
Photography by Beth Dukes
Crystal Skaggs, owner
Holly Isaacson, general manager
Shona Plante, head bartender
Crystal Skaggs was a paralegal just a year and a half ago. But she knew she needed a change, a chance to explore creative work. That creative work took the form of a fresh cocktail concept downtown.
“At first, I couldn’t figure out if I wanted to open a restaurant or cocktail lounge,” Skaggs said. “But I knew I wanted to bring something fresh and new and be part of the revitalization of downtown. I came up with the Green Room concept of ‘fresh to a fault’ and decided to start out with cocktails and appetizers.”
Skaggs knew just to who to ask to join her in the new venture. As a regular at Public Haus before it closed, Skaggs approached Shona Plante and Holly Isaacson who had been the bartender and manager, respectively. It didn’t take much to sell them on her concept.
“We saw it as a great opportunity,” Plante said. “We were all bummed when Public Haus closed, and this was an opportunity to try again to be a part of something awesome.”
In December of 2018, plans were forming for the new bar, and although the team looked into other spaces, the former Abi Haus and Public Haus building seemed the right fit.
“There was already a reputation of ‘this is where you go,’” Isaacson said. “It’s familiar to people. A lot of people really just quit going out for drinks on the weekends when Public Haus closed. We want to bring them back.”
True to its name, the small venue has a feel of the outdoors with live plants on the walls and a calm, clean, natural ambiance.
“We wanted to bring in the outside and the downtown feel,” Skaggs said. “You can see downtown from our location, so let’s bring in life and plants and give it a botanical twist.”
The botanical twist applies to the cocktails as well. The menu features drink names like “Lily of the Valley” and “No Shrub” as well as infusions of chamomile, butterfly pea flower and thyme, to name a few. They aren’t drinks you’ll find anywhere else.
“If this fails, it’ll only be because we were too fresh and funky, doing too much,” Isaacson joked. “We knew downtown wanted this; we just needed to execute.”
The unique offerings have proven successful so far. Ingredients like egg whites and vinegar, rather than scaring people away, have inspired curiosity and developed loyal followings.
“The weird drinks are the ones people love,” Isaacson said. “People are curious, like ‘tell me about this one.’”
Plante is more than happy to oblige and said she relishes the chance to share more about her creations.
“People are so surprised to find out what’s in the drinks, and I love getting to answer questions,” she says. “It’s a great chance to soak up knowledge.”
Quality ingredients are another selling point of The Green Room and make a significant difference in the overall experience, Isaacson said.
“If you have good cocktails, they don’t make you have a nasty hangover,” she says. “You should feel good about going out with your friends and having cocktails, not regret it the next day.”
Already, The Green Room has been a venue for events like showers and graduation parties and provided off-site catering. Those services are set to expand, including some additional food offerings beginning in July.
Currently, desserts from Oh Butter and appetizers are available in the bar, but soon you’ll be able to enjoy full meals, like weekend brunches and mobile offerings through The Green Machine, a new food truck by The Green Room.
“We had planned to bring in existing food trucks, but we’ve had trouble finding reliability and consistency,” Skaggs said “So we decided to do our own, to bring food back to downtown on Saturday and Sunday. We’ll have the same concept translated to food – natural, fresh and light.”
A food truck will allow for on-site food on weekends and the ability to be mobile during the week in other locations.
The downtown vibe and filling in gaps, rather than taking away from what exists, has always been a key consideration for Skaggs.
“We don’t want to compete or pull business away from other businesses downtown,” she said. “We want to be open when others are not and offer something different to tap in on the community aspect of downtown. Cypress Street, Lone Star Dry Goods, Vagabond, Fat Bosses, Kings Barber, Hallows, Monks: they’ve all been super supportive, given us lots of social media love, and we want to support each other.”