Even in tough times, good things keep coming to Montpelier.
When Melissa Bove Merrihew announced the closure of Sweet Melissa’s this year, local musicians and regulars lamented the loss of her beloved bar and live music venue on the corner of Langdon and Elm streets. What had become another casualty of the pandemic, however, is being transformed into a new bar/restaurant and live music venue called Bent Nails Bistro.
Stepping in to meet the need are Charis Churchill and Aaron Scoti, two local artists who bring their diverse skill sets to the endeavor. Churchill, an award-winning costume designer at Lost Nation Theater, will supervise the kitchen and bar. She has a history with the location, having bartended at Melissa’s for years. Scoti, being a musician and front man for DUROC (an ’80s dance band and long-time favorite at Melissa’s), will focus on the music end of things. He’s also a visual artist who assembles repurposed materials into fanciful sculptures, furniture, and lighting at his Bent Nails Studio in Marshfield. (Hence the name of the new venture.)
Bent Nails Bistro reflects its owners’ outgoing personalities. Examples of Scoti’s art can be found throughout. Stools have been fabricated with recycled metal to resemble guitars. A beer keg cut in half now functions as an overhead lamp. Churchill proudly exhibits stools she reupholstered with colorful textiles. Such artistic touches, along with reflective surfaces dotted with mirrors, give the sense this place could easily fit in the East Village. It’s funky and unconventional, but it works. And although the upgrade is considerable, Churchill concedes, “It’s not intended to be complete at first. It should grow into itself to develop personality.”
To former patrons of Melissa’s, Bent Nails will seem familiar yet altogether different. The bar remains, but is now painted in bright colors and adorned by a different absinthe fountain. “The first fountain was a gift to Melissa from her customers.” Churchill explained. “So I found a lovely antique from France to replace it.” And although the stage may appear the same, it’s now backed by a state-of-the-art sound board with recording capabilities. “Along with local bands, we hope to attract national acts,” Scoti discloses. With this in mind, they’re renovating an apartment upstairs to accommodate bands on tour with room and board.
Helming the kitchen at Bent Nails will be Stephanie Otten, who worked at the Uncommon Market for ten years. The menu is influenced by Churchill’s mother, who grew up in France in a town just south of Paris. “My mom was an excellent cook,” Churchill says. “She cooked by intuition.” Like many gifted cooks, her mother used whatever was on hand, adding ingredients without measuring. “Due to her style of cooking, her recipes were difficult to replicate,” Churchill admits. But now her recipes have been upgraded in collaboration with Otten for flavor and consistency. Food offerings will feature bistro-style classics such as beef bourguignon and coq au vin, along with hot pressed sandwiches such as croque monsieur. Consider this as bar food taken to a delicious next level.
But the real question is, will the pool table remain? “Perhaps,” suggests Churchill. “But we’re also considering something else, maybe foosball. Everyone in town has a pool table, we prefer to be different.”
Bent Nails Bistro is located at 4 Langdon Street in Montpelier.