New owners give Jake's a face lift
Standing quietly next to one of the window tables in Jake’s Now! Nightclub on Walnut!, owner Shelly Johns waited patiently for the Pepsi delivery man to put away the soda she had just purchased.
As he drove away, she sat down and stared blissfully at the newly remodeled interior of Jake’s. A long bar edged in silver trim stretched halfway across the room before opening into a wide space.
Another bar had been added to the far right wall. Co-owner Mike Galardo came into the room and stood next to her.
In December, Johns’ daughter, an IU graduate, was driving around Bloomington and discovered Jake’s was for sale.
“Last Christmas, my daughter and my brother, who also graduated from IU from the Kelley School of Business, got to talking,” Johns said. “They were like, ‘You’ve been in business your whole life. You can do the business part, he can do the bar part.’ So that was something, you know, we just kind of put our heads together, and it’s how we ended up with it.”
Johns and Galardo have been working on remodeling all summer and closed down for a month to finish.
“The back bar was pretty much non-operational,” Galardo said. “We were able to use it, but it needed to be fixed.”
A 25-year-old bar was ripped out, walls were painted, electricity was renewed, a new sidewalk was put out front and many other changes were made to the old Jake’s.
The name was not part of those changes.
“There’s too much good history here to change the name,” Shelly said. “There’s been a few years of bad, but the two to five years of bad really can’t erase the 20 of good. My brother was here in 1989 and talked about what a good time he had here then. We can go two hours every direction of Bloomington and everybody knows Jake’s.”
After kicking around names for a month, they eventually settled on adding “Now!” to the end of “Jake’s” and “on Walnut!” to the end of “Nightclub.”
“I just really never wanted to leave the ‘Jake’s,’” Shelly said. “Why lose that history to begin with?”
As part of Jake’s history, the “wall of fame” remains standing in the back.
“Jake’s has been around for 25 years,” Galardo said. “There’s a lot of history in this place, which is why we kept the ‘wall of fame’ intact. When Jake’s was built, it was originally a car dealership. An old sign off that building was left here and now hangs on the wall. We took all that history and moved it back to this wall and changed out the front to Jake’s Now!. This is now.”
Both Johns and Galardo are proud of Jake’s
“We have the second-largest stage and the best sound system in Bloomington,” Galardo said. “We can definitely put the sound out there, and it is quality sound. We hire sound engineers to make sure that everything we do is done the right way.”
Though Jake’s has suffered a reputation knock, Johns is confident they can pull the place back up on its feet.
“It just takes time getting everybody back on board,” Johns said. “We’re trying to break the ice, trying to get people to see that we’re not what we used to be.”
Johns and Galardo are working to generate a “safe, respectful environment” and consider everyone who works at Jake’s family.
“We definitely pride ourselves on being a safe, respectful environment,” Galardo said. “People that we invite in, we expect them to respect our club, our family. If we respect them and they respect us, it just makes for a much better atmosphere.”
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