Tavern of curiosities

Fun house: True to its name, the Odditorium is not just a bar, but a home for curios and other trinkets on the “disturbing” spectrum. Photo by Max Cooper

Don’t call it a dive bar.

Although the Odditorium occupies the same cozy building on Haywood Road that once housed the Get Down, owners Amy Marshall and Tamy Kuper have made some major changes that distance the location from its honkey tonk reputation.

“I don’t necessarily love the term ‘dive bar,’” Marshall says. “It’s supposed to be a local neighborhood bar where it’s comfortable.”

A local neighborhood bar with a two-headed duck, that is.

True to its name, the Odditorium is not just a bar, but a home for oddities, curios and other trinkets on the slightly disturbing spectrum. “We’re odd,” Marshall says flatly. “We’re peculiar people. Both Tamy and I are collectors of the odd, the peculiar, the dark, the macabre. We both love that.”

The bar currently showcases thirteen unique oddities housed in Plexiglas display cases. In addition to the two-headed taxidermy duck, the owners have procured a Congo idol, a crystal tear catcher and an eerie ventriloquist dummy from the 1920s.

Kuper is the chief curator of the oddities, and plans to adorn the bar with as many surreal knick knacks as she can find.
“Almost all of it is found online,” Kuper says. “What we’re doing is getting our baby launched so it can walk on its own and then Amy and I are going to take trip after trip cross-country to hunt for things, because that’s where you find the real treasures.”

All of the oddities hosted at the bar are for sale, and although only a handful are on display now, Marshall and Kuper plan to pack more in as they find them.

“We’re going to hang things from the rafters, I’m sure,” Kuper says.

The rafters are another noticeable addition to the building’s feel. Whereas the Get Down hid them beneath dropped ceiling, the owners of the Odditorium proudly exposed the beams, adding a degree of roominess to the bar’s pool room and stage area.

It is just one of many renovations that Marshall and Kuper implemented since they took over the location on Jan. 1.

Much of the interior has been repainted and refurbished, including the restrooms. Marshall is particularly proud of one, nicknamed the “death bathroom” because of the authentic death portraits that line the walls.

The bathroom’s walls can be drawn on with chalk, a practice that the owners encourage. At the end of each month, they wash off the walls so that patrons can scrawl new contributions from month to month.

The smoking area outside has had a facelift as well, as customers can quickly tell from the new fence and flower planters. “Our outside area’s going to be revamped,” Kuper says. “We’re going to plant trees and have outdoor seating.”

The owners plan to utilize their outdoor space to the fullest extent once permits from the city are cleared. “We’re going to do outdoor movies, and have games outside,” Marshall says.

Until then, the Odditorium still offers plenty of indoor activities, including a diverse lineup of live shows. “We have every genre of music coming here,” Marshall says. “We’re not pigeonholing this venue as a specific type of music or a specific type of crowd. Everyone is welcome at any time.”

The welcoming atmosphere has worked to the Odditorium’s advantage. The venue has been keeping busy since its official launch on March 1. “We have comedy nights on Tuesdays, and on the last Thursday of the month we have karaoke,” Kuper says. “We’ll have open mic nights and singer-songwriter nights. For at least two or three months, we’re booked solid.”

And while patrons enjoy the myriad shows and activities the bar offers, they can enjoy a completely revamped food and drink selection. Kuper and Marshall have changed up the beers on tap, focusing on local brews while also showcasing high-gravity European beers. They also have plans for unique mixed drinks. “One of our bartenders is actually working on their own bitters, tinctures, and tonics to do infusions,” Kuper says. “There are a lot of herbal infusions that are going to show up in the future.”

Although a lot of the Odditorium’s charms are still in the planning phase, Kuper and Marshall have been happy with West Asheville’s reception of what they say is just an honest stab at what they would want from a bar.

“When we were talking about our bar and what we thought would work in West Asheville, it was more like, ‘What’s going to make us happy?’” Marshall says. “We feel like what makes us happy could make everyone happy. We think that there’s beauty in all things, and we were like, ‘Why not bring that into the bar?’”


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