139-B Market Street, a private dinner &social club.
Anxious trepidation, yep that's what I felt while climbing the steps at 139- B Market Street last week to meet the infamous chef Brett McKee. We had talked before on several occasions and kept up with each other in social media, but never met. A Carolina version of Chef Gordon Ramsay vision wafted through my head. You see that's what rumor mills do.
Brett met me warmly and I immediately felt comfortable in his presence. I clicked the recorder on while he breezed me through his new venue. While I'll admit the room was charged by his presence, a lot of the energy came from the bustle of what appears to be a promising new venture for Brett McKee. The building's old world charm echoed in the studio room that housed the first level's kitchen and dining area. Whitewash knock out on the brick walls could barely contain it's stories, centuries of Charleston living.
Just a few minutes in and Brett's phone was ringing and dancing on the table. He apologized, saying that he had to take the call. I didn't mind, actually I would have missed some of 139-B's charm had he not. I peered out of the street front window as I heard the clomp, clomp of a carriage coming down Market Street, Palmetto fronds were whisping in front of the Gucci store across from 139-B. It just feels right. Something good, something old world meets new and something "Oh so Charleston" is going on here.
While the table in the dining room was staged with flutes, plates and napkins — the incoming calls and round table meeting in the room beside me wasn't. Parties were being booked while menu's, staff and wine list were being discussed.
OK, so 139-B structurally has what it takes — let's see what's at the wheel. Brett came back from his call and without missing a beat, picked up where he left off. Without hardly a breath between sentences (so glad I had the recorder) he proceeded to portray his vision room by room and — for years out.
Brett has been on the uptake and following new dreams since he left the Oak Restaurant. The ideas that led to this establishment were fueled by his success in the private sector doing intimate home gatherings, dinners and cooking classes throughout the low country.
“My clients/friends would ask, Brett, when are you going to open up a place we can come to?" to which he explained to them over and over. "I don't want to go back into a restaurant."
Over the course of these past few years he discovered a new calling. “I found that I love the experience of the smaller, intimate social gatherings. They remind me of my life in Brooklyn, NY. Everything happened around the table, in closer groups. I found when I left these local private cooking classes and dinner parties, that I had made friends. Not something that happens in the kitchen of the restaurant. Charleston is growing by leaps and bounds in popularity, not in structure. There is only so far you can go in town with limited building space. We're going to end up with 100 restaurants in town and 10 chefs to run them all."
Brett is transparent about his past woes. "I sacrificed years of my life, my health and relationships, in the F&B biz. Even though that is what I know, it’s what I do. It had to change. This is me now, I’m comfortable with this. 139-B is about offering what I love and do best without sacrificing my life or my family's. I am healthier than I have ever been. I don't drink, party, smoke. If I am not here, I am with my family or finding ways to give back to the community. That is my life now. This place, these walls, I can come and go as I plan for the select events and members of this clandestine group and —so can the members of 139-B.”
His family are all on-board, it's a collaborative effort involving 2 single parents, 6 girls and a granddaughter. Some of his girls work with him as well. Brett's fiancé/partner Kathy Downey is an intricate piece of the puzzle here as well. One such event that her hand's are all over is the upcoming Valentines Singles banquet and with Charleston being on the hot list across the nation and world now as a top desired wedding venue, there will be opportunities galore to offer as well at 139-B. "We are coordinating with almost every single top wedding planner in the city." Brett explained.
This private dinner social club will offer an environment that encourages the pace of leisure,of building relationships and socializing with wonderful food. It's not a crescendo to drunkenness. It’s a place where 150 members can gather, vetting and dining comfortably with the assurance of private security. Brett explains "No one is going to crash your event from the street, you can enjoy your evening without the un-expected threats in public dining such as someone hitting on your partner while you are in the restroom, or spilling a drink on you as they stumble past. Another benefit of the closeness in numbers is that the staff and I will know and catering to their personal likes and dislikes. Not as easily attained in the restaurant world. Allergies, wine selections, birthday’s, anniversary's, milestone’s, favorites wine, dinner choices to name a few"
I was taken aback actually at what the venue offers for the price of membership. $1000.00 gets you a membership and six scheduled events a month to include two dinners, two rooftop events, and two brunches. In addition, they'll have access to the building's two bedrooms and rooftop terrace. If a member wants to book 139-B Market for any event (big or small) it would cost $500 less than the regular booking fee of $1500 during the week and $3000 on the weekend. And that is with Chef Brett cooking.
I came away from the meeting excited for Brett McKee and 139-B Market, and more so for it's members. They are in for one hell of a virgin cruise with him. 139-B is sure to produce sub-groups and interest for expansion in so many areas.
139-B Market Street, Charleston.
Are you "Single in the City" and want an upscale alternative to the Charleston nightlife scene on Valentine's evening? Come meet other sophisticated singles in a beautiful exclusive setting, while enjoying amazing food prepared by Celebrity Chef Brett McKee. Join us for Hors D'oeuvres, a premium open bar under the stars on the rooftop terrace, interactive meetings, music and dancing. Cupid promises a few Valentine's surprises. Tickets info at shopinsanelygood.com