The Ice Box in Mobile has just celebrated its third birthday by growing a little larger, a little wiser, and even more fun, if that’s possible. The brainchild of Taylor Atchison and Stoney Boatman, this local watering hole has been a surprise waiting to happen ever since it opened its doors in February 2020. And it’s not over yet! More surprises are cooking as we speak.
The grand opening was five days before Mardi Gras started in Mobile. Things were going great; we all know what else started a month later. The Ice Box had an early St. Patrick’s Day Party on March 16th, then the city shut everything down on St. Patrick's Day because of Covid. This is not the way you want to start a new business that is a gathering place for friends to meet.
Being smart, nimble, and experienced in the bar service industry, Stoney and Taylor began making frozen concoctions in half-gallon take-out containers and selling them pick-up only. “It’s the only thing that kept us going,” says Stoney. “People started coming by the Ice Box and we sold around 500 per weekend for a while.”
“It was a blessing in disguise,” says Taylor. “Social media exploded with selfies of people holding up their just-purchased frozen drinks with a view of the Ice Box in the background. It was unreal.” People drove to Mobile from as far away as New Orleans and 30-A to buy jugs Thursday through Sunday.
Taylor knew Stoney from The Garage, where he bartended for 20 years. Both are native Mobilians. Stoney's knowledge of the bar business started when he was 15 and helped his dad work on cars in a shop right behind a small establishment named Joe’s Halftime Bar. A self-proclaimed “gearhead,” Stoney recalls the Corvettes, ‘55 Chevys, and his favorite, a ’65 SS Impala.
In high school, he worked at the old Paddy O’Toole’s where the bartender would have to watch him cross from the kitchen to the bathroom, which went through the bar, because he was underage. At 21, he began working at Wentzell’s and became its manager at 24. He soon joined David Dekel at The Original Oyster House where he bartended for 7 years.
“Bartending has always been a passion,” says Stoney. I tried mortgage banking and was successful, but sitting behind a desk was not my thing.” He was a beer and wine rep for four and a half years, and “loved it.” He also bartended at The Garage on the side. There he started booking the music, cooking crawfish in season, and began to develop a following of loyal patrons along the way.
“I was running the show and loved helping to educate others about how to be a good bartender. I have always enjoyed sitting down with regulars and they have become friends, not just customers.” Now Stoney is attracting that group of followers to the Ice Box. “They are like family.”
We’ve talked about all the historic renovations Taylor has been involved with in this newsletter before. He has a built his reputation for buying old buildings and repurposing them with new life and flare. He and his dad and father-in-law had purchased the old, vacant Crystal Ice House manufacturing facility with the thought of making it something cool for the neighborhood.
Taylor had been thinking of a bar concept for a while but knew he needed someone experienced to operate it. He and Stoney started talking and imagining what they could do together long before the Ice Box was even a thought. Eventually, they went together to look at the Crystal Ice House facility and immediately knew that this was the spot to launch their vision.
Taylor got the necessary approvals and built out the front space while Stoney began planning operations and putting a team together. After the somewhat tumultuous opening, they added the Ice Box Side Yard for a social distancing gathering area outside. This quickly became popular and was perfect for private events.
Located in the Church Street East neighborhood, the Ice Box is pet-friendly as long as dogs are on leashes and stay outside. On Sunday afternoons, they have singer-songwriters playing, and karaoke on Thursdays. “We want to be good neighbors and respectful of the neighborhood,” says Taylor. “We hope we are their go-to local watering hole on the edge of downtown.” The Hop House dog park is across the street as well.
Last year, the Ice Box expanded into the freezer space for private events. “There were bags of ice in the freezer when we bought the property,” says Taylor. “It took a little while to figure out how to incorporate the freezer space with the bar, but it's worked out great.” The space opened around Christmas 2022 and was officially christened with a New Year’s Eve Party this year.
The Chili Cook-Off for the American Cancer Society has been held at the Ice Box for the last three years. “We can handle any kind of event,” says Stoney. They hosted a corporate “appreciation” event the day before on a Monday when they are usually closed. They’ve had after-rehearsal parties, birthday celebrations, and non-profit events and it’s a fun place to be.
Taylor owns the old Crystal Ice House garage across the street at 800 Monroe Street that looks like it could become something special too. He’s looking for a partner to develop it. In the meantime, expect something new at the Ice Box soon. What was once a vacant light manufacturing plant has become a vibrant, energetic part of the City that had previously been overlooked.
“This is the first time I’ve wanted to partner with friends,” says Taylor. “We were business partners first, and now we are close friends!” Thanks, Stoney and Taylor for sitting down and telling your story. The two of you work well together and we look forward to what creative idea you come up with next.