At the corner of Chouteau Avenue and Sarah Street in The Grove business district in St. Louis, a swanky, modern apartment complex stands prominent, and beneath the Chroma complex lies Takashima Record Bar, an innovative listening lounge that can elevate your next social outing.
The establishment’s new owners, Robbie and Dan Hayden, value accountability and have made it one of most important aspects of the business, which reopened in April under their leadership.
Based on listening lounges first created in Tokyo, Takashima (which translates to “tall island” from Japanese) features a noir-like vintage vibe, and the atmosphere is inclusive and welcoming.
“We want to make [Takashima] something awesome and positive going forward,” Robbie Hayden says. She and her husband agree that goal was the motivation for keeping the establishment’s name. The couple did, however, put their own spin on the place, introducing a diverse record library and new bar program, with small plates, that reinvents classic cocktails.
Patrons are escorted to their seats, where a sign serves to remind that the person behind the turntables is in charge of the music, with a range that includes jazz-funk, blues, rhythm and blues, golden-era hip-hop, reggae, classic rock, boogie-funk, lo-fi, chill electronic and more. Played on first-rate sound equipment, the music is kept at a certain level to encourage the flow of conversation.
“I envisioned a 1950s jazz lounge, where you could socialize with friends or a date or even on business,” says Dan Hayden, whose personal vinyl collection completes most of the 6,000 LPs stored above and around the bar. “We hang our hat on the music experience, the atmosphere and our cocktail program.”
An experienced DJ of 15-plus years, Dan Hayden has created an “amazing Rolodex of talent, especially in St. Louis” that enables him to bring in local talents, as well as the occasional national and international artist.
“We want to provide that platform for people to express themselves,” he says. “Having the opportunity to do this in St. Louis is exciting and important to me.”
Developing Takashima’s bar program was a collaborative process led by Robbie Hayden. Using classic cocktails as her base for inspiration, the establishment’s vast vinyl collection also served as muse. Robbie Hayden’s colorful concoctions were aptly named after albums and artists portrayed on LPs that are housed on the shelves at Takashima Record Bar, like 100 Days, 100 Nights.
“The coloring in [100 Days, 100 Nights] reminds me of a photo I’ve seen of the late Sharon Jones, lead singer of Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, wearing this gorgeous purple dress,” Robbie Hayden explains.
Guests can also enjoy approachable beers, new-world vinos that are primarily produced in America, like the crisp citrus blend of Slo Jams by San Francisco’s SLO Down wines, and a temperance menu that provides patrons with nonalcoholic choices that seem every bit as lively as their counterparts.
The Haydens have reinvented businesses before, as with The Wine Tap in Belleville, which is temporarily closed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, the husband-and-wife team were able to bring over most of their employees to Takashima.
“We want to be present,” Dan Hayden says, adding that he and his wife are the first and last to leave. “We try to create a healthy team environment. We all grab the rope and pull in the same direction.”
That level of engagement extends to the community, including through shared events with Takashima’s business neighbors Seoul Taco and Chao Baan, among others. From participating in Rosé Day and the Red Lantern Night Market STL to partnerships within The Grove community, such as with the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood Association on a safety commission, integrating into the neighborhood is essential for any newcomer, the Haydens believe.
“We have this wonderful corner and conglomerate of neighbors,” Dan Hayden says. “We want to meet everyone so they can get an idea of who we are and know that we are here. We’re a phone call or steps away.”
Robbie Hayden agrees: “We are big on ‘be local, buy local.’ Know your neighbors, support your neighbors. That’s something that bleeds through us.”
Takashima Record Bar, 4095 Chouteau Ave., St. Louis, 314-925-8982, takashimarecordbar.com