Owners, The Penguin Piano Bar & Nightclub, The Social Room


One is a piano bar with a nightclub upstairs. One is a speakeasy lined with old arcade games. For this power couple, to keep up with three Columbia staples and three teenagers, they’ll be the first to tell you, it takes a village. Luckily, that village is Columbia, where everyone is like — or literally is — family.

Visit the Social Room


JG: I hold The Social Room near and dear to my heart. We built this place stick by stick. Our bar top, it came in as a tree. My sons and I cut it, sanded it, finished it. Along with all the shelves and décor you see. My son even built the furniture on the patio. He was 11. Whereas the Penguin is a go-to for a younger crowd, lots of students, The Social Room really appeals to the counterculture of Columbia. We wanted this to be a place where, even if you didn’t feel like you fit in anywhere else in town, you fit in here.


HG: Every item in my store was hand-selected by me. While I certainly have some items that may have spent some time in a thrift store, Absolute Vintage is just that: real vintage. Not thrift. I have curated a collection of authentic, quality pieces from across the state and around the country. It’s like shopping a museum. We are located on Broadway, which is great because we are just around the corner from Jesse’s brother’s tattoo shop and down the street from the “Big Bar” (The Penguin). So yes, our businesses are downtown, but it’s also where my kids hang out and have basically grown up. They love it here and we feel safe here.

Absolute Vintage has authentic, quality pieces from across the state and around the country
Jesse Garcia enjoing a cup of coffee


JG: I honestly can’t pick a favorite because I love all of our coffee shops and I love all the owners. Lakota, of course, is a staple. Fretboard has amazing coffee and they’re located, basically, in an art gallery. But not too long ago, I kinda geeked out on coffee. I learned what makes a good roast, how to do it right. So I started hanging out at Shortwave Coffee, which is a cool little shop in a basement in Alley A. I knew the owner and quickly became friends with the employees and now I’m in there almost daily as part of my routine. And they have the best coffee in town. Don’t tell anyone I said that.

Jesse and Heather giving advice for visitors


Just get out of town. We love Columbia, which is why we choose to live here. But if we need a night away, sometimes we like to leave town and try something new. Columbia is perfect for that. Spend a day, spend a weekend. Go see a show at the Blue Note. They bring in some really big names, but it’s an intimate setting and not too expensive. Or come for Summerfest and see a show outside. Just get out of your town and come check out Columbia. The people are amazing. The food is great. It’s safe, family-friendly and a lot of fun. You’d be surprised by all there is to do in a town this size.


JG: My brother, Gabe Garcia, owns Iron Tiger Tattoo here in Columbia. They had a unique opportunity to open a small business and have thrived. The community really got behind them. Gabe is probably one of the better tattoo artists in the country, and he’s right here in our little town. It’s nice to have family literally around the corner. But all of downtown is like family, really. That’s what is great about Columbia: it has a very familial feel. We feel like we can be ourselves here and we know our kids are welcome in any store at any time. It’s just a great place to raise a family and a business.

Visit Iron Tiger Tattoo in Columbia Mo


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