The Thunderbird Lounge: Melrose District’s stylish recent addition

By Charles Barth

By Brianna Moore

The Thunderbird Lounge has seen plenty of success since opening in the Melrose District this past April.

            “It’s [business] been great,” says Jeremiah Gratza, one of the owners of the bar. “We’ve been warmly welcomed by the neighborhood. We’ve had nothing but positive feedback.”

Located inside of the famed Wagon Wheel building on Seventh and Montecito Avenues, The Thunderbird Lounge offers guests a blast from the past with its retro décor.

            The bar has free arcade games to enjoy, including Centipede and Mrs. Pacman. There is even a jukebox, provided by Zia Records, that fills the bar with sounds from the seventies and eighties.

“We wanted to really focus on late ’70s and early ’80s design and décor,” says Gratza. “We’re all big fans of the mid-century modern design, as a lot of other business in the Melrose District are. All of our lamps over the bar are authentic 1970s lamps that were all purchased on Melrose.”

Gratza and his partners like to keep everything local, so a lot of the bar’s interior features come from across the valley. The lamps hanging in the booths came from a couple in Sun City, while all of the wood paneling, bar-tops and tabletops came from an abandoned bowling alley in Globe.

He opened the Thunderbird Lounge along with two of his friends — Brett Boyles and Jacob Wiedmann. There was no debate amongst the trio about where they should open their new hangout spot.

“We all live in this neighborhood and we’ve all just been obsessed with this neighborhood,” says Boyles. “We love this neighborhood, and we get to work in our neighborhood now and actually participate on a different level.”

Jacob Wiedmann and Jeremiah Gratza; photo by Charles Barth

That love that the owners have for the Melrose District is reflected in their relationships with surrounding businesses.

“We love our neighbors. Everyone’s pretty tight nit in this neighborhood,” says Gratza. “We all try to help each. other out. We go to local town-hall meetings to see what can we do that’s community-oriented. We try to do as many local, community-oriented events as we can. The more we all work together, the more we all grow together.”

With the bar’s Seventies décor and Arizona roots, the owners felt that “thunderbird” was a more-than-suitable name for their neighborhood bar.

“There used to be a dive bar in Glendale that closed down about 10 years ago called ‘Thunderbird Lounge’ that I used to drink at,” says Gratza. “It just felt appropriate to call it ‘Thunderbird’ with Arizona having Thunderbird Road, the Thunderbird School, ‘The Thunderbirds’ the group, and the old car. For the late ’70s, early ’80s design and feel we wanted to go with, the name just seemed to fit very well.”

The inside of the bar is not very large, compared to the patio located in the back. The bar’s inside area is about 1,000 square feet, while the outside patio is much larger — around 5,000 square feet.

Thunderbird Lounge’s patio is where it’s at; photo by Charles Barth

“If you want a more intimate experience and you want to come on a date,” says Gratza, “you can hang out in one of the booths, play some video games, and have a seat of the bar. Or if you come with a big group of friends and you’ve got 10 or 20 people that you want to hang out with, you guys can go outside, play Jenga, play cornhole, and have some pizza.”

Along with Happy Hour taking place Monday through Friday, the Thunderbird Lounge also hosts different events throughout the week. With Musical Monday, Trivia Tuesday, and a live DJ every Friday and Saturday, there’s always something to do at The Thunderbird Lounge.