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Vendor Spotlight – Bar Magnolia

One of the coolest and most fun trends we’ve seen taking off in Nashville has been the elevated bar service coupled with cute, mobile bars! For our vendor spotlight of the week, we sat down with one of our favorite Nashville bartenders, Sarah Murphy, owner of Bar Magnolia, to pick her brain about business and entrepreneurship. Enjoy!

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Photo by Gray Kammera

What was your dream job growing up?

I, like many who were a product of the ’90s, suffered from what I like to call “Free Willy Syndrome.” After watching the movie Free Willy, I very much wanted to work with sea animals. And even went to college for marine biology, but quickly discovered that I was really really bad at organic chemistry. Since I don’t like not being good at things so I switched my major to business, and the rest is history, as they say.

What does a typical wedding day look like for you?

Wedding days are all-consuming. I wake up, make coffee, get dressed, kiss the kids and husband, and head to the warehouse. More often than not, we will end up doing multiple weddings on a single day, so there is a lot of prep, packing, and organization going on to ensure that we don’t forget anything. We load up for the events, drive to the venue, and then arrive onsite two hours before we start serving.

For most weddings, with setup, service, and breakdown, we’re onsite for about 8 hours. Then we drive home and, on most nights, I enjoy a cocktail while letting the adrenaline from the day wear off. Typical wedding days are about 16 hours worth of constantly being “on”. That’s about two standard workdays for the average person, but I can almost guarantee you I enjoy every minute of it a heck of a lot more than the average person does their job! The days fly by.

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Photo by Kathy Thomas

When/how did you start your work with crafting cocktails?

I first stepped behind a bar back in 2004. I was a server for a small French bistro on the east end of Long Island, which got really slow during the winters. There would be times when I’d have only 1 or 2 tables in the entire restaurant for entire stretches of time. To kill time, and engage with the guests, I’d hop behind the bar and experiment with different recipes. Then I’d use those lonely guests as my taste testers!

How did you get started as a small business owner?

I’m what you would call a serial entrepreneur and formed my first LLC while still in business school. While I love to read and learn, I’m a big believer that you also just have to get in there and start assembling and disassembling things to know how they work. I never made a dime at that first business, or the second one even, but I learned a ton.

By the time Bar Magnolia came around, I’d learned enough from all the failures to get it off the ground and give it a real shot at success.

Photo by Michelle Whitley

How long have you been in business? 

My husband and I formed our LLC for Bar Magnolia in December of 2016. We did a soft launch at The Pink Bride in January or February of 2017 and hosted our first event that spring. Since then we’ve done nearly 300 events!

Why did you decide to start a business? 

Even though I always had an entrepreneurial spirit, shortly after giving birth to my second child, I realized that the daily grind of the corporate world wasn’t what I saw myself doing forever. I didn’t like waking up, going into an office and attending meeting after pointless meeting where half the attendees didn’t want to be there, and the other half had no idea what was going on. I didn’t like feeling guilty for taking vacations and traveling, spending my ‘off’ time checking emails that are entirely inconsequential to the actual important things in life.

Eventually, I wanted to be the one setting the values in my life. And hoped to use the managerial and leadership skills I’d learned to build my own empire, not someone else’s.

What is your favorite part of a wedding day/event day? 

The first few hours of beverage service are my favorite. We’re getting to know guests, learning about the couple, and everyone is just so high on the emotions from the ceremony, and the excitement of being around people they love. It’s an amazing atmosphere. 

Photo by Jay Daiye 

What are some of your favorite wedding trends you’re seeing pop up? 

I’m a HUGE fan of the “last dance” trend. I was closing up a bar this spring when I was inadvertently exposed to my first one and I bawled so hard. Such a special, tender, romantic moment. I also love all things hexagon, copper, feathers, pie, and minimalist.

What would be your dream event to work on? 

I’m actually in the process of working on my dream event! Since I first got into this business I’d dreamed of getting a ton of other mobile bar owners together in one place to talk shop, shake cocktails, and show off their fancy mobile bars and this February it’s happening! Over 100 mobile bar owners from around the world are gathering in Franklin for a three-day mobile bar conference we’re calling SWIG. I’m beyond excited!! 

Who would be your dream celebrity to work for? 

When you work in L.A. and The Hamptons for as long as I did, you don’t see the allure in celebrities anymore. However, if Richard Branson needed an event bar, I’d have a hard time refraining from asking for his signature 😉 

If you could go anywhere tomorrow, where would you go?

Australia. There are a ton of amazing mobile bar owners down there that I’ve befriended over the last couple of years and I’d love to meet them and see their beautiful bars. There are talks of doing SWIG in Australia in the next year or so. I hear they drink more there than here too. Those are my people! haha

Thank you to Sarah for taking the time during our busiest wedding season to sit down and fill us in on the inner workings of the bar industry! Their mobile bars are the perfect, sweet touch to add to your event!

For other great vendor spotlights, visit us at Vision in White Events.

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