Before last week I had never heard of a Bevador, but I am itching to learn more.
I was doing some "tourist" research in advance of a trip to Philadelphia and the sentence jumped out at me from this Philadelphia Weekly piece:
"Just behind the beautiful dark oak bar at Grace Tavern sits a miniature grain silo stuffed with a large assortment of beer. Well, not exactly. It's an old-school refrigerator called the Bevador. The Bevador was built in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1955."
Yes, I was researching bars. I happen to like them. Now that we got that out of the way ...
Grace Tavern was a short distance across the Schuylkill River from the Palestra, a stop I had planned. So I hit it up.
The Bevador was definitely a star of the place, which was already a fine establishment. It was not as elaborate or voluminous as the impressive wood-finished refrigeration unit at Century Grill here in Buffalo, but its beat-up-but-still chugging, blue-collar appearance felt right.
The Bevador certainly cannot hold a bar's entire supply of beer in this day and age. Grace Tavern uses it in combination with a more modern system that sits mostly under the bar. The bartender informed me the philosophy was to store the local, craft and "hipper" beers in the Bevador for display purposes.
I have spent some time looking for more information on the Bevador, but have not had a whole lot of luck. Multiples sources have it being produced by the Jewett Refrigerator Company from anywhere in the 1930s and '50s. A pretty cool post on VintageVending.com has a brochure and indicates the company was located on Pearl Street, in the same block where Pearl Street Grill & Brewery stands today.
A History Channel show called "American Restoration" featured the Bevador in an episode. The summary on Wikipedia reads: "Rick gets a chill when a beat up 50's Bevador beverage cooler comes in for a fix-up."
I found another spiffy ad on Thermo Scientific's Facebook page.
Forgotten Buffalo has some more photos, one from a 1965 ad indicating you could get one installed beginning with as little as $10 down.
The best I could find today is one listed for $3,750 on eBay (free local pickup, though!).
I wish I knew more about the Bevador. I should know more. Can anyone help me out in the comments section or at firstname.lastname@example.org?
There have to be some Western New York bars or stores that still use Bevadors, right? Lots of updates below with some Western New York bars and restaurants that have Bevadors.
Update at 2:34 p.m. Monday:
Bob Baker, public relations and social media manager for Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, emailed the following before photo of a "Beerador" at Dino's Franklin Street location in Buffalo that I combined with a recent one taken by The News' Sharon Cantillon.
Update at 3 p.m. Monday:
Craig Steger passed along some great information. He says there is a fully functional Bevador painted fire engine red at Schwabl's in West Seneca:
"The manager told me that its sturdy construction was responsible for saving the business when a car totaled itself hitting the building several years ago. The bar was built around the Bevador and it took the full impact. After the accident, the Bevador was rebuilt and given its glossy finish."
He also notes the Jewett company name is still visible at a building at 247-251 Elm St. (near Sycamore Street), as seen here on Google Street View.
Update at 3:06 p.m. Monday:
Mike Soper of Limestone writes to say the Gin Mill in Ellicottville has one, too:
"Beautiful green Bevador behind the bar, in excellent working condition. ... As soon as you walk in ... you'll see it at the end of the bar. Really neat."
John Pfeffer, via the comments section, says Madigan's in Ellicottville also has one.
Update at 3:22 p.m. Monday:
Another reader, Craig M., notes there is one at Amsdell Ice Cream Eatery on Amsdell Road at Southwestern Boulevard in Hamburg, a location that used to be a bar called Flannigan's:
"It's still in working condition. ... Years ago we relocated the compressor assembly into the basement and it runs great."
Update at 3:51 p.m. Monday:
Add to the list, via reader submissions, the Swannie House in South Buffalo (h/t Charles Nuttle), the Buffalo Brew Pub in Amherst (h/t Joel Altre-Kerber), the Village Inn on Grand Island (h/t Patrick Fox) and Brighton Liquor in the Town of Tonawanda (h/t David Nowicki).
Update at 4:31 p.m. Monday (and again at 5:19 p.m.):
Some Googling led me to this fascinating story on BuffaloAH.com. The Bevador spawned the idea for a revolving refrigerator used for blood storage, according to a reprint of "Buffalo: Lake City in Niagara Land" by Richard C. Brown, Bob Watson and Windsor Publications.
Turns out The News has written about this, too. From a 1994 article about how Jewett Refrigerator Company stopped making the BB1:
"Originally designed to display and store beer, soda and other beverages, the metal cylinder with the lighted display window and revolving shelves moved from being a bar, restaurant and grocery store standard, to the norm in hospitals worldwide. Among the earliest users was Buffalo General Hospital."
The shift occurred to a more rectangular model as early as the 1970s. This 1999 photo from The News' archives shows construction of a Jewett blood bank refrigerator:
Update at 4:43 p.m. Monday:
Hopper's Rush Inn in South Buffalo has one, too, says Phil Pantano:
"I tend bar there every other Friday night, so I know the beautiful machine quite well," he said.
Pantano added that O'Daniel's Gin Mill & Grill on Abbott Road near Ridge Road also has one.
Update at 4:54 p.m. Monday:
Joe Barnashuk says the Sportsmen's Tavern in Black Rock has one (I should have known this) and a place no longer standing that had one was Ingham Grill in Lackawanna.