The Roaring Twenties Part IV
During the 1920’s there was a section on Main Street near 4th Avenue West existed below street level that became known as “Underground Hendersonville.” According to most local historians, Underground Hendersonville came into existence in the 1920’s. Some of the earliest “legitimate” businesses in Underground Hendersonville was a barber shop, a beauty salon, and a shoe shine parlor.
With blockade distilleries being a major industry in Hendersonville in the 1920’s, it is easy to picture a backroom in the barber shop or the shoe shine parlor that can only be accessed by the barber or one of his assistants recognizing the customer.
The customer is a man, all decked out in a dark suit with fedora placed rakishly on his head and the gold chain of a pocket watch dangling from the vest of his suit. He nods to the barber and gets a subtle nod in return and he approaches the thick oak door to the backroom.
He gives three quick raps with the knuckles of his right hand on the door, a peephole is accessed from the inside and he can hear the mechanical slide to the peephole open, and all he can set is a dark set of eyes giving him a hard look. Maybe a password is quietly whispered. He hears the bolt to the door unlatch from the inside and the door swings quickly open, he steps inside, and it shuts behind him. He has been granted entry to another world that has few limits.
There are poker games going on in a couple of corners of the room, a pile of cash on each table that he can see through a smoky haze. Tensions are high as the stakes increase. There is a bar along the back wall with several patrons, men and women, most of the men standing and the women sitting along the edge drinking shots of the clear liquid known as moonshine.
The bartender greets him by name as he is a regular and asks him if he wants a beer or a shot of moonshine. He decides for a shot of moonshine, made locally by someone operating a blockade distillery down in the Dark Corner and delivered to the Speakeasy by one of the runners.
One such Speakeasy was recently discovered in Hendersonville in the upstairs space above Renzo’s Ristorante by the owner Renzo Maietto. He found the remains of a 1920’s era Speakeasy complete with empty bottles that probably contained illegal alcohol. He also found the original door to the space, a black imposing door, complete with sliding peephole. The owner immediately converted the space into a more modern Speakeasy but with the same vibe and complete with the ghosts of Speakeasy’s from the past.
The April 2019 Carolina Epicurean magazine has an excellent article on Renzo’s Ristorante and his recent Speakeasy discovery.