Before Celebrating Its 16th Birthday With A Big Ol’ Parking Lot Blowout, The Deep Ellum Destination’s Matriarch Explains How The Spot Earned Its Stripes.
Cover photo by Karlo X. Ramos.
There was a time in my life where you could basically find me at the Double Wide every single night. Were it not for age starting to get the better of my hangover recovery process, that’d still probably be the case to this day.
I’m hardly alone in saying this, I’m sure. A lengthy stretch of blind dedication and fierce loyalty to this bar on the easternmost edge of Deep Ellum is basically a rite of passage among this town’s hard-drinking set.
There’s just something about this place, man.
We’ve tried to get to the bottom of the Double Wide’s draw and allure before, and I’m not sure we’ve ever done it justice. But why not try again in advance of the spot’s big 16th birthday bash this weekend?
As is the case each time it adds another year of operations to its belt, the Double Wide will once again host one of its legendary parking lot parties on Saturday night. In exchange for a $10 cover charge, guests will be able to enjoy a variety of entertainment options starting at 7 p.m.: Out in the parking lot itself, patrons will be able to order food from the Easy Slider truck, pose for photos in the Photo Wagon or take a ride on a mechanical bull that’s once again being brought in for the occasion; in the main room, they can dance the night away to soundtracks provided by DJs Gabriel Mendoza and Sabrina T; and, over in the venue, they can rock out to the live music offerings of The Gorehounds, Straight Tequila Night, Atlantis Aquarius, Mike Randall and Jenna Clark.
With all that madness looming, I caught up with Double Wide owner Kim Finch over some happy hour margaritas to talk about a few things — what the 16th anniversary means to her, why she thinks her spot has become one of the great Dallas drinking destinations and how she’s been dealing with all the changes coming to the neighborhood surrounding her cherished establishment.
Read on to see what she had to say.
Cheers to 16 years! Can you run down just the plans for the big event this weekend?
It’s just a normal parking lot party, really! We kind of wanted to go back to what we used to do. Recently, we’ve been doing two stages and flip-flopping the bands. But, after midnight, you really can’t use that stage outside. So, I feel like it’s such a waste, and I couldn’t really think of something good to put out there from midnight to 2. I was like, “Man, let’s just bring the bull back!” Like, for so long, we did the mechanical bull every anniversary party. It was time to bring it back. And, as far as the bands and DJs, it’s just a bunch of acts where, every time they play here, it’s fun. So it’s all of our favorites — like members of our little family.
Sixteen years is a long time. But, even though the Double Wide’s been yours for the bulk of its run, you weren’t the initial owner here, right?
Right. The first two years, it wasn’t mine. It was Double Wide for two years before I came on, with Jim Sibert and Keith Underwood running it. And, after two years, we took over.
How, if at all, do you think the Double Wide has changed in the 14 years since you took over?.
Man, I don’t even know if I can answer that — just because I stay in my little bubble, my own little double wide trailer bubble. I mean, we try to evolve with the times to a certain extent, because you have to constantly evolve and almost reinvent yourself. But I feel like you have to stay true to yourself as well. Like, know where you come from, know who you are and don’t be something you’re not. But you can still tweak it along the way. Like, we try to bring in the specialty drinks — like, we do that rotating frozen drink, just to bring in something new every now and then, or seasonal like restaurant people do with their seasonal menus. So we so make an eggnog drink during the holidays, and then we do a Valentine’s Day drink. Right now, we have the mango. And then we started doing hot drinks… I guess, like, three years ago? So, yeah, it’s just updating stuff here and there. We do keep a lot of the same stuff, as far as events. But if a DJ events starts to fall off and people aren’t interested, you can’t keep doing it; you freshen it up and tweak it to where people wanna be a part of it. I think we’ve also become really good at keeping an eye on problems before they happen, and staying aware, and cutting things before they get too bad.
To that end, I think the Double Wide tends to boast a really welcoming vibe. I think, once upon a time, it might have been more specific to the local Americana and indie scenes, plus some metal crowds. These days, it seems like so much more than that.
I would hope so! We have tried really hard to be more diverse in all of our things. Since we first took over, it was more just one genre that was going in and out of here. But, over time, we have just tried to host as many diverse events as possible. I mean, I want everything in here. I want everyone in here. I want everyone to feel welcome. I want everybody to feel comfortable. Like, the biggest compliment to me when someone tells me, “I felt comfortable here. This feels like home.” And, y’know, when you have a hip-hop night in the main bar and a country band going in the other room, and they all get along, it’s just fucking fabulous. That’s a good feeling.
Is that a reflection of Dallas, you think? I know my favorite bars and shows are all of that meshing-of-crowds sort. There are certain places in town that really embrace that well. How much of you doing that is just recognizing that this kind of blending of cultures is where the city a large is heading?
I mean, I really don’t look around to see what everyone else is doing — because honestly I don’t even go out any more. I just do what feels right.
Right now, we’re seeing a bunch of major developments in Deep Ellum, including one that’s happening literally right across the street with the new 7-Eleven that’s coming in there.
How do you feel about all these developments?
I’m not sure what it’s going to do to this corner. It can hurt it or it can help it. I mean, it’ll definitely bring more traffic — and we’ve always been on an island down here with no traffic. Or, well, it just doesn’t stop — the traffic just flows past and doesn’t stop. You know, everybody has mixed feelings about it. I have mixed feelings about it. I mean, it could be a good thing. It could be a bad thing. We just won’t know till we see it.
In the years since you took over here, this end of Deep Ellum has already gone through some pretty big changes. There’s more residential buildings over here now. Cold Beer Company is open basically right next door. Sandbar has been going for a while now. Bowls & Tacos gave things the old college try. Stuff has come this way. Has it affected your business at all?
Not really! Listen, like, with the 7-Eleven: Whether I say yes or no to it, it’s going to happen no matter what. Whether I am happy about it or get mad about it, it’s still going to happen. You just figure out how to roll with it. Change is going to happen. It’s inevitable. I mean, that’s why this is not the same place it was 16 years ago. I mean, it is, but it’s also not.
How is business in general these days?
It’s good. As good as ever. I mean, we’re not seeing a decline at all. We’re on a constant upwards trajectory.
The Double Wide is definitely one of Dallas’ great destination bars in my estimation. Obviously, just existing on something of an island on the edge of Deep Ellum is part of that. But is there more to it? Was it a destination from Day One?
Well, I don’t think it was a destination then, no. That’s why it closed and I bought it! It was only closed for a really quick moment. I was just picking up shifts here as a bartender. And I was trying to get out of the bar business because I was going to welding school and also working with a designer. And the bar had just closed one day with locks on the door, and this other bartender came up and she goes, “Nobody told anybody!” I was like, “Whatever. I was just picking up shifts.” And she’s like, “We don’t have a job any more!” And I’m like, “I actually have three other jobs right now, so no big deal.” But then she called me back and was like, “We should buy it!” And I’m like, “That sounds like a stupid idea!” [Laughs.] And then we bought it.
What changed your mind?
Because it was Double Wide. If it would’ve been any other bar in town, I would have said no. But this place reminded me of home. It reminded me of Oklahoma. Because of the wood paneling and the velvet paintings. Then I put in some more of those. And we updated the murals out on the patio. Do you remember when there used to be AstroTurf out there? I loved that, but it got so gross — cigarette butts and spit and who knows what else. A couple years after I got it, we had to tear it up because it was getting burn holes in it and you couldn’t sweep it anymore.
One thing that I think also makes the Double Wide unique is that you have and independent landlord. Like, you’re not beholden to the whims of the Westdales and other major land developers around here. How has that affected what you are able to do here?
My landlord lets me do my thing, and I pay my rent on time. He’s been supportive of anything we’ve done. Y’know, I’ve told him I wanted 20 million-year lease just to be sure I can stay here. And he keeps being like, “You’re fine! You’re not going anywhere!” Or I’m like, “Let me buy the building!” He’s just always like, “You’re fine! I’m not going to shut her down.” But, yeah, that’s been my nightmare. Like, what if somebody offers him a million dollars to put a high-rise here? But there’s nothing I can really do about that. I mean, if I could buy the building, I would. If I could get a 30-year lease, I would. But those just aren’t my options right now. I think, to go back to your question about being on the island, I think this all factors into the idea of how we became a destination. We have to make good with what we have. I mean, that’s how the parking lot parties started in the first place — because we were like, “How the fuck are we gonna get people here?” Because it was slow, and nobody wanted to come here. Fourteen years blurs together, but we started doing those a couple years after I got the place. I was like, “I have to throw the biggest, craziest party — just so people will remember us and two weeks later be like, ‘Remember how fun that was?'” So we just tried to do the craziest shit out front. And it was around then that we decided to throw some Yoo-hoo in the frozen drink machine one Fourth of July. That was probably four years after I got it?
Do you think that people are drawn to Double Wide for the same reasons you were once upon a time?
It would have to be. I think it’s that it’s comfortable, and it’s not pretentious. The staff is very friendly. I mean, without a good staff, you’re fucked. That’s half of the comfort feel. If the bartender is an asshole and not paying attention to you, you’re not gonna come back.
The Double Wide celebrates its 16th anniversary on Saturday, September 7. Head here purchase your $10 entry into the party in advance.