Over the years, there have been a few questions that we hear often: “How do you make your French toast?”(sorry- trade secret!), “What’s in a marshmallow? “What color is that in the back dining room?” But, the number one question has always been: “What’s the story with the seltzer bottles?” Sooo, here’s the story!
About a dozen years ago, we decided to move what we now call “Little Raymond’s” from its original location at 32a Church Street to our current Montclair home. We enlisted Grayling Design to help us to renovate the space to create the warm and inviting atmosphere that they created as some NYC landmarks, including Balthazar and (the late) Pastis.
After spending an afternoon in the dining room of what was then restaurant Twentyeight, the designers returned a couple of weeks later with a sketch of a newly designed Raymond’s. The drawing featured open glass shelves with a transom and clock meant to divide the room to create a more intimate space. We were thrilled with the design and excited to build the restaurant of our dreams!
We plunged right in, gutted the space, and began the process of creating a new identity for Raymond’s. Everything was moving along nicely and the room was looking pretty good. Then one of the designers said, “You guys have to figure out what you’re putting on the shelves.” Huh? WE have to figure it out??
What in the world could we put on the shelves that would look great, not resemble a store display, and take advantage of the beautiful light shining through those vintage windows? We were completely stumped as to what could work but reluctantly decided to look for seltzer bottles. We weren’t excited but we just couldn’t think of anything else. We found some blue bottles, some clear ones, and the occasional green or brown bottle, mostly at flea markets or street vendors. Yawn. Boy, we were going to need a lot of bottles.
Then it happened. We were on an excursion to NY looking for seating possibilities for the dining room when we saw them. Purple! Red! Orange! We never knew that seltzer bottles like these existed! We gathered every one that we could find in the store and when we were checking out said, “Gee, we wish you had more of these!” The woman asked, “How many do you need?” “86” was the not-very-hopeful response (the shelves had been painstakingly measured and we knew exactly how many bottles we needed). After a minute or two of searching on her computer, she cheerily exclaimed, “We have them!” That moment was the turning point. We knew then that we really had something unique and that the new Raymond’s would be special, indeed.
The bottles that have become synonymous with Raymond’s are mostly from Argentina. They are old, dating from the 1940s or earlier, and have been restored. Mixed in are some more local bottles, mostly from our area–Brooklyn, Paterson. It’s been an unexpected pleasure to see how many happy memories these bottles have evoked in our customers over the years. We can’t imagine Raymond’s without them!