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A Neighborhood Institution 

Bruno's Bar (7601 Maple St., 861-7615) has been a stalwart in the Maple Street neighborhood near Tulane and Loyola universities for seven decades and over the years has occupied three of the four corners of Maple and Hillary streets. When David Melius, who has owned the bar for the last 30 years, constructs a new building for the neighborhood institution next year, it will take Bruno's back to the location where it started in 1934, catty-cornered from it's present site.

That is in keeping with Melius' philosophy of preserving the ambience of the bar that has been a hangout for generations of New Orleanians. "Probably if you grew up in New Orleans, you have been in Bruno's at some time or another," he says. "We've tried to keep the bar somewhat the same as when (founder) Leo Bruno owned it."

When he moves the bar into the new building next September, Melius says he will transfer many of the items that identify the old place, including the fireplace. "It will be a historic relocation," he says. "We're going back to our roots."

The biggest change in the new space, he says, is that it will be equipped with a kitchen so patrons can order food with their libations. The building that now houses the bar will be used for private parties and special events, accommodating up to 300 people. Currently, the bar can handle smaller private parties on its patio.

The longevity of Bruno's is a large part of its charm, and it attracts an afternoon and early-evening crowd of professionals who began patronizing the bar when they were college students. The crowds turn younger later in the evenings, with twentysomethings coming in to swig down inexpensive drinks.

"Bruno's is more Š like a modern-day Cheers (the bar immortalized in the TV show of the same name), where everybody knows everybody," he says. "We have a low turnover; most of our bartenders have been here for 10 years or so. We have a very diverse crowd (of customers)."

Though not known for any particular drink, Bruno's offers a nice array of beers, whether your tastes run toward domestic brands, imports or microbrews, as well as a full range of liquor and specialty drinks.

A Head for Fashion
Getting a good color or a haircut that fits your features and is easy to manage is almost like receiving an overall makeover in the way it makes a person feel, and it's more unusual than you think -- unless, of course, you're a regular at Steven Sobel Hair Salon (7818 Maple St., 866-1593).

"It all starts with a haircut that has a personality and color that has a personality," says Sobel, who has 27 years of experience in the hair design business. "You can bring a person out from their shell, so to speak, with great color and a great hair cut that gives them confidence.

"We strive for perfection in hair color, which is important. We also fix a lot of boo-boos that other people do or that people do at home." Because of that expertise, Steven Sobel Hair Salon was named the best hair color salon in New Orleans in the October 1999 issue of Allure magazine.

Sobel opened his current salon more than 3 years ago and counts men, women and even children among its clientele. The salon works mostly by appointment, but will accommodate walk-ins when possible.

Most of all, the shop builds relationships by making people love their hair and see it as an asset instead of something to contend with every day. Currently, curls are back in fashion, although Sobel says he still gets a lot of customers who request Japanese thermal straightening to smooth out long, frizzy hair. In the hands of a good hair designer, however, any type of hair can become something beautiful, he says.

"Texture is key in hair," he says. "A good hair dresser has to pick up on the texture of the hair. Experience will tell you how to deal with it." An experienced hairdresser also can advise which products will help maintain the hairstyle and texture desired. To that end, Sobel and his staff have tried out a range of products and sell several lines they feel offer their customers the best results.

All these things combined have established a growing list of customers for the salon, many who are drawn to Sobel's on the recommendation of other satisfied clients.

"The best advertising truly is word of mouth," he says. "A good haircut and a great color make a happy customer. We get a lot of word-of-mouth referrals. I think people who have given us a try have always come back to us, and our reputation is out there."

click to enlarge The green striped awning of Bruno's Bar serves as a welcome to regulars who have come to the tavern for decades as well as newly legal drinkers wandering in for the first time.
  • The green striped awning of Bruno's Bar serves as a welcome to regulars who have come to the tavern for decades as well as newly legal drinkers wandering in for the first time.

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