Michelle Ray was just helping a friend out when she agreed to bartend at her pal’s wedding a while back. The friend was getting married and had a sudden need for bartenders.
Ray was planning on going to the wedding anyway and told her friend she’d be glad to help out. She brought along Courtney Cain, and the two surprisingly enjoyed working the bar that night. Together, they had the realization that while the one night was fun, they had the skills to make what they were doing a real business: “The conversation picked up from there like, ‘We can do this,’” Ray recalls. “‘We can get insured and do all the things we need to do to be a legit mobile bartending business.’”
And so, Naked by Sunday, a mobile bartending service, was born, and now, a year later, its affiliated brick and mortar, Double Barrel, is on the brink of opening.
As Ray and Cain developed the concept of their business, keeping things fun was at the forefront of their priorities. “I thought, weddings are so serious all the time. Let’s be fun! Let’s be the fun part of it,” Ray laughs. Consequently, they decided to name their business Naked by Sunday, which was an homage to a featured cocktail at the bar Ray and Cain used to work at together.
Now, they’re known for their positive energy and keeping things light and fun.
As a mobile bartending service, Naked by Sunday takes care of everything you’d need from a bar. “We go to wedding receptions, open houses, graduation parties, birthday parties – whatever kind of event you’re having that requires a bartender,” Cain explains. “We’re licensed and insured in Kentucky and Indiana, and we have 12 bartenders that we staff.” That number, 12, came as quite a surprise to the partners, as they thought it would mostly just be the two of them when they started.
“We went into it thinking that we were just gonna do it for fun every now and then when one of our friends was getting married or something,” Ray recounts. “But it kind of evolved rather quickly – faster than either of us expected. We have actually only worked one event together. We thought it was cool the first time we got double booked on a weekend but now we’re five or six deep on some weekends.”
Naked by Sunday officially launched in April 2017, and in their first year of business, they did over 80 events. Now, they’re booking into 2019 and have even sent out quotes for events in 2020. The only thing hindering their ability to say yes to everyone who tries to book is their shortage of bartenders. If they had more staff, Ray and Cain insist they would have a hard time turning down and event.
But at the events they do work, they strive to make it as easy on the client as possible. For example, whereas comparable companies may just provide the bartender or bartender and cups, Naked by Sunday will send anything and everything you need for a bar, which means you don’t have to ask your uncle to pick up ice on his way to the party.
“Being able to bring all the stuff ourselves,” Ray says, “can really take away from the busy day (the client) already has when we can alleviate some of that pain of running around or tasking someone in your family to run around and do all that for you.”
After only a year in business, Naked by Sunday is ready to get to the next level: opening a brick and mortar bar. “In order for us to go one step further with our business, with Naked by Sunday, we had to have a brick and mortar,” Ray affirms. “You can’t sell the alcohol in the state of Indiana without a brick and mortar – you can only serve it. So, in order for us to be able to sell, which a lot of brides are actually wanting to do now, we had to have a brick and mortar, and the opportunity is now here for us to do it.”
Ray and Cain also have a third silent partner ensure its properly outfitted as a bar, and the ambiance is now modern, comfortable, rustic and laidback.
When developing the concept of Double Barrel, Ray and Cain knew they wanted to keep it as relaxed as their mobile service. “You look around us and there’s these really nice restaurants in downtown New Albany – Brooklyn and The Butcher, The Exchange, Hull & High Water, Gospel Bird,” Ray says. “You’ve got all these great restaurants around here, and you’ve got these folks who go out for a nice dinner and then want to go have a drink but don’t really want a louder, rowdier place. Or maybe they just want to go and have drinks and continue a nice conversation. And there’s not that ‘after dinner mint’ place that you can go to.”
Double Barrel will be that “after dinner mint” locale – a place that’s easygoing and comfortable to go to after enjoying a meal on the town. The décor emphasizes the laidback concept and ensures guests will feel right at home even in the environment of a downtown bar. But that’s not to say there won’t be anything to do at Double Barrel. “I went to a bar in Nashville once and they had a couple board games, a couple half-finished puzzles – it was just a really chill place,” Cain remembers. “And I thought that would be a neat concept to put some games in here and make it chill while giving people something to do.”
When Double Barrel opens, which should be mid-April, they will offer guests comfortable couches with the added option of games. Ray and Cain hope to host live music nights eventually and look forward to using seasonal fruits from the nearby New Albany Farmers Market in some of their creations.
There will be a few signature cocktails, but the pair is more interested in being able to guarantee you can order whatever you’d like at Double Barrel. The experience will be what you make of it. Whether that means a Jack and Coke, a finer bourbon on the rocks or one of the local craft beers, at the heart of Double Barrel is a team that just wants you to enjoy yourself.
“So many places are trying to burn tables and get you out the door as quick as possible, but we don’t want you to leave,” Ray maintains. “Come and stay and hang out with us and have a good time.”