Welcome to The Parlor
“Our garden is the single biggest reason for our success.”
As you can well imagine, that statement warmed my heart. I’m chatting with Aric Mei, the owner of The Parlor, an incredible new pizzeria at 19th Street and Camelback Road with its own on-site garden.
Although the garden is what caught my interest originally, I soon learned there is so much more to The Parlor’s story.
Rewind to about a month before my chat with Aric, when a friend shared her excitement with me about this great new
eatery and the incredible garden in the entryway. Following her tip, I visited The Parlor on a Wednesday night about 8 p.m. Lining the path to the front door were sage, thyme, oregano, basil, lavender and even a bay laurel along with hearty eggplant, pepper and tomato plants sprinkled throughout.
Surprising for a summer weeknight, I had to wait a little while for a table. As I waited, standing next to the garden, I watched people as they walked by. Almost everyone noticed the garden and couldn’t resist getting close to smell the fragrant herbs and luscious vegetables.
While most of the patrons seemed to view the garden as a good thing, I’ll wager that many of them did not consciously connect the garden with the food served on their plates. But I can tell you, the freshness and taste showed through in the food. I enjoyed an incredible meal, and made sure to introduce myself to the owner before I left. I knew The Parlor would be one of my new hangouts.
As it turns out, The Parlor’s garden was just the tip of the iceberg and we are not talking lettuce here. Fast-forward a month to the meeting I request with Aric to chat primarily about his garden. Much to my surprise, he starts our conversation by asking if I would like to discuss the sustainable elements of the space. I’m a little taken aback but say, sure, tell me about them, thinking he used a few green remodeling techniques here or there.
Little do I know the extent to which he has “greened” the entire restaurant. Looking around, the first thing I notice is the hostess stand that seems to be a stack of old wood pieces. Aric points out that the stand is made of leftover wood harvested from the remodel. He also notes that I am actually eating on part of the old roof. I look down and really notice the stunning tabletop that I had taken for granted. Aric explains that the wood’s warmth, rustic feel and richness in color could only come from being baked in the attic of the building for the past 50 years.
Then it dawns on me: There’s history here. For 50 years prior to The Parlor, the building housed the Salon de Venus hair salon, a landmark of great magnitude that I’m told was one of the oldest salons in Phoenix. Through the foresight of a few individuals, we were now sitting amidst the harvest of the salon’s history and enjoying the relics of times past thoughtfully placed throughout The Parlor.
Much of the extraordinary wood has been rescued from the rafters. The ancient fire sprinkler system was ingeniously repurposed into shelving, lighting, door handles, the fireplace and a beautiful wine storage space. Creatively sprinkled into the mix are retro beauty-shop chairs stationed at the eat-in bar, a framed piece of artwork that is actually the old wallpaper and vintage photos showing the inside and out of the Salon’s 1960s remodel.
In addition, a significant number of kitchen and restaurant fixtures, as well as wood and copper pipe, were harvested from a restaurant across the street that was being demolished. Happily, all of these efforts added up to savings to the construction bottom line and resulted in much less “stuff ” being dumped in the landfill.
One of the most striking remnants of the space’s past lives is the Frank Lloyd Wright–esque block wall that faces Camelback Road. Aric says that this one-piece of architecture really “makes the space” and lets in a lot of natural light. A system of skylights installed in the restaurant’s enclosed spaces ensures that no electric lights are required during daylight hours. The Parlor also boasts a solar water heating system.
All of these efforts were not without challenges. Aric says that, in the midst of the chaos of building inspectors, contractors and opening his new restaurant, pulling weeds in his garden helped save his sanity.
As for choosing a name for the new restaurant, he explains his dilemma in trying to come up with a name that tied the history of the building with the new tenant. In reading a magazine one day, he noticed that someone had called his family business “Nello’s Pizza, a Pizza Parlor.” Curious, he looked up the word parlor in the dictionary and found it was “A room set aside for reception and entertaining, or a building serving as a place of business for certain businesses or professions such as a beauty parlor.” It dawned on him then that he’d found the link between the hair salon and the pizzeria, and The Parlor was christened.