Fun to The Max
On the verge: A fresh look at developments, news and issues facing Tulsa.
Blake Ewing in his newest addition to downtown Tulsa, the '80s-themed Max Retropub.
In late 1989, sometime just after Thanksgiving, I went with a friend to see “Back to the Future Part II.”
I was more than excited, having seen the original movie enough times to wear out at least one VHS copy.
One of my favorite scenes in the film, which takes place in the faraway year of 2015, features Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) going into a little place called the Café ’80s. References to Pac-Man, Ronald Reagan and Michael Jackson were among the many pop-cultural nods used to create that “authentic” ’80s feel. Keep in mind that this was (at least for a few more weeks) still the 1980s.
The irony of such contemporary nostalgia wasn’t lost on me, even at the age of 9.
However, while it all seemed quite silly, I do remember feeling that I would miss that time when it was gone. There was an overwhelming sense of the present that doesn’t happen very often. You frequently hear people talking about being “in the moment.” That was exactly it.
There is a fairly large ’80s movement happening right now. The evidence can be found in the clothes on the street, the music of the moment (the hit TV show “Glee” uses ’80s music in nearly every episode) and in cinema (“Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” “The Expendables”).
The moment was ripe for the picking, and who better to come along and make something happen than Blake Ewing, owner of Joe Momma’s and Boomtown Tees.
In his bid to turn the downtown Blue Dome District into a destination for all Tulsans, Ewing’s third business may be his best idea yet. It’s called The Max Retropub. The moment I heard the name, my mind was filled with even more childhood memories, specifically the hours upon hours I spent watching episodes of “Saved by the Bell.”
Fans of that show (just admit it, already) might remember that the high schoolers’ after-school diner/hangout was also called The Max.
Walking into The Max Retropub, one immediately gets it — the music, the arcade games, the episodes of ’80s sitcoms on constant rotation.
The style isn’t subtle, but the same could be said of the ’80s.
The version of the 1980s presented at The Max is not an all-encompassing one but one targeting the childhood and adolescent experiences of that time.
“People who were adults in the ’80s remember the Cold War and Reaganomics,” Ewing says. “I remember ‘He-Man,’ ‘Thundercats’ and ‘ALF.’”
By tapping into our collective need for nostalgia, Ewing and his concept have filled a need not being met by any other Tulsa business.
It’s one thing to have history on your side; any decades-old business has something to offer in that area. But to attempt to create such a mood, and to pull it off this well, takes a large amount of skill and vision. It seems that Ewing has both.
Today’s businesses, unlike their more focused ancestors, appear to offer more programming in an attempt to create repeat customers, build a reputation as a community hangout and foster a 360-degree experience.
Joe Momma’s doesn’t just serve pizza; it offers live music, trivia nights and even a children’s book club. Similar programming and creative marketing tactics are already in practice at The Max, with the promise of more to come. I can’t wait to see what’s on the horizon. But just in case they are short on good ideas, a Rubik’s Cube-solving contest sounds like a blast.