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Connie’s Ric Rac: “If We Got a Liquor License, a Lot of People Would Come and Drink With Us.”

June 5, 2011

Image by Colin Kerrigan. Text by Eric Lexie.

Connie’s Ric-Rac feels a little like home. If not your own home then definitely someone else’s. It fits nice and snug between a variety of restaurants and shops on South 9th Street, quietly doing its own thing. The whole room has its own personality, a composite of the three men who made it happen: Frankie and Joe Tartaglia, after whose mother the venue takes its name, and their friend Pete Pellulo.

“I don’t really know how it started anymore,” says Frankie. “It just came to be.”

The simple version of the story: the Ric-Rac was an electronic store that Frankie and Joe’s mother Connie chose to shut down in the mid 90s. It lay underutilized until the summer of 2006 when – nobody’s sure how anymore, but somehow – it was transformed into a performance space and eventually a bar.

But the story really isn’t simple. A band, a film, and the need for a place to house a variety of creative endeavors – not to mention somewhere to just hang out and drink – all seem to have gotten involved in some order.

“Joe says the reason we built the stage was for improv seminars,” Frankie recalls. “Then once the stage was here, we couldn’t remove it. So we figured out things to do with it.”

Connie says that Pete offered to build the stage after Joe and Frankie started talking about doing something with the space but Pete remembers differently.

“Joe asked me,” he says. “I wanted nothing to do with it, to tell you the truth.”

But he does seem to want something to do with it now. Pete handles the paperwork and the bar side of the venue was his initiative.

Before they were business partners, Pete recalls that he would hang out with Frankie and Joe on weekends and the three of them would drink wherever they found a space.

“This really just became our newer drinking place,” he says. “We realized that if we got a liquor license, a lot of people would come and drink with us.”

You get the impression it’s like a second home for them. Frankie’s paintings are all over the walls, along with a variety of figurines and a bunch of Rocky paraphernalia – supposedly, Joe was in the background of a shot where Sylvester Stallone was running down 9th Street.

“Bullshit,” says Pete.

“We actually started being friends, the three of us, because we all made a movie together,” says Frankie. “I think that we all, in the back of our heads, wanna do that again.”

The film, titled Puncuality, is an urban mafia story about debt and reliability, or the lack thereof. It was directed by Joe and featured Frankie and Pete as actors, as well as the original electronics store version of the Ric-Rac. Frankie suggests that people should be on the lookout for Puncuality 2.

There’s also Frankie and Joe’s band, the Discount Heroes, who are regarded as the venue’s house band. They have been playing since well before its inception. It was because of the Heroes that the Ric-Rac first became a live music venue, according to Frankie.

“Any musician friends of ours we had, we’d show them the stage, and they’d say ‘We wanna do shows here,’” he says. “And this guy Amos Lee was coming on Mondays, just kind of jamming and bringing other musicians, and just kind of set it off.”

Frankie handles booking and Joe does sound for all performances, which includes comedy, theater and ping-pong. Just about any type of music is welcome, although “loud crazy devil music” is strictly prohibited. Apparently there was a bad experience with it.

“A lot of those bands like to break things,” says Frankie. “We’re not into having our stuff broken.”

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