Lexington, KY - In August 2011, as the early morning hours crept upon the Chevy Chase Inn (CCI) on Euclid Avenue, Sarah Razor had an epiphany for her first book. Standing in the doorway of the CCI, she observed the scene as people casually milled around the musty bar and relished the live music that continued into the wee hours.
“It was so apparent to me that the businesses district along Euclid is really the heart of Chevy Chase,” said Razor, 30, herself a patron of CCI for nearly a decade. “In particular, Lexingtonians have such deep loyalty and affinity for CCI. I thought this book would be a great way to document why people love this bar, as well as pay tribute to the neighborhood and the people who have been a part of that throughout the bar’s 80-year history.”
Smiley Pete Publishing is the publisher of the coffee table-style book, entitled “Chevy Chase Inn: Tall Tales and Cold Ales from Lexington’s Oldest Bar.” (Smiley Pete Publishing is also the parent company of .)
With the book just released, Razor has realized her dream less than two years after her initial idea was born.
Originally from Winchester, Razor now resides in Lexington with her husband, Sam, and their two daughters.
Throughout her book, Razor documents the humble history of the CCI through more than 300 photographs, as well as colorful commentary from the patrons, bar owners, bartenders and musicians that frequented the establishment over the years.
The bar, which opened in 1933 following Prohibition and was first named the Blue Goose, was one of the initial businesses in the neighborhood and is one of the only ones to stand the test of time.
It took Razor about nine months to do the research, write and gather photos for her book, and four months to edit the project. The finished product reflects more than 30 hours of interviews with dozens of people with different affiliations with the bar.
“The book would not have even been possible without Roger Bondurant and Ronn Crowder, who are the regular musicians who play at the bar,” said Razor, who also collected historical information about the Chevy Chase neighborhood from old newspaper articles and library archives. “And there were many patrons who put down their drinks to humor me with an interview. All of the surrounding business owners and the children of previous owners of CCI were very supportive and helpful.”
Razor said one of her best interviews came from CCI veteran Clark Cramer, who paid his first visit to the bar in 1936 when he was about 17 years old. “He has seen a lot from his barstool over the past 75 or so years,” Razor explained. “The book is dedicated to him and the first chapter includes many of his musings on the bar.”
When Razor asked Cramer how the bar had evolved over the years, she received an interesting response: “With a cigar clenched between his teeth, Clark confirmed what many of the other regulars also noted: The beauty of the bar is that not much has changed,” she wrote in the book.
Razor noted how on the surface, it’s easy to dismiss CCI as any other neighborhood “dive” bar with its unassuming entrance and small, dark interior. “But there is something about it – the folks that hang out there have a refreshing sincerity that is quite charming,” she said.
When people start frequenting the CCI, Razor observed, they simply never stop. During her research period, she encountered at least eight different men between ages 50 and 70 that told her they had their first legal drink at the bar.
“And at least four of them took their sons and daughters to CCI to buy them their own first legal beer,” she said. “It has a great ‘come as you are’ acceptance that is multi-generational – that’s really tough to pull off.”
Through her book, Razor hopes she has captured what’s special about the CCI, as well as the Chevy Chase business area as a whole.
“CCI serves as a social hub for Chevy Chase neighborhood and also the community at large,” she explained. “The clientele is a nice mix of Lexington, providing a watering hole for the refined and the inelegant, the lawful and the lawless.”
In Razor’s opinion, local businesses like CCI are the backbone of Lexington. “We all benefit from their economic impact, and they are what make Lexington great,” she said. “It is important to celebrate and support them, and I hope this book does that.”
Those interested in purchasing the book can do so by clicking here.