Walking into Hello, Marjorie is a very different experience than walking into any other bar in Des Moines. When the bar opens on a weekday, patrons steadily trickle in as they get off work, and Nick Tillinghast is there to greet them with a drink menu and is happy to guide them to a seat. His hospitality is appreciated, as the layout of the bar looks more like that of a stylish mid-century home. Tillinghast explains that putting together the décor was a labor of love. The new downtown bar is the vision of Tillinghast and his partners, Kyle McClain and Ryan Hutchison.
“It took us about 10 weeks to collect everything,” Tillinghast says as he motions to the many pieces of furniture. Several are from local establishments while others come from different corners of the country, like the pink lounge chairs from Miami.
One of the most eye-catching pieces is the large, neon sign above the fireplace emblazoned with the iconic Jack Kerouac quote “The prettiest girls in the world live in Des Moines” in hot pink letters. The sign was designed by Tillinghast’s cousin, Rae Danneman. Though the bar hasn’t been open two months, the sign has already become infamous on social media.
Tillinghast, a Des Moines native, returned to his hometown after five years in Las Vegas working in hospitality marketing. Tired of the city and the same old club scene playing the same top 40 and hip-hop music, he was eager to come home and try something new.
“When I told the guys the idea of playing ’50s and ’60s music, they didn’t even flinch. We all agreed that would be the right tunage to be playing this space, and it just gives people something different,” he says.
If the interior of the bar is what draws customers in, it’s the expertly crafted cocktails that make them stay. The drink presentation alone is impressive, and they go down smoothly, too. The bar’s three most popular drinks are the G’Night Rae Wright, Editor’s Note, and The Marjorie.
“The G’Night Rae Wright is a bright, simple cocktail that has a lot of complexity,” bartender and man-who-formed-the-drinks, Zach Avila, says. “Editor’s note is a well-crafted whiskey cocktail.”
The bar’s craft cocktail menu will rotate seasonally, giving Avila — an accredited mixologist — an opportunity to experiment and introduce new concoctions to customers.
“We’re getting a wide demographic. We’re getting an older crowd because of the music, and then we’re getting the young crowd because they’re curious,” Tillinghast says. “I think everybody’s ready for something different.” ♦