Finding Prosperity

April 5, 2016
Finding Prosperity

Bonnie Flinner Keeps Camaraderie Alive at Prosperity Social Club

Lexi Hotchkiss

If you’re looking for a bar that’s got a bank of big-screen TVs, shot girls and a massive collection of corporate-approved artwork, then you’d best avoid Prosperity Social Club at all costs.

In just about any other city in the country, the locals would be less-than-willing to share the true amazingness that is a place like Prosperity Social Club with outsiders. After all, it’s one of those places you want to keep all to yourself.

Alas, we Clevelanders aren’t the greedy type. Plus, we know you’re totally going to geek-out after noshing down a big pile of Ed’s Pita Nachos (among other items).

And, while we could wax poetic about the menu at this Tremont gem, there’s just something je ne sais quoi about this place that makes it different than anywhere else in the world.

Owner Bonnie Flinner describes Prosperity Social Club like this: “When you walk in, it immediately has an art deco, old-school feel that reminds you of your grandparents’ basement. It evokes the past because so much of it has remained untouched. It brings a nostalgic happiness to you.”

Maybe it’s the chestnut walls, checkered floor, vintage-y four tops and kitsch beer memorabilia. Maybe it’s the retro Americana back patio. Or, perhaps it’s just the people sitting around the bar—everyone from the beatnik twenty-something hipster to the polished Gen-X professional—and how this special place creates a unique camaraderie.

“I set out to create a neighborhood place where you always feel comfortable,” Flinner says. “I wanted that place you go after a funeral, before a wedding, when you get a promotion, when you get fired, when you get divorced. The place you come to just be. That was my vision.”

Her vision became a reality back in 2005, when Flinner purchased the historic bar after a series of fateful coincidences.

Dempsey’s Oasis, as it was known then, had a particular vibe she sought when looking to find a bar of her own. And, a lot of that had to do with its history.

The bar opened in 1938 by Polish immigrant Stanley Dembowski and named in honor of Jack Dempsey, the heavyweight-boxing champion of the world from 1919-1926. Located in the working-class neighborhood of Tremont, the bar was known as a great uniter as it brought together blue-collar steelworkers, downtown executives, healthcare workers from nearby hospitals and the ethnically diverse residents of the neighborhood.

Not much has changed over the years and that’s just the way Flinner likes it. Leading up to the purchase of the bar, she’d been a bartender at Nighttown on the east side of Cleveland for 12 years. The industry is just in her blood.

“Before I was born, my Polish aunt married a Hungarian chef. They created a restaurant called Bit of Budapest, which was opened from 1962 to 1986,” Flinner said. “When I was around 14, my family got more involved in it. And, so I started working there. It was crazy, because I was young. It was exciting and all these employees were super cool to me because they were Hungarian, Slovenian, Czech.”

That background might explain a little something about Prosperity’s food - oh the food.

“[The chef] and I have developed the menu over time,” Flinner said. “We always incorporate some ethnic heritage into the menu because that’s what I know—Hungarian stuffed cabbage, pierogi and potato pancakes.”

The local diners certainly aren’t complaining. Old-fashioned dry ricotta pierogies? Oh yes. Smoked Gouda empanadas? Uh-huh. Crispy homemade fried chicken? Mmhmm. Reuben on potato pancakes? Amen!

And we certainly wouldn’t be doing this legend any justice if we didn’t mention the bar's plethora of adult beverages.

Patrons won’t be bewildered with an uppity craft beer list (although they serve many), nor will they be forced to drink only “beer-flavored water” varieties. That’s because Prosperity serves it all – from crisp IPAs to juiced-up sangria and even a fancy martini or two.

“I’m of the belief that you should have a full bar. You should be able to offer people a nice cocktail, but also serve a can of Blatz, a craft beer or a glass of wine,” she said. “I wanted to have a sprinkling of everything, but do each thing really well.”

And, if you’re thinking of just sitting around and sipping your drink in front of the boob tube, think again. Prosperity Social Club comes complete with a back room filled with a vintage bowling machine and board games including Connect Four, Battleship, Boggle and Scrabble.

“I think there should be other things to do at a bar besides stare at a TV. I hate that. It’s a social club. We want you to talk to each other!”

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