The Early Years:
The Leong family saw an opportunity in the big, rundown building that was the former home of an unprofitable restaurant and committed all of its time, energy and resources to the creation of a new California-style concept.
The parents, Ming and Sue, worked in the kitchen to help with prep and two of the sons, Wayne and Kent, worked hard to create the concept, facilities and operational structure.
When the Leong family walked onto the site for the first time, they were faced with a 20-foot tree growing in the middle of the dining room, a large stone fireplace in a much smaller lounge, wall-to-wall carpeting and a Spanish feel. The site required extensive renovations to become the original version of Melrose—the first of many renovations to take place over the life of the business.
The venue was named after the trendy Melrose Avenue in LA, and, true to its namesake, its original design was a California pink and teal colour scheme, big windows, six electronic dartboards, pool table, karaoke and NTN, the interactive trivia game.
A commitment to innovation means a commitment to being a cut above the rest. Investing in the ‘latest and greatest’ in everything from fixtures to appliances has always been a Melrose trademark, along with constant renovations that no other venue in Calgary can keep up with. Guests can always be assured they are enjoying cutting-edge interiors, the latest in electronics and a truly unique entertainment experience.
When the time came to evolve from the original concept in Spring of 1996, Melrose underwent another major overhaul in the dining room and on the main patio. A projected one-month project took four months to finish, as the dining room was completely gutted and architectural problems dictated the excavation of an entirely new basement.
Team members had to travel from the kitchen to the lounge on planks that were placed over a large gaping hole and this period of Melrose’s evolution was characterized by dust, vandals and noise.
When the dust settled, the only original surface that remained in the area was the enormous skylight overhead.
The resulting space was an architectural feat of sophistication with tindlestone arches salvaged from a downtown historical site, Art Deco wrought iron fixtures and sculptures, granite countertops, high tech cable lighting and natural wood tabletops.
Reinventing the concept
The same theme was carried onto the new garden terrace, the only multi-tiered patio in Calgary and a popular summer destination. The lush array of flowers, vines and herbs decorated the curving stone walls and provided guests with an unparalleled patio choice.
The waterfall wall provided the finishing touch for the city’s most sought-after outdoor venue.
Innovation, renovation and expansion have been hallmarks for Melrose.
The new millennium saw the company give the entire bar and exterior front façade a facelift, bringing the outdoors in, but with strong tones of sophisticated urban artistry.
The subtle logo colour change was matched throughout the interior, rich earth tones complimenting the decorative additions to the bar.
The whole front wall of the lounge side was torn down and garage doors put in its place to allow guests to sit out on the new sidewalk patio while inside the Atrium was created, a cozy cabin-like getaway with stone and slate walls, a fireplace, TVs and a vaulted ceiling.
Melrose also expanded downwards, creating a new games level and theatre in the former dark and dingy storage area and staff room. This lower level is perhaps the greatest architectural feat to date and is accessed by a large, gently curving iron staircase.
The kitchen area has also been expanded and is almost unrecognizable from its original form. Other changes have followed through the years, the theme being expansion, increased efficiency and improvements in functionality.
All of these improvements have taken Melrose from very modest beginnings, employing about 12 people, to the Calgary hotspot it is today and employer of over 100.
The Red Mile
When the Calgary Flames battled their way to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004, fans gravitated to 17th Avenue, packing restaurants and bars to cheer on their hockey heroes.
Located at the centre of the cup fever was Melrose Café & Bar, which welcomed thousands of patrons into its lounge to watch the games and guaranteed its place in local history by becoming the Heart of the Red Mile.
The Stanley Cup press coverage might have vocalized it, but Calgarians have always known Melrose occupies a special place in Calgary’s entertainment scene.
The Melrose story is a fascinating one that begins in 1991, when on October 1, Melrose opened its doors and began serving guests in Calgary’s soon-to-be-trendy 17th Avenue neighbourhood.
After 20 years of service in the Calgary community, Melrose opened a second location next to the new Cowboys Nightclub inside the Vegas-style Cowboys Casino complex.
Melrose looks forward to many more exciting years with both locations!