When you think of the downtown scene in Columbia, you might not think of a relaxing young adult atmosphere because, let’s all admit, during the school year, the college kids have the run of downtown.
But Greta and Ava Gunderson, a dynamic duo from Omaha, Nebraska, have set their sights on redefining the bar experience in the city, offering a fusion of innovative cocktails, a welcoming atmosphere and a touch of their signature charm. After both pursuing professional bartending throughout the country, knowing the dream was to open their own bar one day, fate took control and presented the sisters with the perfect opportunity to open Son of a Gun at 16 N. Ninth St. in October. “The timing was really serendipitous,” Greta says. Ava is quick to agree, noting that the timing just felt right.
From 2014-2017, Greta attended the University of Missouri, bartending at several area bars, including Roxy’s and The Penguin, and truly fell in love with Columbia. “I just really loved that experience,” she says. “I had such a good time with everyone that I worked with. It just made me love the Columbia community.” While she spent her college years getting to know Columbia, her sister, Ava, was getting her degree at the University of Nebraska Omaha and unfamiliar with the community that was enamoring Greta. “Greta didn’t really have to convince me, but I was a little apprehensive at first,” Ava says.
But then Ava visited during Summerfest, an annual showcase of live music in downtown Columbia. After seeing the crowd surrounding the potential bar space on Ninth Street, she knew it was right. “I was like, what are the chances this is happening this day, and I am getting to see it in its prime like this,” Ava says.
Once both sisters were on board, they hit the ground running to create their modern yet vintage bar downtown. While everyone is welcome, the Gunderson sisters say the goal is to be a bar for young adults. “You will never find a $2 double well special here,” Greta says. “Not to say college students 21 and up aren’t welcome, but we want it to be a place where the young adults in Columbia that don’t necessarily have a cute bar they can go to, can come to.”
The sisters have truly poured their passion and creativity into every aspect of the bar, from its ambiance to its innovative cocktail menu. The result is a space that seamlessly transitions from a chic cocktail lounge to a lively nightspot, catering to a diverse crowd seeking a memorable evening out. “We want it to be the go-to spot,” Greta says. “Whether you are just getting out of work and having a couple of beers, or if you are going to go on a date and want to have a couple of cocktails or beers or shots as well, it can encompass all of that.”
The sisters don’t want people looking at the menu and being confused by drink names, not knowing what they are ordering. “All the cocktails we plan to have will be simplified,” Greta says, noting that they want the menu to be digestible and tantalizing. “We want the initial thought to be intriguing, not terrifying.”
While the focus is on the drinks, the Gunderson sisters say they offer small, unique snacks to complement the bar’s aesthetic. “We will have pre-packaged snacks, which we hope to make a little more fun and different than the standard just chips,” Ava says. Greta adds that “the one thing we have got down is Cosmic Brownies,” referring to the Little Debbie brownie that is topped with fudge icing and candy-coated chocolate pieces.
The sisters want customers to come in and be able to satisfy their late-night craving while having a delicious drink. But Son of a Gun is not just a business venture, it is truly a family affair, from the collaboration between the sisters to the establishment’s name, which is a take on the sisters’ last name, Gunderson. “Being sisters makes it easier because at the end of the day, we are sisters, and we are family. It’s not like our friendship can end,” Greta says.
The family-driven work ethic is felt throughout the bar, creating a warm and welcoming environment making customers feel part of something special. For more information, visit sonofaguncomo.com