Dr. Tumblety’s Apothecary and Tasting Lounge in Allentown is a time portal to the Victorian and Prohibition eras.
The retail shop, which opened in June on E. Warrington Ave., sells hats, trinkets, cosmetics, perfumes and curiosities. Some goods are vintage, others are modern reproductions, and all are hand-picked by longtime friends and co-owners Jesse and Amanda Mader and Mike and Raeanne Miles.
The Maders married three years ago in New Orleans. Their themed wedding — think “Bonnie and Clyde” meets “A Streetcar Named Desire” — inspired the throwback business.
The 2,500-square-foot space houses their personal collection of antique furniture and accessories, including a porcelain wash station and hand-crank record player. Edison bulbs burn overhead. A skeleton in a bowler hat leans over an old piano, his bony fingers poised above the keys.
He represents the store’s namesake, Francis Tumblety, an Irish-born, American-bred quack who traveled the world selling his snake oils and elixirs. A suspect in London’s Jack the Ripper murders, the faux physician sported a handlebar mustache and the finest threads. It’s rumored he set up an apothecary in Pittsburgh in the 1860s, complete with medicinal alcohol.
The next phase of the business is coming soon: By 2020, the owners hope to open the lounge area of their shop, which will house the Inspired by Spirits Distilling Co. This room — which will host public and private events — will be reminiscent of a 19th-century brothel with opulent decor in deep shades of red, a mahogany bar and gothic accents.
They’ve already transformed the humdrum storefront into a scene plucked from the pages of a history book.
Every corner of the apothecary is Instagram-worthy, but snapping selfies feels odd in a place that, at its heart, is closer to the Industrial Revolution than the Technological Revolution.
Perusing the display cases and wooden shelves is fun and educational.
Dr. Tumblety’s exclusively sells Goorin Bros. headgear. The iconic hatmaker got its start in Pittsburgh in 1895, but moved out of town shortly thereafter. Jesse Mader, an Allentown native and lid aficionado, is happy to bring the brand back home.
Guys can stock up on grooming products from Truefitt & Hill, which is the oldest barbershop in the world according to the 2014 Guinness Book of World Records. Ladies can check out the large assortment of skincare items — some made by local artisans — that use all-natural recipes from the 16th century through the 1940s.
The partners visit New Orleans several times a year to soak up the French Quarter culture and select items to transport that vibe to the ‘burgh.
Though they’re not in the business of serving alcohol full-time just yet, you can get a sneak peek soon: On Nov. 9 from 6 to 10 p.m., they’ll host an all-ages pop-up speakeasy with drinks mixed by Louisiana native Quinn Richard of Cocktail+Creative, who served as head bartender for the Maders’ wedding reception. They’re also looking forward to offering live entertainment (Jesse and Mike are both musicians), including jazz bands, vaudeville acts and burlesque shows.
“Our main goal is to run a good business. It’s all about the vibe and transporting you to another era,” Jesse says. “Everything we put into this place is a little piece of us and the places we’ve been.”