For the Record, This New Bar Is a Hit

05 Mar 2024

The Ibis hi-fi cocktail bar and coffee shop pairs beverages with vinyl


The Port City has its share of bars and coffee houses, but only one blends both worlds along with a third: a high-fidelity (hi-fi) sound system featuring vinyl records. With vinyl sales now outpacing CD sales, it stands to reason that there would be venues spinning LPs – and there are. They can be found in cities like Brooklyn, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, Oakland, and now  Wilmington thanks to business partners Abbye McGee (48) and Matt Ray (44), who first met at church decades ago as youths. 

Just six months after the April 2022 opening of the duo’s first venue, the Starling Whiskey and Wine Bar in the Cargo District, McGee and Ray began discussing possibilities for a second venue and eventually landing on listening bars, known as kissas in Japan, where the trend took hold in the 1960s and 1970s. 

“There, you can listen to albums and sip tea,” says Ray, who also works as a food-and-beverage photographer. “Here, you can listen and sip coffee drinks and craft cocktails. The Ibis (which opened in December in the Bottle Works Building on Princess Street) is a first for Wilmington; something it has never seen before.”

The Ibis experience begins with the welcoming stay-a-while vibe. “It’s like a big hug,” says McGee, who also owns Salt and Charm personal chef and catering service. “Intentional and soothing” is how McGee describe the space, with its leather couches, upholstered seating, dark sapele wood bar with its wavy grain, and black walls featuring an extensive bird mural by local artist Lauren George and hand-painted black-and-white images by local artist Jenna McKnight. The images originated with photos by Ray of Thurman Burgess, an eightysomething African American local who “radiates joy and hope wherever he goes,” says Ray.

“We want people to hang out without feeling rushed, carry a conversation without having to yell across the table and listen to some good music, courtesy of Gravity Records, which oversaw installation of the sound system and curates the records spun by Wilmington DJ RizzyBeats,” he adds.

Customers – who range from Gen Zers and Millennials to Gen Xers and Boomers – can also enjoy food options from Salt and Charm, True Blue Butcher and Baker, and Pie Slayer as well as a variety of coffees roasted by Casablanca Coffee Roasters and a bevy of craft cocktails with intriguing names such as The James Taylor, Soul Makossa and Dancing On My Own, as well as a selection of mocktails.

While McGee and Ray oversee the business, food and beverage options are pretty much left to the 12-person Ibis team, including Justin Sturges, head bartender; Adam McGee, coffee manager; and Kaley Shirley, beverage director at both The Ibis and Starling, where a four-person team includes Rebekah Frazier as head bartender.

While owner McGee says every night at The Ibis is a special event because of the vinyl factor and live DJ, themed music events such as the recent Renaissance night celebrating Beyonce’s milestone album help to further distinguish the venue.

As for further expansion plans, McGee and Ray agree that for now they will concentrate on providing Wilmingtonians with a unique experience that exceeds expectations. 

“We need to take a minute breather,” says McGee, “but I’m already feeling that itch to start something else.”  

“I echo those sentiments,” adds Ray.

Stay tuned.

Prev Post Ruth's Chris
Next Post Beyond the Garden Gate
Nest Interiors