Situated on cobblestoned Wharf Street in Portland’s historic Old Port, the Independent Ice Co. is a bar specializing in fine whiskeys from around the world and around the corner. The bar features an extensive whiskey menu, serves local ales, and offers a dinner menu in a comfortable, cozy atmosphere.
Our work with The Independent started in the concepting phase and continued through naming, brand identity, installation, and opening. Our clients envisioned an upscale whiskey bar; once we dug a little deeper, we came to learn that while upscale was important to them, even more important was creating a space that was unpretentious, accessible, and welcoming to everyone. We helped them hone their vision to create the kind of place you’d go after a long day of work to sit back and relax with a good drink and a good meal, guided by staff who were whiskey specialists, not whiskey snobs. In other words, creating “an honest-to-goodness whiskey experience for honest-to-goodness people.”
Located on Wharf Street, the bar had to stand out amidst a vibrant mix of eateries and bars, as well as overcome the street’s reputation for a rowdy nightlife scene. When it came to naming and overall brand identity, we chose to steer clear of more obvious routes, and instead focused on the role ice often plays with whiskey. Maine has a rich history of ice harvesting, dating back to the late 1800s when each winter, about 25,000 men would converge on the frozen Kennebec River to cut and store ice. Maine’s deep lakes, broad rivers, and cold winters created the perfect conditions for pure, crystal-clear ice and during these decades, Maine’s ice industry brought in more wealth than California gold. The Independent Ice Co. was born out of the hardworking spirit of those ice harvesters — and the idea that something so pure and simple can provide such a rich bounty. From there, we researched ice companies (including The Independent) and discovered a wealth of inspiration, including diamond-shaped numbered “ice cards” that people hung in their windows to signal to the iceman how much ice to deliver. These cards wound up inspiring our diamond-shaped logo design, including a custom typeface, and became the basis for coaster designs as well. We also helped curate artwork to hang in the bar, including vintage images of ice harvesters and a historic map of ice houses along the Kennebec River.
Our full brand identity included menus, coasters, signs, window coverings during construction, window decals, conceptualizing a chalkboard menu and working with an artist to bring it to life, menu boards and binders, gift card holders, and a photo shoot to kickstart the bar’s social media accounts. In addition, we provided public relations for the opening.
In an incredibly short timeframe, we brought the Independent Ice Co. from an idea to a reality. Our work went beyond just a successful launch though; we delivered a unique and authentic identity in a highly competitive market in a city known for its food and drink.