As a child, Samantha Argosino wanted to drive a yellow school bus. Then she wanted to play professional volleyball (until she stopped growing at 5-foot-2-inches).
Now, she is the owner and designer of new business, The Brass Lamp Book Bar and Lounge – the first of its kind on the Promenade in Downtown Long Beach.
While many bars use book-lined walls as decoration, The Brass Lamp is the first combined bookstore and bar in Southern California and one of few in the nation. It opens early for coffee drinkers and closes late for an after-work cocktail or a mellow jazz show.
“To me, this is more than just a job,” Argosino, 34, said. “I’m excited to see what this place holds for the community. I want people to feel like, when they don’t want to be home working…that they can come here.”
She that said she created the book bar to showcase local creative talents, promote Long Beach businesses and give people somewhere they can congregate and feel at home.
But as a first time business owner, she struggled to find support.
“The banks all told me, ‘This concept doesn’t exist,’” Argosino said. “And I don’t come from money. I had to work hard for this myself.” She is a first-generation Filipina-American from a working-class home.
After she finally found a loan, property owners and landlords didn’t want to risk renting space to her. Knowing that Argosino lacked experience and that restaurants often fail, they were afraid she would dig herself into a financial hole.
Not even her friends or family believed in her until the very end.
She was determined to push through. “It’s like as long as I stay focused on my purpose, that stuff doesn’t bother me anymore,” Argosino said.
When she finally found the location at 245 Promenade and began construction, even her contractor wanted to quit, she said.
Its long-awaited opening day came last weekend, five months behind schedule, along with unexpected certificates of recognition from Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia.
Besides the standard bar area and table and chair seating, there is a stage area in front of a mural; reupholstered mismatched chairs around a table and fireplace in the corner; and three private rooms with glass and wood panels. To use the private rooms, patrons must purchase two items.
The design of the book bar reflects Argosino’s bachelor’s degree in psychology and communications from the California State University, Long Beach and her certificate in interior design from the Interior Designers Institute in Newport Beach.
Argosino lived in Orange County for over eight years, but said she fell in love with Long Beach while attending college. She moved to Long Beach permanently three months ago.
Before opening her own business, she was the vice president of marketing and business development for the Cadman Group, the commercial real estate company that owns the Farmers and Merchants Tower in downtown Long Beach.
A little over two years ago on July 15, 2013, she walked into her boss’ office and told him that she wanted to try something different.
“It was a total leap of faith,” Argosino said.
Cadman Group owner Neil Cadman taught Argosino all she knows about running a business. But, she said, finding God is what really drove her to make the career change.
Argosino was a self-professed atheist until two years ago.
“I used to want to be successful so that I would be rich, but now I want to be successful so I can give back,” Argosino said. “It was all about me; I didn’t treat people well. I didn’t treat people right. There’s no substance in that.”
Ultimately, she said she is excited to see what the future has in store, and so far, business has been good. Her next step is to begin hosting community events like game nights, wine tastings and a masquerade party on Halloween.
In an effort to create a local network with other small businesses, The Brass Lamp features local businesses such as Open Books, Romeo Chocolates, 5 o’clock Wine, Next Door Cheesecake and The Pie Bar, according to the website.
“I want the Brass Lamp – the first book bar in Long Beach – to become a staple in the community,” Argosino said. “I just want goodness to come out of this.”