At first glance, the seemingly random piles of assorted parts and stacks of iron grates in the Minneapolis studio may not look like much. But don’t let that fool you. This is the place restaurant owners go to give their space that extra pop.
You may not know Atom Pechman’s name, but there’s a good chance you’ve seen (or sat on) the artist’s work if you frequent popular Twin Cities restaurants such as Butcher and the Boar, Barrio, Smack Shack or the recently opened Coup d’état.
Restaurant designers turn to Pechman to complete spaces that cry out for something unconventional. “They’ll leave me these empty pockets,” Pechman said. “I think people pay me to be a little crazy. If you’re not willing to take that step outside the normal box, then every place is going to look the same.” With a background in furniture design and sculpture, Pechman is tasked with helping restaurant owners elevate the dining experience. From a 26-foot dragon sculpture to a hand-tailored leather bar top, there’s little Pechman can’t do.
“I think people pay me to be a little crazy. If you’re not willing to take that step outside the normal box, then every place is going to look the same.”Atom Pechman
For owners such as Tim Rooney (Butcher and the Boar, Barrio, Chambers Hotel), Pechman’s craftsmanship, creative ideas and passion set him apart and make him a go-to choice for design. “He goes from furniture to metalwork and is meticulous at what he does,” Rooney said. “He puts his whole heart and soul into it.”
A TASTE FOR DESIGN
Pechman’s first major project came in the early 2000s when a friend recommended him to the owner of Minneapolis restaurant, The Craftsman. He built the restaurant’s tables and then spent the next few years working on local clubs before getting his second break into the restaurant design scene with Barrio.
Pechman, 33, combines artistry and functionality to create work that ranges from the outrageous (like the white plaster lobster wall at Smack Shack) to the subtle (the poetic mustache plaques at Butcher and the Boar).
“I get called in to make these things that people don’t know where to get,” Pechman said.
In the last year he’s worked with 12 restaurants throughout the U.S to help create experiences for diners that goes beyond food.
“The more you engage people into having an experience there they can’t get anywhere else, the more it becomes,” Pechman said. “It’s not just a restaurant. It’s a place you can go that’s unlike any other.”
Ngon Vietnamese Bistro named a cocktail after Pechman called, “Atom’s Impact Driver.”
Form From Form (Pechman’s concept/design/build studio)
But the work isn’t without its share of long hours, late-night texts and stress for all involved.
“It’s like having a girlfriend,” Pechman said. “When you’re wrapped up in that kind of [project] your brains start functioning together and it’s an emotional thing because everyone is struggling to get the same stuff done.”
But at the end of the day, it’s worth it for Pechman.
“You have to care about what you’re doing otherwise you should be doing something else.”