Kenneth Reisdorff, of New York City, owner of the Broome Street Bar, died Feb. 26 while on vacation in Florida, after having a margarita, a nice lunch and a swim in the hotel pool. He was 92.
Kenn, as he was known, was a gentlemanly and beloved fixture in the Soho neighborhood, recognizable by his custom-made cowboy hats from a hatmaker in New Mexico, turquoise jewelry, cowboy boots and friendly demeanor.
He was in on the original happening of Soho, during a time when the area was still mainly factories, and just beginning to be wildly creative, and the Broome Street Bar was the epicenter of the young art crowd. Robert Mapplethorpe was a regular, along with Robert Jacks, Ken Tisa, Robert Boyles, George Kokines and many other talents who formed an exciting, entertaining and encouraging clique of artists. Performing and visual artists rounded out the bar’s artistic clientele, and that congeniality continues to this day, where as recently as last year, The Band Perry counted it among their favorite places in New York City and filmed a music video there.
Kenn Reisdorff was born in Seattle, Washington, in 1921. Kenn joined the Marines and fought in the Philippines in World War II. Two brothers of his also served, one in the Navy and one in the Army. After the war, Kenn went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London on the G.I. Bill.
While at RADA he met a fellow student, Berenice Kruger, from Durban, South Africa, who became his wife in 1951. They traveled through Europe in a Morris Minor and eventually made their way back to the States, where together they would become a kind of host and hostess to the burgeoning creative types of Downtown New York.
Berry worked as a model and Kenn was a cabinetmaker and woodworker good enough to have his work featured in Home & Garden in 1966. He built the bar and cabinetry of the Broome Street Bar, the entire interior of their house on Spring St., plus did custom work in some of the finer townhouses of Downtown, all out of a shop on West Broadway.
Berry opened her own eponymous bar in Soho, at Spring and Thompson Sts., where writers, musicians and gallery owners would congregate. The combined effect of the closeness in location, management, workers and culture between the two bars was a boon to the neighborhood and helped promote Soho as the artists’ mecca it would become.
Kenneth Reisdorff is survived by his daughter, Julie Reisdorff-Parker, and her husband, Curtis Parker, and daughter, Andree Reisdorff. Berry predeceased him in 2010. He is also survived by the Broome Street Bar, and the adoring friends, customers and employees he leaves behind, with stories and tales of a long-ago New York City.