The Mint Bar's two cents and then some

By: 
Samantha Hill

The owner of the Mint Bar and Grill is putting in more than his two cents when it comes to rebuilding the bar’s floor — 137,750 cents, to be exact. The historic watering hole gave credence to the name “The Mint” over the past month with the over $1,400 currency flooring.

Owner Merlin Moss closed the bar in early September after it was discovered there were issues with the floor installed seven years ago when he bought the business. Moss decided it was time to implement one of his more unique ideas for flooring.  

“I really wanted to do something with the penny because in our society it seems like it has almost become obsolete,” he said.

He had seen the use of a penny floor in a few places across the U.S. but it is still fairly rare and has not been seen in the area.

When Moss began the project and the idea was still a secret, he made three trips to the bank and picked up 80 boxes of coins, each one filled with about 25 rolls of pennies. He picked up $300 worth of the coins the first time and over $1,000 the next two times. Both shipments had to be specially ordered.

“The bank actually didn’t ask any questions — I just told them it was an art project,” Moss said. “Eventually they did figure out what was going on, though, so the secret was out.”

With 207 pennies making up a square foot — $2.07 — he found that the coins were cheaper than actual flooring.  

With the help of friends, family and staff, he placed the pennies on the floor using paper and frames rather than installing them one by one, which made the process a littler easier, Moss said.

Although placing the pennies was more simple than expected, the biggest challenge Moss faced was keeping the subfloor steady enough to place all of the pennies and glues on it without it shifting — along with the general challenges that come with a 100-year-old building.

“I had to screw (down the floor) every 6 inches, which was incredibly time consuming,” he said.

The coins, which were placed from the entrance to the back door, range from pre-World War II to the newest mint, and include Canadian and wheat pennies and several that have oxidized over time or have been painted.

After the pennies were glued down using simple Elmer’s glue, layers of an epoxy mixture were applied over them to secure them and waterproof the surface.

While applying the finishing touches to the floor, Moss skipped a step that would give the floor a glassy finish, which he did not think would work in a bar setting.

As the project comes to an end, Moss believes the new floor brings the bar back to its original roots.

“I mean, they didn’t have penny floors back then, but I want it to come as close to its original core as possible,” Moss said. “I want them to step back in time.”

There are a few coins left over from the project that Moss has plans for. One idea includes using oxidized, teal-colored pennies to spell the business’ name out front. He also found that heating up the coins can turn them silver and gold colored, depending on the time and temperature, so he might do something with that in the future.

The Mint Bar and Grill will reopen its doors Friday with some new menu items, including a signature “penny” drink. The band “The Dirt Farmers” will help celebrate.

As for the floor’s future or how long it will last, Moss is unclear.

“We are in uncharted territory here, but I see this becoming some kind of trend in the future, so we will see,” he said.

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