When going out for a night on the town, there’s so many different bars, lounges, and restaurants to choose from all over Chicago, but there’s somewhere special in the South Loop. M Lounge– located on 1520 S. Wabash–is one spot you can hit to receive warm customer service, hear live jazz music, and find modern drinks topped with the atmosphere of love.
M Lounge, which opened in January 2006, recently celebrated its 13th anniversary. And what makes it even more special, the South Loop jazz club is owned and operated by Reginald and MaryAnn Marsh, an African-American couple who in essence live and work together, as they’ve built both a successful business franchise and a successful marriage. Ironically the way they met is how many of their customers fell in love at their lounge–meeting by fate and striking up a conversation.
Mrs. Marsh says their meeting was like a romantic comedy movie. In 1995, they were both at an NABJ (National Association of Black Journalist) convention in Philadelphia. At that time, MaryAnn lived in Chicago and Reginald lived in Cleveland, Ohio.
Mrs. Marsh stated, “We didn’t meet at the convention, but we met at the airport. On the way out, I was standing in front of him, and we struck up a conversation; the ticket agent thought we were together, and she sat us next to each other. We tried to invite her to our wedding because if it weren’t for her, we wouldn’t be married. We sat next to each other, we talked the whole way back to Cleveland, and Reginald sat with me in the airport for my layover.”
From that point, Reginald and MaryAnn exchanged numbers, traveled together, and got married in 1996; they have been married for 23 years and working together for 13.
As for M Lounge, Mr. Marsh says when they began thinking of opening a lounge, they were looking for space that felt like a nice comfortable living room where people could enjoy like a space in their own home.
“We lived in the neighborhood, and at that time there wasn’t a lot going on in the South Loop, so we thought about a great place with entertainment infrastructure, so that’s what we had in mind when we designed it, to be an extension of your home.”
At M Lounge there’s live music, Jazz, R&B, and Blues. But for a different vibe and especially for a younger generation, the Marshes opened Per.so.na, located at 408 S. Wells, in March 2018. It is DJ driven, and they also have some live shows. Per.so.na came about after M Lounge regulars wanted to have special events and needed a spacious area.
Mrs. Marsh says, “After 13 years, many of our customers were saying to us, ‘well you know we want to have our baby shower (or other big events) here but we have 200 people and we can’t fit them in the M Lounge.’ That happened so many times; our business is like the Black version of the television show “Cheers,” where everybody knows your name. Our customers have the same regular drinks so by the time they sit down, their drinks are already prepared. Thus, these people grew with us, they had their retirement parties here, 50th birthday parties, but the place was too small. So, Reginald and I started thinking that we have the M lounge which is great, but why can’t we provide similar customer service, a similar great vibe– warm but in a larger space; so that’s where Per.so.na begins.”
Love Sprouts at M Lounge
As far as the duo working together, Mr. and Mrs. Marsh respect the fact that they both have different duties in their business, but they also remember they are in this together; they say keys to success for their marriage are trust, communication and commitment. They were best friends before anything else.
Mrs. Marsh says, “People often say to us that sounds like a perfect marriage, and I always smile and say, you know what, it’s perfect for us, but no marriage is perfect. There are some elements to a great marriage, trusting each other professionally and personally. You have to trust that person knows what they are doing right and let them run whatever duties that they have and don’t interfere; the second thing is communication. I love to talk, and Reginald might be quieter, but when I’m ready to talk, I’m going to talk. The final thing for me in a love/business partnership is commitment.”
The Marshes have witnessed at least ten couples who have met at M Lounge and have gotten married at the establishment. The Marshes were invited to three weddings, and one of their bartenders married one of their “amazing” regulars. And then other times, they didn’t even know that people met their significant others at their lounge until the couples came in for their anniversary drink.
The Marshes are grateful to each other and the community because the community has made their clubs a go-to spot.
They both share some instruction for those who may be looking for love at their establishment. When you go to M Lounge, let the bartender know that you’re either by yourself or on your first date. The bartenders will know how to take care of you with impeccable welcoming service.