How Art Thou Music Café and Tapas Bar is the local home for jazz and blues

David Berger, owner of How Art Thou.
David Berger, owner of How Art Thou.

by Sandra Stringer

The owner of How Art Thou, David Berger, remembers the call he got from his son-in-law Josh: “Pa, I really wish you’d come here and help me start a coffee shop and a wine bar.”

A very different career

David lived in the DC area working for the Pentagon for 20 years. He worked on the Army staff, first for the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics. He went to Korea and did wartime plans and operations for Korea peninsula, then went back to the Pentagon and worked for the Army Operations Center. Finally, he retired and went into the executive world where he worked for 10 years.

Customers at the bar at How Art Thou.
Customers at the bar at How Art Thou.

David and his wife visited Folly Beach frequently to visit his daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren. When his son-in-law Josh came up with the idea for How Art Thou, David and his wife decided that while they liked DC (but not the traffic!) they really loved it here. They put their house in DC up for sale and came down.

A plan turns into a reality

David and Josh got the lease for the café location, which How Art Thou shared with Seacoast Church. “If it wasn’t for Seacoast Church we would never have been able to start it, because we didn’t have the capital”.

Their plan was to be a coffee shop and wine bar. They opened up in September 2011. Six months later on March 18 of 2012, Josh was killed in a car accident on Folly Road.

Unexpected tragedy and illness

It was a great tragedy for David and his family. David was very close to his son-in-law and the loss was extremely painful, one that is still felt deeply. At the same time, David was dealing with the news that he had prostate cancer. Thirty days after Josh’s death, David went in to have surgery. He is clear of cancer now.

The Oscar Rivers Trio.
The Oscar Rivers Trio.

The focus on jazz had its beginnings in 2013 when he met Oscar Rivers, who was at the end of a gig at another business and was looking for a new place to play. Rivers created his trio. He was eventually joined by vocalist Cat Kathura. Other vocalists that come in to sing are Bobby Storm and Alva Anderson.

The choice to focus on jazz and blues

At first How Art Thou featured all kinds of music: jazz, blues, folk, country, etc. David found that people were confused by the lack of focus. He struggled with it for a couple of years and then decided, “okay, let’s become the best little jazz place that we can be in Charleston. A location that you can come in, listen to some great music, be able to enjoy a drink, something to eat, socialize.”

The Soulful Sam Singleton and the Oscar Rivers Trio playing on Valentine's Day.
The Soulful Sam Singleton and the Oscar Rivers Trio playing on Valentine’s Day.

The choice to focus on jazz and blues was based not only on David’s personal enjoyment of the genres, but also on the people who were fans of the music. “I like the people who like jazz and blues. They’re a diverse group, diverse by many definitions – age, gender, race, and they all have a common theme in their love of the music. I love the diversity”.

Get your fill at How Art Thou

Having been in business for five years now, David is working to bring in world class musicians on a regular basis. For those shows, the cover charge goes directly to the band.

How Art Thou is open starting at 4 pm, Tuesday through Sunday. They have a wonderful food menu to go along with their diverse wine and drink selection. On Tuesday nights they feature a wine tasting at 6 pm. Every other night you can see live music. Their calendar is full and there’s something for everyone who loves jazz and blues.

To see more photos, click here.