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Mar 24, 2014 3:19 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Kenneth Reisdorff Of Water Mill Dies February 26

Mar 25, 2014 3:02 PM

Kenneth Reisdorff of Manhattan and Water Mill, owner of the Broome Street Bar in SoHo, and a supporter of causes in the Southampton community, died February 26 while on vacation in Florida, after having a margarita, a nice lunch and a swim in the hotel pool. He was 92.

Mr. Reisdorff, who was known to most as Kenn, was a gentlemanly fixture in the 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 it was still factories, 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 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.

Mr. Reisdorff was born in Seattle in 1921 to a family that included two brothers who were in the Army and Navy. He joined the Marines and fought in the Philippines in World War II. After the war, he went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London on the GI 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 United States, where together they would become a kind of host and hostess to the burgeoning creative types of downtown New York. His wife worked as a model and he as a cabinet maker 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 Street, as well as custom work in some of the finer townhouses of downtown, all from a shop on West Broadway. Mr. Reisdorff undertook the renovation of their Water Mill home personally, on weekends off from the bar. His wife, known as “Berry,” opened her own eponymous bar in SoHo, at Spring Street and Thompson, 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 to the artists’ mecca it would become.

Predeceased by his wife in 2010, he is survived by two daughters, Julie Reisdorff-Parker and husband Curtis Parker of Southampton, and Andree Reisdorff; as well as the staff and friends at the Broome Street Bar.

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