We had the good fortune of connecting with Chaye Alexander and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chaye, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I’m an entrepreneur at heart and for a far back as I can remember, I always wanted to have my own business. Being a music lover and having a strong appreciation for those who create it, owning a live music lounge was a dream. I envisioned an intimate living room setting that would unite music lovers with their favorite musicians, and also introduce them to those that should be known.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Chayz Lounge is the live music venue that features the finest local, national and international acts in a way that is best described as an intimate concert. What sets Chayz Lounge apart from other music venues is the fact that it isn’t a bar or restaurant that happens to provide their patrons with live music. At Chayz Lounge the music is the focus. Our venue offers an elegant, warm and inviting atmosphere to experience the best live jazz and smooth soul performances. There is not another space like ours in Columbia, SC or the surrounding cities. Chayz Lounge is a space that I am truly proud of. Being an entrepreneur is very rewarding. However, it isn’t for the faint of heart. It requires a plan, an equal measure of faith, determination, a clear vision for your business, and most importantly, be steadfast in your beliefs. I emphasize the latter because there are those who will try to persuade you to alter your vision to suit their needs. I speak from experience. It took seven years from the birth of the vision for Chayz Lounge to the point when it came to fruition. It took that long because the people and businesses I approached with the idea simply didn’t get it. They didn’t understand the concept. To me, it was a simple one… Design a beautiful, intimate space where mature adults can enjoy live music by some of the best talents around, while providing a wonderful dining experience. Tickets for the shows would be priced accordingly and proper attire would be a must. Again, to me it as a simple concept. However, some called it a big city notion that wouldn’t work in a small city like Columbia (SC). Others tried to persuade me to do things their way. Then, once Chayz Lounge was brought to life and everyone saw the vision in motion, I was barraged with ideas from countless individuals. To date, I remain true to my vision, values, and principles, and nearly 4 years later Chayz Lounge is still considered THE place for live music. Our patrons travel from all over for the experience we provide. A while back, a group of women chartered a bus and took a roadtrip from Philadelphia to Columbia with the goal of attending a show at Chayz Lounge. They shared with me that they followed the creation of Chayz Lounge from day one, had seen videos of the shows on social media and they wanted to experience it live so they took the trip. That was a huge honor. I’m happy to say in their words, “The visit was worth the trip”. The biggest challenge I’ve faced thus far is trying to keep our doors open and our business going during this Covid pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, our business was thriving. We had sold out shows every weekend and at times months in advance of scheduled shows. Now, we’re fighting an invisible force and continually thinking of creative ways to entice our customers to leave their homes and entrust us with their safety. Nevertheless, I have no intentions of giving up. Quitting just not in my nature. I am confident and have a strong belief that this too shall pass. God wouldn’t put me in the space that is Chayz Lounge only to close the door on me. I’ll just keep going and pray that we can all resume some sence of normalcy soon.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would take my friends (who are visiting Columbia, SC) on a tour of our downtown with a stop at the Columbia Museum of Art, followed by dinner at Halls Chophouse, and of course they would have front row seats to a show at Chayz Lounge where they could also enjoy our signature cocktails. Depending on the length of their stay, we would stroll through Soda City Market, visit Riverfront Park, and take a tour of the Governor’s Mansion. Columbia, SC is filled with pockets of intersting places to visit and things to see. I would enjoy exploring it all with friends.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
First and foremost, I must credit my mom for shaping me into the woman I am today. She was my hero. My strength, integrity, strong can-do attitude, and willingness to take risk all come from her. My mom’s teachings shaped my character and my resiliance. I also have to shoutout my best and dearest friend Kim Boxley who has provided immeasurable support in helping me to launch my dream that is Chayz Lounge. I literally couldn’t have done it without her. A woman whom I admired for years is B. Smith. She was a true renaissance woman. I proudly refer to myself as the B. Smith of the south.