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Hearkening Back To The '30s, Live Jazz Venue To Open In Downtown Springfield

Bailey Vassalli

 Soon, jazz music will fill the air on the corner of Campbell and McDaniel in downtown Springfield. 

When you step inside the door of The Hepcat, the owners hope you’ll be transported back in time — a chandelier hangs above the bar and stained wood panels line the wall behind a stage.

The term “hep cat” comes from a 1939 glossary of slang from the Harlem jazz scene—it describes a guy who knows all of the answers and understands jive. The owners here are Jimmy Rollins and Dylan Fox.

Credit Bailey Vassalli / KSMU
The Hepcat owners Dylan Fox and Jimmy Rollins pose together. The Hepcat is joining the nightlife scene in downtown Springfield later this summer.

Rollins says they had to remove old wallpaper, then paint, stain wood, and put in an entire kitchen and bar.

“Putting some bottles up on the shelves and getting kegs of beer in and, you know, cleaning all of our glassware. It’s just been a long story in itself, and I think we’ll remember it a little bit better once we’re open,” Rollins said. 

The idea for The Hepcat came about two years ago. Both Rollins and Fox had toyed around with the idea opening up their own places, but Fox wanted to start sooner than Rollins.

Rollins said he thought about moving to a new city.

“I was like, ‘Okay, I could move and feel out a new city and maybe open a business, maybe find someone I’d want to work with, maybe hop around a little bit. But, you know, it’s going to be hard to find another Dylan Fox,’” Rollins said.

They both love live music, especially jazz. 

 They made sure there would be enough interest and musicians around town. Then, they began the business plans.


Credit Bailey Vassalli / KSMU
The final pieces are coming together in Springfield's newest live music venue, restaurant and bar. The Hepcat is joining the nightlife scene downtown later this summer.

  “That’s one of the reasons why it’s taken so long is that we want to make sure we are incredibly happy with this place before it opens, so everyone enjoys it,” Rollins said.

Rachael Mhire of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce said when a city has different types of entertainment venues like The Hepcat, it adds to the quality of life—and that factor, in itself, can impact the local economy.

“If we’re able to demonstrate that we have a variety of amenities that are important to meet that quality of life expectation for a diverse group of people, it allows us as a community to broaden our approach in attracting talent to help fill the needs of employers in the community looking to create jobs,” Mhire said.

The Hepcat is scheduled to join the nightlife scene later this summer.