Gramps, in a former factory space that turned out the sewing tables used by the surrounding, now fading garment industry, is pretty no-frills, unless you want to count the popcorn machine and the jukebox. By way of décor, there are some posters for movies set in South Florida: Miami Connection, Prowlers of the Everglades, Miami Blues. And there are a few rustic tables inside, each featuring Miami memorabilia under clear epoxy. One was the creative work of filmmakers Alfred Spellman and Billy Corben, the duo behind 2006’s cult fave Cocaine Cowboys, a documentary about Miami’s smuggling blues and bloodbaths. Another table features a collage of old ads that would make any 305 enthusiast nostalgic: Miami Jai-Ali, Burdine’s, the Mutiny Hotel, Don Carter’s Kendall Lanes, Frankie’s Pizza.
Gersten, who is not beyond admitting he’ll sometimes crank Crockett’s Theme from Miami Vice as he drives around the city, pines for the old days when a guy could still pull his boat up to now-defunct Jimbo’s on Virginia Key and knock back some ice cold beers under palm trees, the occasion blue heron sailing by.
“I grew up in a 1930s house on Sunset Island 2. There was a house across the street where they filmed a couple of episodes of Miami Vice. Later drug dealers bought it. After they got caught, it became a witness protection house. When I was a kid, my parents gave me a little black-and-white, hand-me-down TV and on a UHF channel I could pick up the drug dealers’ security cameras.”
Gersten doesn’t plan to give up the bar business anytime soon, but he is toying with developing another career alongside it. He says he’s thinking about running for public office one of these days.
Does he worry that voters with long enough memories will consider the Gersten name too tarnished by Uncle Joe?
“My family’s involvement in Miami is much bigger than my uncle. And I’m not him. That’s part of an old Miami story that we all get to joke about now. He provided a lot of entertainment. How can you not love the famous political scandals of Miami …?
“If the right opportunity came up at the right time, yes I would run. I would love to bring my passion for the city to bettering the city and to being part of the leadership of the city.”