The building that houses Zonie’s Closet dates to the late 1800s. Irish immigrant James H. Madden build the two-story brick store to house his grocery. In the early years of the twentieth century it was home to a variety of businesses geared toward local trade, including a drugstore and a grocery, once the raise of the automobile let to increased traffic on the National Road in the 1920s, a series of restaurants set up shop to serve in part the many travelers who passed by.
One of the more colorful-sounding operations was the Star and Stripe Restaurant, ran by the Zaphiriou family during World War II. (Members of the family later ran the popular Zaph’s Restaurant on East Market Street.)
Since the 1950’s numerous bars have operated out of the building. Of these, one of the longest-running was the Macebob, run by James McGuire and Robert Freeman from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s. Several year ago a gay bar called Illusions opened in the space. The managers introduced female impersonators and other novel ideas to what must have been a suspicious clientele — but amid all the new patrons, the old regulars continued to come, keeping the drag queens company at the bar.
Denice Benefiel purchased the bar and changed the name to Zonie’s Closet. While she plans to continue many of the Illusions traditions, including the drag show, no doubt she will make her own impact on the space just as so many other have done decade after decade.