The chef's American restaurant, Tarbell's, has sat next door to Sportsman's since 1994, so he knows the history behind the landmark at 32nd Street and Camelback Road.
"What I'm told people used to do is go through the drive-thru, pick up bait, beer, cigarettes and shotgun shells and ... go hunting and fishing," he said, describing the Sportsman's early days in the 1950s.
The space evolved into a wine store and bar, which is something Tarbell has always wanted to own.
Tarbell said the idea was sparked by his job at Willi's Wine Bar in Paris.
"For me, it's a realization of a dream, actually," he said. "I really thought I would open a wine bar some day."
He quickly opened The Wine Store in the vacant space and plans to open The Tavern late next week. The Tavern will feature wine on tap, artisan beers, fresh seafood and an enormous burger.