It’s full speed ahead these days at the Reeves Theater in downtown Elkin as its long-anticipated renovation cranks into high gear.
Debbie Carson of Elkin — who owns the theater with her husband, Dr. Chris Groner, Erik Dahlager of Traphill and Dr. Ralph Leonard of Winston-Salem — said she drives by it every day that she is in town. Carson and Groner formed Historic Reeves LLC and purchased the building in September of 2013 for $45,000. Dahlager and Leonard are buying into the project.
“The last couple of weeks have made me feel really, really good,” Carson said. “It has been a long time coming.”
People are always asking when the theater is going to be open, she said. “We’re happy to say that now we’re doing something, and we feel like we have a target date.”
At this point, Carson said the renovation is projected to be completed by next summer. “The best guesstimate I could give you for an opening date is between Memorial Day and Labor Day,” she said.
The multipurpose performance venue will include a cafe and beer and wine bar, featuring locally produced/grown products as much as possible.
The theater also will include an expanded stage for live musical performances and a movie screen. “We will have some versatility in regard to our performances,” she said. While it will not be large enough for large theater productions, “we certainly would be open to things like comedy shows and small productions.”
Estimated costs for the renovation through the years have been from $500,000 on up.
Dahlager is at the theater every day, supervising the work going on all around him, and there’s a lot. He said plans call for the theater to seat 297 people and for the performances to include Americana musicians.
After purchasing the theater, which first opened in 1941, Carson said she and her husband spent the next year working on plans for the renovation with architect Joe Seipel-Parks of West Depot Architecture in Elkin. “We wanted it to be family friendly,” she said, “handicapped friendly, everybody friendly, user friendly in general. That kind of drove our design.
“We had a lot of different bases to cover,” she said, including ABC regulations about selling beer and wine and numerous building codes. While original plans called for the theater to have an elevator, Carson said they later decided it would be too expensive and changed the plans to place all of the handicapped facilities downstairs.
“The only seating in the balcony will be supplemental,” she said.
Sparks flew from a welder busy at work on steel work in the theater Thursday morning. I-beams already had been installed throughout much of the theater, while others were piled up on the floor ready to be put up. Construction workers were busy in several areas inside and outside of the building, joining efforts as a community’s dream moves toward becoming a reality.
Carson said theater owners worked with Elkin town officials, engineers and architects for more than a year applying for grants from the state. A North Carolina Main Street Solutions grant of up to $100,000 awarded for the project will be channeled through the town.
“If they hadn’t been willing to partner with us,” Carson said, “we couldn’t have gotten the grant, so we’re very grateful to the town and the N.C. Department of Commerce, which oversees the N.C. Main Street Solutions Fund.”
While waiting for the inside work to get started, Dahlager, who has worked in plaster and stucco restoration, teamed up with brickmason Josh McClellan to construct a green room behind the stage, where visiting artists will be able to wait and relax before their performances.
Dahalger said the room will include a wet bar, an area for lounging and bathrooms. Plans call for musical performances to be scheduled on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.
Carson said the theater renovation is coming to fruition due to a lot of efforts through the years, including the town, Tri-County Citizens Foundation and Sam Tayloe’s Reevestock festivals. Now that the restoration is being done privately, she said, “He’s still trying to shed light on the project and keep people interested in the Reeves Theater.
“He’s a great guy and a great musician.”
Though they didn’t grow up in Elkin, Carson said she and her husband took their children to see movies at the theater after they moved to town. They also contributed to earlier efforts to replace its leaking roof and remove the asbestos inside.
Kathy Chaffin may be reached at 336-258-4058.