Although downtown Elkin is a sleepy little place today, it was once the center of local business and entertainment. Many successful efforts have been made to improve downtown activity and soon, another success will be added to the list as the Reeves Theater once again opens for business.
Originally opened in 1941, the Reeves Theater was a central component to the entertainment of Elkin and Jonesville. Optometrist Dr. W.B. Reeves opened the theater as a way to provide Elkin with movies and live entertainment. Interestingly, the theater also housed Dr. Reeve’s optometrist office thus enabling people to conveniently make appointments while catching a show. When the theater eventually closed in 1994, many residents were sad to see it go. “Going to the theater was exciting,” said Elkin native Sonia Priddy. “My favorite part was the balcony; it had the feeling of being in an opera house.”
Since then, there have been multiple attempts to restore the theater, but none have been as successful as Erik Dohlanger and Debbie Carson-Groner’s. “My partners and I have an artsy vision,” said Dohlanger. When they realized the Reeves was for sale, they saw it as the perfect opportunity to hone in on what some would call a crazy idea.
In September of 2012, reconstruction plans for the Reeves began. Dohlanger, who acts as co-owner, superintendent project manager, and head contractor, eagerly provided details regarding the project.“The initial business plan is to open up a bar, cafe, and music venue,” he explained.
On April 13, 2015, the $2 million project took shape, and complete reconstruction of the Reeves began. Refurbishing the Reeves was no easy task; the entire space was basically an empty hole with a caved roof, four walls, and scattered tile. Dohlanger, along with his teammates Josh McClellan and Russell McCumber, quickly rose to the challenge. Today, roughly 80 percent of the renovations are finished with a completely new interior. The only things left are what Dohlanger calls “tying up loose ends.” Although the Reeves may have new renovations, Dohlanger and his team have tried to maintain the vintage aesthetic as best they could. Not only did they manage to restore the original tile from 1941, but they built a new stage and balcony.
The theater will hold a total of 297 seats (65 of them being balcony), and the cafe will be located in the outside lobby.
They have tried to keep the process as close to home as possible by incorporating many local businesses in the renovating process. Not only will the cafe itself be farm to table, but many types of bands are being encouraged to play at the Reeves, “We live in a great area that taps into the Americana crowd,” says Dohlanger, “Many local musicians are lining up for it.”
As the reconstruction of the Reeves reaches its final stages, Dohlanger and his team are hopeful the Reeves will “increase Elkin tourism and serve as an anchor for downtown.”
Many citizens who grew up with the Reeves are also excited to have it back. “[The Reeves] was here when my parents grew up,” said Priddy. “I think bringing it back would be good for older and younger generations because of nostalgia.”
Afton Nelson, Taylor McKnight, and Rebecca Reece are students at Elkin High School.