Old Robbins Theater Is Now in Foundation's Hands
BY JOHN CHAPPELL
The old theater in the middle of Robbins now belongs to the people, its title held by a nonprofit corporation formed to restore and bring it back to life.
David Cheek handed over the keys to the Robbins Village Theatre to former Mayor Laura Ann Brady on Tuesday. Her daughter, Theresa Thomas, is president of the foundation that now owns the place hook, line and sinker.
Cheek will begin moving his business to another downtown location, and the theater will have its first entertainment during the town's annual Halloween carnival, "Trick-or-Treat Robbins" on Saturday, Oct. 30 - a classic horror movie from the 1930s.
Inside, much of Cheek's stock of antiques and collectibles has already departed, thanks to a sale he held waiting for the state's budgetary machinery to make changes required so Robbins can make good on a targeted grant the foundation secured from the town's $200,000 STEP Implementation Grant.
STEP - the N.C. Center for Rural Development's Small Town Economic Prosperity program - officially culminated the day before in a session at Pembroke University, where Robbins Mayor Theron Bell met with others from STEP-assisted communities across the state to spend time assessing their experiences.
Bringing the old theater back is part of an effort the town is making to create a magnet attraction in the middle of the former textile mill town. Bell sees its central location as making the Village Theatre a potential anchor for downtown economic growth.
Every crowd coming to see something there - whether on screen or stage - is likely to bring diners to local eateries and browsers to local shops, she says. Like the outdoor adventures spurred by Bear Creek Hiking Club, Foothills Outdoors, frequent festivals, Farmers Day and the yearly Star Party, she and others hope Village Theatre will soon be giving folks one more reason to visit Robbins.
Cheek agreed to sell for $85,000 and promised not to seek other buyers or accept offers even if for more money. He wants his old place to be a legacy that will benefit his hometown. Months went by as the foundation got itself organized, its status accepted as a 501c3 nonprofit corporation that could give donors tax write-offs, and application made to and accepted by the Robbins Economic Advisory Panel for a grant. A local individual, who prefers to remain anonymous, donated funds from selling some property to make up the difference.
The first deposit of STEP funds just released by the N.C. Rural Center following their approval of the town's budget amendment went into the bank a week earlier. Town Manager George Hayfield deposited $75,000. Another amount, $11,854 from the donation went in after town commissioners approved a routine budget change. The gift had gone into the General Fund, and action to correct that was on last week's agenda for the regular session of the town board. It passed handily, and Hayfield made the deposit the following day.
Now the real work begins: cleanup, fix-up, and the raising of more money to pay for paint and nails. Local actors who spent many years in the theater are forming an advisory team to help the foundation plan its restoration.
That means more fundraising will now start in earnest. Down the road, Moore County will see a second space to rival the Sunrise Theater in downtown Southern Pines. Some of the seats that will be in the Robbins Village Theatre actually came out of the Sunrise, purchased long ago for public use by the late Sherwood Lapping who dreamed of a theatrical space in the upper end of the county.
Contact John Chappell at 783-5841 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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