Tag Archives: small town

PHOTO TOUR: Neglected Theater Gets a Loving — and Fabulous — Rebirth

Before: Faded. Today: Happy.

Before: Faded. Today: Happy. Photo gallery below.

For movie lovers, there’s nothing sadder than an old, abandoned theater – and nothing as glorious as a fabulously restored one.

For a perfect example, look to Lebanon, Tenn., a small town about 30 miles east of Nashville and its Capitol Theatre.

I’ve been visiting Lebanon my whole life, since first my aunt and uncle and now my mother and step-father live there. And even as a kid, I was struck by The Capitol’s faded, forgotten beauty. It reminded me of “The Last Picture Show,” and I longed for someone to see its potential and resurrect it, despite the changes brought by multiplexes and home video.

Now Pam and Bob Black have done just that.

They gave me a tour on Friday, and what a great day-after-Christmas present.

Old Hollywood and On

The Capitol opened with fanfare and a Betty Grable picture in 1949, steps from the Town Square. Like everything else in the South, the theater was segregated, so black people had to sit upstairs. After The Capitol closed in 1981, it came to symbolize the fading core of the town as Wal-Mart and chain restaurants took most of the business closer to I-40 a couple of miles away.

Lebanon, Tennessee, Capitol Theatre, Theater, small town, movies, plays, concerts, venue, wedding receptions, Betty Grable, old movies

Pam and Bob Black in the lobby of their labor of love.

Then, Pam and Bob bought The Capitol and, in 2011, began their meticulous, loving restoration and improvement.

“We felt there was a need to keep it alive,” Bob said. “We heard that someone was going to tear it down, and we couldn’t possibly think of that happening.”

Open since summer 2013, it’s beautiful inside, with original and new Art Deco features; state-of-the-art projection for classic movies; first-class acoustics for live music; and flexibility to host receptions and community events.

The auditorium in another before-and-after

The auditorium in another before-and-after

It’s no insult to the rest of Lebanon to say there’s nothing like The Capitol in town – or probably anywhere in the area until you get to Music City.

Like a Mini-Fox in Atlanta

Now it reminds me of a smaller version of The Fox Theatre in Atlanta. And I hope Pam and Bob find success with concerts like the Variety Playhouse and others in Atlanta – or the Franklin Theatre just south of Nashville. There’s a magic to places like The Capitol that new projects can’t match.

“We try to use it as an avenue for local events,” Bob said. “There’s really no place around where we can do weddings, corporate events, live music, musical theater, dinner theater… we can try and do about everything that there is. We’re very excited about the acceptance that we’ve had in town.”

In recent years, trendy boutiques have popped up on The Square next to ancient shops selling antiques. And The Square itself is currently getting a facelift.

It’s not too much to hope The Capitol will encourage future redevelopment and vitality in Lebanon. Some high-profile concerts, a smart series of movies, a packed calendar of weddings, class reunions and the like?

Just take a look. (Click on a picture to enlarge it. Mouse over to see caption.)



What’s Her Story: Small-Town Shop Owner Uses Integrated Marketing to Tell Her Tale, Grow Her Business

Helene Singer Cash, Crystal Couture, Lebanon, Tennessee, TN, town square, small town, boutique, internet, marketing, Facebook, twitter, pinterest, instagram, fashions, shoes, accessories, nashville

Helene Singer Cash

Helene Singer Cash lost her shop space in 2010 when a flood devastated much of Nashville, Tenn. She reopened 30 miles to the east, on the old town square of Lebanon, population 25,000 (slideshow below). Since then, Crystal Couture – where Singer Cash sells trendy women’s clothing, jewelry and accessories – has grown so much that she’s moving into a space more than three times the size and just a couple doors over. Singer Cash says the key to her success has been a marketing approach that mixes traditional methods, small-town hustle, the Internet and social media.

You’re a small business in a small town. Do people ever ask what you’re doing on the Internet and Facebook?

Oh, all the time. People always ask me, why are you trying to talk to people everywhere, and I say because I want to sell to people everywhere. The Internet has opened up the world to everybody who’s willing to learn how to use these tools. We’re on Facebook and Twitter (@TheCrystalStore), Pinterest and Instagram, plus have a website with a  blog – all of that.

Is that wide net effective in a small town?

It’s just a part of it. We also advertise in four small, local newspapers, and have partnered with publications to write fashion based articles once a quarter, which I don’t have to pay for. And we sponsor a morning segment on one of the local radio stations every morning during drive time. People forget that newspapers and radio in small towns are still doing well and are affordable for small businesses. You have to mix it up to let people know what you’re about.

Your website does more than just promote your merchandise. Why is that?

We want to be seen as fashion experts and friendly advisers in this community – and to talk about popular trends and current events in fashion. It helps connect us to our customers and our community. We want to tell a story,  to have an emotional attachment, to create synergy so that there’s a reason you want to come out and visit us. There’s a story to it, an emotional attachment or commitment, and they want to be included. People like feeling a part of things and feeling included.

You’re fairly new to this town and you’re a part of a mini-rebirth on the square – with several trendy boutiques popping up next to the old antique shops.

We are really involved in Lebanon and very committed to our community. That’s the other thing, you know – you have to support your community, and we do. Giving back is a huge part! You have to support the community that supports you. We like to work with non-profits such as United Way, New Leash on Life and Historic Lebanon. We are active in the city with the Convention and Visitors Bureau, Wilson County: Place to Be, 2 different Chambers of Commerce, tourism committees. I attend city council and county commission meetings and actively know the council and commission members. We sponsor the Lebanon High School Band, Leadership Wilson and Books from Birth. We support, sponsor and donate to many charitable organizations, events and projects.

Some small business owners think they don’t have time for social media, or they’re intimidated or think it’s just a fad. What do you say to them?

Social media is not a fad and it is here to stay!  No matter if you are a bricks & mortar, e-commerce or both, social media is a huge part of what you do.  From branding to marketing–you can shape the opinion others have your business by creating social media campaigns.  Remember, social media is not just Facebook.

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