- Associated Press - Monday, April 11, 2016

YOAKUM, Texas (AP) - Tammy Steinmann stood in the lobby of the shuttered Grand Theater, recounting stories from the building’s past about people’s first dates and the times they first held hands.

“How can you not bring it back?” she said with a grin as she stood in the building, which has been stripped mostly to the studs. “You can’t bring back the Grand outside of town; you have to bring it back here.”

Tammy and her husband, Phillip, both Yoakum natives, are looking to bring the long-dormant Grand Theater back to life decades after it shut its door as a movie theater.

The Steinmanns purchased the building at 212 W. May St. in November. Its doors closed as a movie theater in the early 1990s, and for some time served as the Believers Christian Center.

“It’s been, like, the last 12 years that I’ve been really interested in fixing it because it’s just been sitting there,” Steinmann told the Victoria Advocate (https://bit.ly/1VhFIyR). “I’m an educator, and I believe that kids need something to do . There’s not much to do in Yoakum.”

Steinmann said they hope the theater will have at least 194 seats on the ground floor and will open by the end of summer. The upstairs balcony may hold 40 to 50 seats, but Steinmann is waiting on a structural analysis that will determine whether the balcony will be able to stay.

She said she also wants to bring plays to the theater once or twice a year after it opens.

The building, which was constructed in 1922, was a theater for decades, and Steinmann said she did not realize how many lives the theater had touched before she and her husband bought it.

“It goes back to silent movies. My grandma went there, and she remembers it; it has a history,” she said. “I think some of these old things need to be revived because a lot of our grandparents and our parents went there. To me, that’s where it touches me because my grandparents went there. Some of the aged people out there, some of them had their first date there.”

The couple hired Weaver and Jacobs General Contractors, of Cuero, for the remodeling work, which includes asbestos removal and replacing the roof. The large neon sign has been taken down and sent to Dallas-based Yesco Sign and Lighting Service, which removed the sign to refurbish it.

The Yoakum Economic Development Corporation loaned the Steinmanns $150,000, what city manager Kevin Coleman called “seed money” for the project. He said such remodeling projects are more intensive than constructing a new building.

“Getting that building back in use, just like any other kind of building downtown. That is a labor of love,” Coleman said. “Those projects don’t happen unless the right group of people get ahold of a building that really want to see that thing happen.”

Coleman hopes the theater will become a destination spot, attracting people from the surrounding communities.

For Steinmann, the theater will be an attraction for locals who otherwise have few things to do in Yoakum.

“I wanted to do this for the kids in the community, and we’re going to try to get every age, but mainly for the kids in the community, so they can have something to do and for parents to have somewhere to take them,” she said.


Information from: The Victoria Advocate, https://www.victoriaadvocate.com

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