Two Port Townsend locales honored with Main Street program awards
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The Starlight Room in Port Townsend recently received the Entrepreneurs of the Year award from the Washington State Main Street Program. Commemorating this are, from left, Silverwater Cafe owners Alison Hero and David Hero, rear, Rose Theatre owner Rocky Friedman and Port Townsend Main Street Executive Director Mari Mullen. Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Two downtown landmarks have been recognized by the Washington State Main Street Program for entrepreneurship and visual impact.

The Starlight Room, a boutique movie house that is a collaboration between owners of the Rose Theatre and the Silverwater Cafe, earned an Entrepreneurs of the Year award for the joint project, which opened in October.

The Eisenbeis Building, which weathered a long rehabilitative period that included the restoration of the original facade, earned a Visual Impact award.

Both awards were announced at a Main Street event in Wenatchee earlier this month.

The Starlight Room, located on the third floor of 237 Taylor St., above the Silverwater Cafe, is located in a high ceilinged 1500-square-foot room that has most recently been a banquet facility used by the restaurant.

Silverwater owners David Hero and Alison Hero partnered with Rose Theatre owner Rocky Friedman to create the theater, scouring secondhand stores for an assortment of plush, antique chairs that offer quite a difference from the standard movie seat experience.

They installed a retractable screen for the space, which can accommodate about 46 people for an intimate, sociable moviegoing experience.

“It can be awkward at times when a couple is on a couch and a single person wants to sit down,” Friedman said.

“For that reason we have a few more seats than our capacity.”

“This is more sociable than in other movie theaters,” David Hero said.

“People get here early, have a glass of wine or a bite to eat and be social.”

Friedman said the shows are often sold out, but if someone buys an advance ticket and can’t attend, they can exchange it for a refund if there is enough time before the show.

Silverwater created a special small-item menu for the theater, while the Rose provides a constant supply of its organic non-GMO popcorn from the downstairs machine.

Between the food service and theater management, the venture created seven new part-time jobs.

Port Townsend Main Street Executive Director Mari Mullen said the venture illustrates a collaborative process that defines how downtown areas can find good uses for empty space.

“There are a lot of unoccupied spaces on upper floors that can be put to good use,” she said.

“And it’s great to see people work collaboratively rather than always competing with each other.”

The Eisenbeis Building, 830 Water St., was built by Port Townsend’s first mayor, Charles Eisenbeis, so it is appropriate that its restoration is credited to Michelle Sandoval, the second-to-last one.

It was constructed in 1873 as a 20-foot-by-60-foot single-story structure — the first stone edifice in Port Townsend, according to the Jefferson County Historical Society.

Since that time, the building has housed a clothing store, hotel, movie theater and hardware store.

The building was purchased in 2005 for $4.4 million by Marlies Egberding and Ritch Sorgen, operating as Cracker Factory, with the goal of creating a shared retail and residence space, but the project failed after the economic downturn and the building was taken over by the lender.

Last year, Sandoval, with the support of new owner Kirk Lanterman, jump-started the project and completed a full renovation of the building’s original facade at a $700,000 cost.

During construction, the contractors acquired an old photograph that had a level of detail missing from the previous plans, with the new images incorporated into the renovation.

The building now houses three retail businesses and nine condominiums, four of which are still on the market.

“Port Townsend’s history is reflected in the Eisenbeis Building,” Mullen said.

“And this project shows that with determination, a historic preservation ethic and dedicated resources, an investment that began in the Victorian era still sparks community pride and contributes significantly to our town’s economic vitality.”

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: May 18. 2014 7:42PM
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