Stubborn Brothers hopes to save historic Crescent marquee

Microbrewery seeking to retain look, historic tradition of vaudeville landmark

Contributed photo A view of the former Crescent Theater circa 1950, featuring a blade-style marquee, when it was one of Shawano’s popular movie houses.

Contributed photo Renovations are underway at the former Crescent Pitcher Show which will soon become the Stubborn Brothers Brewery at 220 S. Main St. in Shawano

The marquee outside the former Crescent Pitcher Show in downtown Shawano has for many years been part of the historic landscape of South Main Street.

Though it has changed in shape and style over the decades, as time and fashions changed, it has served to designate the Crescent building since its original incarnation as a vaudeville theater since the early 1900s.

Later, the Crescent, at 220 S. Main St., became a community staple as a movie theater — the vaudeville stage hidden by a movie screen — and soon will be home to Stubborn Brothers Brewery.

It would be the usual practice in such situations to tear away the old to make way for the new — to pave paradise and put up a parking lot, to paraphrase the Joni Mitchell song — but if there’s anything these brothers are stubborn about, aside from beer, it’s history.

Stubborn Brothers is hoping to keep not only the vaudeville stage, but the historic marquee in place.

The brothers recently put the word out on social media seeking community feedback on what should be done with the historic Crescent marquee.

Aaron Gilling, co-owner of Stubborn Brothers Brewery, said consultants told them they should get rid of it, that it would be too costly to rehab.

The existing marquee has been worn down over the years, is broken in places, and for all of its historical significance is not particularly pleasing aesthetically. One could even call it the Marquee de Sad.

The community still seems to want it, or something like it, in place.

“It’s so historic,” Gilling said. “Everyone seems to believe in keeping it.”

The cost of doing so, however, was not in the original game plan.

The cost of rehabbing the existing marquee is around $25,000, according to Gilling.

Another option, to bring back the 1920s blade-style marquee that used to adorn the theater, was estimated at around $50,000.

The brothers have launched a fundraising effort that would allow for one or the other of those options, selling community tours and membership in the Mug Club to raise money.

“We need to have at least 200 people sign up at $20 minimum donation to have the community tours be a viable fundraiser,” Gilling said. “We seem to have that support and will offer tickets per donation to the Save the Marquee fund based upon approval and support of the city.”

Gilling said the brothers will have to look at alternatives if they don’t attract those kinds of numbers, “but we are incredibly optimistic.”

In the meantime, reconstruction of the building’s interior has continued, even yielding some surprises.

Removal of the existing ceiling tile has revealed the existing art deco ceiling design, complete with gold edging (since painted over).

Gilling said the original ceiling will be kept.

Gilling said the brothers also plan to keep the original vaudeville stage for music, theater and other shows, though there will be some changes to the stage for practical reasons.

In its development agreement with the city, Stubborn Brothers described the new establishment as a microbrewery, pub and entertainment venue.

The craft brewery will be a seven-barrel system, with six varieties offered, Gilling told the Common Council in September 2016.

“That will be about 250 to 300 gallons of beer,” Gilling said, adding the brewery will have the ability go up to 15 barrels. There was also discussion of a dance hall and catering on the second floor.

“Our emphasis is really on a great venue of entertainment,” Gilling said. “We’re doing our best to keep the stage so can have an entertainment aspect as well.”

There has been some tweaking to that business model since then.

“Like any business, we roll with the punches,” Gilling said. “Things have changed based upon the feedback we have received from city leaders, private consultants, and government codes and regulations.”

Gilling said Stubborn Brothers chose Shawano for its brewery because it’s a community that stands by and supports its own.

“We chose the Crescent theater because it is a landmark of the city that sat vacant for years and needed help,” he said.

Gilling said the choice was made even though it was not necessarily in the company’s best financial interests.

“Economically, this theater was not in our best interest to buy and renovate as the cost of renovation has been nearly triple what it would have been to build a modern brewery on a vacant lot,” he said. “But that is not Stubborn Brothers’ ethos. We truly care about Shawano and so we have made some hard decisions as many other people have done on Main Street.”

The brothers’ development agreement with the city calls for the city to provide Stubborn Brothers with a $270,000 10-year loan at a 4 percent interest rate, and a grant of $80,000.

For its part, Stubborn Brothers is expecting to put about $547,000 in remodeling costs into the project.

It’s expected the building will have an assessed valuation of $500,000, including personal property, once the remodeling and renovation is done. If it falls below that figure, Stubborn Brothers will have to make a payment to the city in lieu of taxes to make up the difference in property tax revenue.