There’s an old vaudeville theater on Main Street in Stafford Springs. If you’ve been past it at any point in the last year and a half, chances are you’ve seen Dave Bacchiochi at work.
If you’ve been past that old theatre in the last week, you’ve seen the fruits of his labor- the area’s latest music and arts venue.
The old Palace Theater is now the newest Palace Theater, restored to its former glory by Bacchiochi. The marquee is new, but the ceiling, the walls, and the stage are original vintage.
Roots revival act Coyote Grace christened the stage on opening night last Thursday, which brought in droves of locals who remember when the Palace was a movie theater.
“Opening night was amazing,” said Jan Ellis, who was helping market the new Palace. “There were lots of people from the older generation, and listening to some of their comments, like ‘I remember seeing movies here in 1956,’ it was really great.”
The weekend also saw Roomful Of Blues on Saturday night. Shows coming include performances by Mike Delguidice and Big Shot on Nov 16 and J. Geils on Jan 12. The Palace begins showing movies again on Dec 8.
The building was first constructed in 1900 as the “Comique Theater” showing vaudeville acts. It changed to the Woods Theater in 1930 and started showing ‘talkies,’ Bacchiochi said, before it became a Palace Theater.
“At one point there were over 900 palace theaters. There are hundreds still active in the United States,” said Bacchiochi, including ones in Waterbury and Danbury. This one operated until 1959.
Bacchiochi owns several buildings around Stafford Springs, and says getting people to his beloved town has been an investment for him.
“I’ve been downtown working on buildings since 2008. A lot of storefronts were empty, and I didn’t like the way things were going- there was a lot of wasted space.”
After the reels stopped running, the theater building went through several iterations and changes. Most recently it was JT’s Cafe.
“The original ceilings of 30 feet in height were dropped down. When I would go upstairs to do repairs, I could look across where the pool tables were. If I looked straight across I could still see the cutout of the stage.”
When JT’s gave their landlord notice, Bacchiochi moved to put his plan in place. He says he did most of the renovations himself, and financed it by taking out another mortgage.
“I said, lets make this place for folk music, blues music, trouble free stuff. And lets make it the home of the early show, and start everything between 7 and 8.”
There is no assigned seating at the Palace- it’s come early, tag a seat, then hopefully go out for dinner or some shopping.
“I’ve been thinking about it for years, how to rejuvenate a small Main Street,” he says. “I want to get people downtown, and I’m hoping they’ll spend some money.”