The Reed Underground will feature artists and comedians in the historic opera house basement

The basement of the former Reed Opera building will now serve as a venue for concerts, comedy shows and private events, surrounded by an array of shops.

New Old Stock are gearing up for a gig at the Reed Underground on Friday July 15th. (Ardeshir Tabrizian/Salem Reporter)

Earlier this year, drywall concealed the brick walls that supported Salem’s Reed Opera House for a century and a half.

The old brick is now part of the backdrop for live performances in the building’s newly renovated ‘underground’ space.

A few businesses have been operating in the basement since the renovated opera house opened to the public last fall, renamed “The Reed”. But the subway’s “soft opening” is bringing new life to the space, which debuted as an entertainment venue last Friday.

The first show on Friday was a performance by the band New Old Stock, followed by a comedy show on Saturday called Soul of Wit, which featured several local comedians.

Property manager Jodie Vaughn said the space is intended to spotlight various artists as well as host holiday celebrations and a variety of other events.

Vaughn said she still plans recurring free events that Salemites can look forward to at least once a month in the Reed Underground, mostly alternating between music and comedy.

A staircase leading to the Reed Underground on Friday July 15. (Ardeshir Tabrizian/Salem Reporter)

Before California-based investor Cumberland Holdings bought the historic opera house in 2018, the underground space was dark and difficult to navigate, said principal Scott Chernoff, who led the building’s renovation.

“It wasn’t the most attractive place for people to do business, and so the first thing we did was open everything up,” he said.

Instead of repainting the walls or adding wallpaper, he said they tore down part of the walls to see what was behind. They found 150-year-old stacked bricks and stones – now visible in the hallways and stores of the underground space.

“We celebrate that instead of hiding it,” Chernoff said.

Over the next year and a half, he said they will add artifacts, pictures and newspaper articles so people can learn more about the history of Salem, the building and the people who spoke there. , like Susan B. Anthony as well as past presidents. .

Cyrus Adams Reed, who built the historic opera house, had a contract with the state to build space for the Oregon State Legislature, State Supreme Court, and State Library, The Reed’s website said. Officials did not honor the agreement, so Reed had architect GW Rhodes build seven stores, an opera house, and a hotel in the building from 1869 to 1870. When Reed built the 1,500-seat theater, Salem’s population was approximately 1,139.

There is no stage in the underground space, but behind a black curtain is a media wall with screens and speakers to accompany live performances, display presentations or show Sunday Night Football.

The underground space can also be reserved for private events. “If you want to have a salsa dance or a quiz night or a company dinner, we can do all of that,” Vaughn said.

Vaughn said the underground space will soon receive two new restaurants, Tiny Soup as well as a pizzeria yet to be determined.

The space currently includes tattoo shop Zoulbound, Lashes By Chelsea and Quantum Light, which offers metaphysical crystals, yoga, meditation and retail. Also in the building are the Caffé Capri coffee shop, Sun Bear Den plant store, 503 Unwind clothing store, Capitol Apothecary, and Dipped Temptations, which sells dipped strawberry treats.

The building is about 95% leased, Chernoff said. He expects most if not all of the renovations to be completed by mid-2023.

The Salemites have had their hair cut in the basement of the Reed for nearly eight years.

It was Big Derrick’s barber shop for six years before Barbers Underground took over in 2020. Bailey Scott, who worked there for about three years, said the renovations downstairs brought them more foot traffic than never before.

“The companies moving into this space are really big companies, they’re getting a lot of attention,” she said. “I think when it’s all said and done, it’s going to be beautiful.”

Barbers Underground has been in the historic Reed Opera House building since 2020. (Ardeshir Tabrizian/Salem Reporter)

Chernoff hopes The Reed will become a one-stop-shop for the Salem community.

“We are very happy to have a project where we have so many different businesses ranging from restaurants to retail, personal services, creative office, our ballroom, our cafe and a convenience store,” did he declare. “We want to be the place where people – when they think of downtown Salem, they can come and feel comfortable and get what they need.”

Contact journalist Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.

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