October 31, 2018
ALMONT — Who wouldn’t want to see their name up in lights?
Turns out, that’s a possibility for an entrepreneur looking to open a new business in the old movie theater on Main Street.
The building—which has been vacant for a number of years—was most recently home to Curves fitness for women and then to a taxidermy business. Before that, longtime former Almont resident and pharmacist Jim Henderson remodeled the old theater in 1983 and re-opened it as a pharmacy.
Today, entrepreneur and businessman Steve Francis is breathing new life into the old building in hopes of sparking renewed interest in downtown Almont.
The Country Smoke House owner says he decided to purchase the old theater and adjacent medical/law office building when he found out the property was being considered for something else: a used car lot.
“I just didn’t want to see the theater torn down and a used car lot in the middle of Almont,” Francis says. “The theater has a lot of history and historical value in Almont. I want to try to preserve some of that.”
Those preservation plans include possible restoration of the theater’s marquis, which was covered up with wood when Henderson remodeled the building.
On Friday, Francis and helper Jeff Morauski began removing the wood panels from the marquis. They also uncovered the theater’s old ticket booth, and removed some drywall panels from what used to be the lobby.
“If the marquis looks like it can be saved, I’m going to do that,” Francis says. “I’d like to restore it to its original condition. Wouldn’t it be cool to see it all lit up again?”
The marquis is not the only cool possibility contained within the building’s walls. The former theater room is spacious, capped off with a vaulted wooden ceiling. Above the theater, a full apartment equipped with a jacuzzi tub where the Henderson family once lived also awaits some TLC.
While he’s not sure what the future holds for the building, Francis believes it would be ideal for a brewery, winery, bakery or restaurant.
“The building is so large, and it’s so cool because of the wide open ceiling, the old wood trusses and all,” he says. “Someone with a little creativity could make the most of it. It would be nice to have somebody we could build it out for.”
Another plus is the parking capacity. Francis says the old theater and adjacent office building boast 75 parking spaces. As for the office building, Francis hopes to spruce it up as well and return it to full occupancy.
The theater on the corner of Stone and Main streets dates back to 1946. According to Hildamae Waltz Bowman’s ‘Almont: The Tale of Then and Now,’ Stanley and Ernest Tesluck of Yale purchased a building that was on the lot from Art Placeway Cleaners in 1946. They razed the building and replaced it with the Almont Theater. The Teslucks operated the theater from October of 1946 until 1955, when they sold it to Pete Dubovenko of Yale. Dubovenko’s daughter was in charge of the theater until 1983, when it was sold to James Henderson.
“The Almont Theater was the most up-to-date theater in the county,” Hildamae Waltz Bowman writes. “It was well attended for several years, but when other movie houses were built nearby, competition became too great, and attendance began to fall off. When it closed, it ended an important era in Almont’s history.”
Call Steve Francis at (810) 798-3064 to learn more about the theater and its possibilities.
Editor’s note: A special thank you to James Wade Sr., President of the Almont Historical Society, for providing historic information for this story.