An old hardware store finds new life in Golden as Miners Alley Performing Arts Center

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Eden Lane/CPR News
Members of Miners Alley cut the ribbon on their new performing arts center in Golden’s old Meyer Hardware building, Dec. 2, 2023

In downtown Golden, the curtain has risen on the new Miners Alley Performing Arts Center, just two years after it rang down on the building’s former occupant, Meyer Hardware

The family-run hardware store was a fixture in downtown Golden for more than 70 years until its owner’s retirement in 2021. However, the building it occupied for the past five decades has found a new life as home to Miners Alley Playhouse

That unusual transformation started with one excited conversation between members of Miners Alley.

Producing Artistic Director Len Matheo recalled, “I got a call from the president of our board and she said, ‘did you hear that they're selling the Meyer Hardware building?’ I said, ‘I sure did.’ She said, ‘we should look into that. What do you think?’ And I said, ‘I agree with you. I've always thought it would be a great theater.’” 

At the time, Miners Alley Playhouse was operating from a cozy, some might say cramped, second-floor space in a nearby building. The backstage area was a congested hallway behind the theater. Although the group wasn’t actively looking for a new home, the roomy hardware store matched their longtime vision of creating a big performing arts center in the foothills city.

The activity that followed was like one of those Depression-era movies where Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland exclaim, "Hey kids, let's put on a show!” and everyone pulls together to save a community institution. It took many players from Golden’s artistic and civic communities to bring the new playhouse to life.

Matheo celebrates the owners of the hardware store for buying into the vision of “one community hub becoming another community hub.”

There was some luck involved too, though. Miners Alley Executive Director Lisa DeCaro, the other half of the married couple leading the team, acknowledged that if a developer had outbid her group, the family coalition that owned the building would've had to go with it.

Eden Lane/CPR News
Miners Alley Producing Artistic Director Len Matheo and his wife, Executive Director Lisa DeCaro pose on opening night at the new playhouse, Dec. 2, 2023.

With financial support from the City of Golden and taxpayers through the city’s Downtown Development Authority, Miners Alley Playhouse was able to raise the purchase price of $5 million.

Scott Vargo, Golden’s city manager, emphasized that the long-term goal is for Miners Alley Performing Arts Center and the adjacent Foothills Arts Center to serve as integral components of a flourishing arts hub right in the downtown.

“There's a large focus within the city of Golden on arts and culture, and I think the idea is to try to continue to even grow that to be a bigger focus," said Vargo. “The use of Miners Alley Playhouse, along with Foothills Arts Center, which is renovating another historic structure across the parking lot, makes for a really wonderful arts center, arts area that we could develop and expand upon hopefully into the future.” 

While the Meyer Hardware building itself may not have been architecturally significant — just a low-slung single-story commercial building fronting a small parking lot — its historical significance in the community made it a valuable piece of the city to preserve.

As much as they hoped to acquire the building, the Miners Alley team was also a bit daunted by what they were taking on. When she learned they had the winning bid, DeCaro said she was initially terrified “but by that point, we were like, there's never going to be a time when this many people are willing to come together to make this happen.”

Converting the hardware store to a performing arts center wasn't without its bumps. Demolition crews found asbestos in the building, which caused delays, and left them with less than a year to build out the first phase, including a main stage theater, lobby, bar and facilities for costumes and sets.  Future phases of the Miners Alley Performing Arts Center will include classrooms, a cabaret space, a second theater space, and artist housing. 

Eden Lane/CPR News
Crowds gather in the lobby of the new Miners Alley Performing Arts Center for the opening night of "The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Show," the company's first production in its new home, Dec. 2, 2023.

It was a race for the team to get the space ready to open the first show; the certificate of occupancy only came through two weeks before the launch of "The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical." Opening night doubled as a celebration of Miners Alley’s new home.

It was all hands on deck to get everything moved in.

Production manager Jonathan Scott-McKean has finally been able to get the staff on a regular production schedule, but he already sees the impact the center will have on the community, both artistically and economically.

“We hire a lot of people. There's a bunch of people, there's a bunch of kids that all work for us, that this is what they want to do. They want to run theaters. They want to be a part of the arts. They want a career that isn't a job, and we provide that for them,” Scott-McKean said. 

Recently, Miners Alley premiered its first show entirely built in the new performing arts center, “Misery” by William Goldman, based on the novel by Stephen King. The show will run until Feb. 11.

Matthew Gale Photography, courtesy of Miners Alley
'Misery' is the first production to be totally built in the new Miners Alley Performing Arts Center in Golden.