Ridglea Purchased by Gas Pipe Owner
Jerry Shults, owner of The Gas Pipe, a Southwestern regional chain of smoke shops, is about to close a deal on the Ridglea Theater building and is currently making interior repairs. Shults also is seeking “the appropriate historical designation so the building can stay viable for generations to come,” he said. The Ridglea’s fate has been up in the air since Bank of America offered to buy the building and turn it into a bank. BOA backed off the deal in October, probably because of public resistance to the plan. The Ridglea will continue being a live music venue under Shults’ ownership. The Ridglea Theater’s Wesley Hathaway and Richard Van Zandt will be kept on for as long as they care to be a part of the project, Shults said. “I’m thrilled to be part of it,” he said. “I’ve been pursuing it for 15 years.” Shults said that he will be paying close to $2.2 million, not counting the money that he’s spending out of pocket to return the ’40s-era building to as close to its original condition as possible. Part of the rehabilitation involves restoring the terrazzo flooring and a mural. Seating will increase to about 1,200 to 1,500 after the rehabbing is complete. “I’m hoping to attract larger acts and turn the Ridglea into a cultural center,” Shults said. The grand opening will be in mid-May. Shults also is setting up a Friends of the Ridglea Facebook page, which, among other things, will allow fans to help determine programming.