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The Garage Closing

The Garage, a live music venue that helped pave the way for new businesses in the downtown Winston Salem area, will host its goodbye performance on its annual New Years Eve concert starring “The Genuine.”

“There probably won’t be a dry eye in the crowd as we say our final goodbye and take our final bow from that stage,” said Tucker Tharpe, the owner of The Garage.

Due to a competitive market on a local and national level, The Garage will be suspending its operation. During an 18-year stint the venue wasn’t able to break even at best. However, Tharpe strongly believes that this isn’t the true end of The Garage brand.

“At this point I’ve already had people who have wanted to purchase the brand, so to me it’s not over, the brand isn’t over,” said Tharpe.

“The Garage was an extraordinary place that created extraordinary people,” said Ed Bumgardner, a musician who had played at The Garage and used to cover The Garage for The Winston Salem Journal.

On a phone call with Bumgardner, he talked about how wonderful of a venue The Garage was, his working relationship with all owners, what this means for downtown Winston Salem and his hopes for the future.

“To me, it’s almost dizzyingly unthinkable to think that there is no place like this or a Ziggys or Casa Blanca or a large scale club downtown…it’s just mind boggling,” said Bumgarder. These venues were other live music venues in the downtown area that have closed over the years.

He said that in the big picture the closing is just a bump along the way for development downtown. From a cultural standpoint it is terrible for the downtown area.

Richard Emmett, one of the original founders of The Garage, said, “The Garage helped stoke the fire of small business’s opening in the arts district and elsewhere. It gave other entrepreneurs an idea that they could do something downtown that could work too.”

Tharpe talked about a quote a reporter told him in the past that he uses now to describe the feel of The Garage. He said, “The Garage made her feel like it was built around the music and held up by the posters.”

Bumgardner said that he has a hard time imagining a music scene with The Garage.

“Richard was a man with a vision,” said Bumgardner. “He took what was literally an empty garage downtown and built it up. There was nothing, but literally hay bails that people sat on.”

From a musician standpoint, Bumgardner said that he had never met club owners who were so great to work with and who went out of their way to create an environment that was conducive to making great live music every single time you walked on stage.

“It just had this vibe, it was almost impossible not to play a wonderful set there and on that level from a musician standpoint this loss is catastrophic,” explained Bumgardner.

He and others said they hoped a venue with a similar vibe will open in its place.

“I am hopeful that Winston Salem will be able to find another room like The Garage or like Ziggy’s, a bigger room for musicians in the near future,” Emmett said. “It was a special place for a lot of people and a lot of bands and I think it will always have a special place in Winston Salem’s arts and music history.”

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