Block Party To Celebrate Shawbucks

Shawbucks in downtown will be reborn on Tuesday after a year of construction has converted it into a family-friendly restaurant and entertainment venue.

Jim Roselli and Jason Sample will interview Chuck Hall, whose grandfather built the Shawbucks building in 1929 and survived the stock market crash of 1929, following the 5:30 ribbon cutting to kick off an evening of celebration for Shawbucks Press Room Restaurant.

Shawbucks has been open at that location for 18 years and, as are all businesses, it has been affected by the vagaries of outside forces since nearly the beginning. The original Shawbucks, a Cheers-type neighborhood gathering place, was lost to the needs of other developments. The surviving Macktic Jacks bar with its live bands and DJs was a popular downtown spot for years. However, the business began to fade as the first decade of the 21st century wound down.

Along the way, time, marriage and fatherhood have changed owner Kurt Johnson as well. Johnson says his inner core beliefs and optimism have enabled him to react to changes in his business with imagination rather than fear.

“Fear holds you back and takes away your creativity,” he said. “You can’t be imaginative if you live in fear of failure.”

The Shawbucks Press Room Restaurant and entertainment venue are an outgrowth of Johnson’s view of the Jamestown community and the role each segment in it must play.

It is not about competition and trying to top the other guy, he said.

“We are all in this together,” Johnson said, comparing the business atmosphere downtown to the environment in which plants grow. “You can change what develops in a community by changing the environment.”

He means helping to nurture the good things that are already there and creating an atmosphere of cooperation downtown.

Infinity Visual and Performing Arts, which is bursting at the seams of its Third Street location on Jamestown’s east side, tops his list. With the opening of the renovated Shawbucks, Johnson is announcing two initiatives to help create and sustain an atmosphere for the young students to set their imaginations and creativity free. The first one is Infinity night at Shawbucks. Every Tuesday, Johnson will donate a portion of his sales to Infinity and will encourage patrons to make outright donations to the educational organization.

The other part that is so typical of where Johnson’s imagination takes him, though, he and Infinity Executive Director Shane Hawkins are working out details for a major collaboration, that he is building into his venue.

The space will be available for free, Johnson said, adding that he and Hawkins will continue to look at other ways Shawbucks might help the nonprofit group.

Johnson is taking Shawbucks in new directions other nights as well. Wednesday evenings will feature local musicians and bands, giving those that might not yet be known a place to start. He sees Thursdays as a good night to feature country music. Johnson is aiming to devote Fridays to acoustic instruments. Saturdays will be a return to traditional live bands.

Johnson also feels that an atmosphere of cooperation is important to the success of downtown, particularly among what others might see as a competing business. For Johnson, it means that he is working with Patty Centi, a restaurateur who is reopening the Ironstone, on ways they can help each other. The most recent, and perhaps surprising, example is that, as a favor, she handled the books and money for Shawbucks while he was away for few days.

Their cooperative steps beyond that are bounded only by the possibilities they can imagine when freed from the fear that one business might get a competitive advantage over the other, he said.

And that, Johnson said, is the genesis of a bright future for his business and his community – eliminating the stress and fear and replacing it with creativity and imagining what can be.