Daniel Thomas and Judd Louis are musicians, builders and businessmen. They are renovating a spot, at 663 SE Jackson St. in downtown Roseburg, that is in the same historic building that houses the Masonic Lodge. Their one-of-a-kind music venue, SunnySide, features pianos turned into bars, a large stage, an L-shaped loft and even a basement area that requires part of the floor to be lifted up to get to. SunnySide was supposed to open earlier this summer but was a victim of COVID-19, which caused delays. Thomas and Louis recently opened a GoFundMe account to help move the project along. The duo gave The News-Review an update on the project and shared their vision for it.
QUESTION: Why did you pick this location for SunnySide?
ANSWER: This venue, with its large ceilings, open floor, large windows for natural light along with great acoustics, was just right for our vision to create a great music venue.
Q: Why a live music venue in Roseburg?
A: A city craving culture, art and year-round music is the right place for an entertainment venue.
Q: What are your plans for the site?
A: To have a home for local artists to showcase their art, whether that is paintings, comedy, music, dance, aerial silks, etc. We also want a year-round venue for big acts to have a place to perform, with professional lighting and sound being a big part of the stage. Maintaining the historic aesthetics of the building was very important to us also. The building has an italianate architecture so the beauty is in the details for us. A custom mezzanine (AKA loft) making a second floor with clear visibility to the stage from everywhere in the loft. We put copper patina ceiling tiles on the entire ceiling, chalkboard walls for chalk art, and all the tables are made of vintage pianos ranging from 1860’s to 1930’s. Upright pianos mounted to the red brick wall facing out the giant windows that let in beautiful natural sunlight. Our front entrance will be a custom wood/glass garage door that we can open up to let music into the streets of downtown. Roll out pianos on to the corner to fill the air with great music year around.
Q: What will a visit be like?
A: Depending on what day of the week you come in we could have comedians, live bands, aerial silks, ballet, variety of dance performances, etc. Open mic nights will be regular events hosting different types, such as shadow mic nights. That’s when you cover the performer except their shadow to help grow the confidence of shy performers who are looking to showcase their art.
Q: What are some of the challenges you have faced?
A: The shutdown has been the biggest challenge we faced and things we have discovered working in a building built in 1909. Things are not quite square /even, but we always find a way to continue pushing through. Our motto when facing these issues has been “build it custom” which we enjoy because it makes it our own and gives it that personal touch that an arts venue needs to keep it creative.
Q: How has COVID-19 changed those plans?
A: COVID slowed our project by shutting down events we relied on to finish the last stretch of our build. It has not halted our project, but it moved us from keeping with the buildout to having to work our day jobs to keep funds rolling in to keep our dream alive. Everything is still moving forward, just much slower than originally planned.
Q: Talk about the GoFundMe site — why is it needed?
A: With the increasing demand to get the SunnySide open we reached out to the community to see if they would be willing to support helping get our doors open faster. Because we are a new business we were denied any help from the EIDL small business program. We have applied for two grants and are waiting to see how those pan out, but until we hear something back we will continue to work on our buildout, just much slower than our original projection.
Q: When do you expect SunnySide to open?
A: By Oct. 1, but with the potential to shutdown non-essential businesses again we are worried about setting any target date at this point. Our focus is just to get the building finished so when we are able to open it is not held up by our buildout.
Q: What have you learned from all this?
A: A dream only dies when you decide to shelve it. This project has evolved to be so much more, but always for the better and we will continue to push through until Roseburg gets the entertainment venue it deserves.
Q: Anything else you want people to know?
A: We are very excited to show Roseburg what we have been working on and look forward to the unveiling. We cannot wait to create new memories to be treasured forever within our community.