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Robertson donating Carolina theater to AoA

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Zach Robertson is shown outside the Carolina Theater building on Monday. Robertson and wife are donating the theater to Arts of the Albemarle.

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Entertainment is expected to return to the stage at the former Carolina theater, as it is slated to become part of nearby Arts of the Albemarle.

Owner Zack Robertson and AoA officials are in the process of transferring the property — as a donation from Robertson and his wife — to the local arts organization.

On Monday, Robertson said he had been thinking the past six to seven months about giving the former post-World War II moviehouse, located along North Poindexter Street, to the regional arts council. 

"I think it would be real nice if AoA got it because they could do more with it than anybody else," Robertson said. "And I think they need it worse than anybody else."

Robertson said local attorney Tom Nash is representing Arts of the Albemarle in the matter and is going to have the paperwork prepared to complete the deal. Robertson said he and his wife are going to keep the adjacent dining section for now.

Robertson is presently using the onetime restaurant as his office, but he said he still intends to sell that part of the structure instead of again trying to secure a tenant there.

AoA Executive Director Larry Jay Giddens said the property donation resulted after Robertson spoke with a colleague involved with AoA about wanting to donate the former theater.

"And the ball kind of started rolling from there," Giddens said.

Giddens, who has been AoA's day-to-day chief since August, said he and a few staffers had looked at the building shortly after he took the arts council position in Elizabeth City.

"We looked around and kind of dreamed and left it at that," he said.

Giddens recalled seeing Robertson in the former dining part of the Carolina one day and asking him whether he had considered donating the structure and naming it the Zack Robertson Building.

With a slight laugh, Giddens said Robertson replied, "A building with my name on it wouldn't do too well."

Giddens said he is very appreciative of Robertson’s gesture.

"And for him to do that, I thought that was pretty special," he said.

City Councilor Billy Caudle, who's also AoA's arts in education director, said he believes the deal is wonderful.

"And it gives us another venue to do performances and classes and all kinds of stuff," Caudle said. "So, that's a very good opportunity for AoA."

"For the city, it's going to be a long-vacant building that's going to have activity again," he said.

He cited the possibilities of the former Carolina theater being a scene of concerts as well as childrens musicals.

"Of course, it'll give the community something to get behind to help perhaps raise some resources to do some improvements to it," he said.

The Carolina originally opened in 1946 as the Love State Theater, named for brothers Milton and Tom Love. After a fire destroyed the original Carolina building on East Main Street in 1967, the Carolina’s owner purchased the Love State Theater and changed the name to the Carolina.

The Carolina showed the latest Hollywood hits before closing in 1991. For a time, until 1997, the structure was used as a church.

In 2002, Bryan and Mindy Edge reopened the Carolina as a combination restaurant and movie house, but the couple closed the location after slightly less than eight years.

For the next five years, the Carolina had several occupant businesses and was eventually re-opened as the Carolina Restaurant and Main Stage. Steve Hassell, and his wife, Debra, became the building’s new operators. The couple was joined by family members who had previous experience running the nearby former Last Call restaurant and nightclub along East Colonial Avenue.

Steve Hassell kept his promise of eventually reopening the former movie house part of the building as the Main Stage, to feature bands and to have a dinner theater type of setting.

However, the Hassells ceased operations and a subsequent operator, Katie Sawyer, eventually went out of business.

A subsequent specialty business, D&J Woodworking, was in the former dining area before the operator, Douglas Britt, pulled out.

Pasquotank County tax records show both the former theater and the former dining part of the property combined are valued at $140,500.

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