The Trail Theater has new owners with a name familiar in St. Joseph.
The historic building located Downtown at Ninth and Felix streets has been purchased by three members of the Montee family, according to Andy Montee, who also owns Mokaska Coffee. Members of the family also operate the Montee Law Firm.
As far as the plans for design, Montee said the exterior will be preserved in as much of its original form as it can be. The inside is expected to be slightly modified with the removal of some seating for standing-room activities to make the theater more accommodating for concerts and live performers of different kinds. Adding a kitchen and bar area is expected to be part of the plans as well.
Montee said that the re-opening, which isn’t expected until early 2022, will be essential to the revitalization of nightlife in the Downtown area. He feels the theater will benefit other area businesses that would appreciate the traffic it can bring.
“There are fewer entertainment options Downtown than, I think, are needed to really support the thriving nightlife on the weekends. A lot of people in the town have a lot of connections to the Trail. It seems like it could really fit a thing that benefits a lot of the other businesses around here who rely on Downtown as a whole being an attractive entertainment center for the city,” Montee said.
Downtown Liaison Christy George and those within the Downtown Community Improvement District have made it their mission to exhibit the uniqueness of the area. In 2019 and 2020, they contributed almost $100,000 toward cultural and economic activities and even launched a new website. George says the re-introduction of the Trail to the younger generations who have yet to experience the theater, and even those who have fond memories, could be the final step in consistently attracting people to Downtown.
“It’s such a cool building and for so long, everyone said ‘We’ve got to do something with that,’” George said. “It’s one of those key things that’s gonna bring people Downtown. When we revitalize those old buildings that everybody has memories of, it helps us to keep our values and our historical character which makes us so cool and unique from any other city.”
The single-screen Trail Theater opened in May of 1951 and ceased operation in 2007. Winston Bennett and Kim Jennings, two local businessmen, bought the Trail in 2011 and started renovations, but the facility never reopened under their ownership.