Someday, this could all be a bittersweet chapter in the D&R Theatre’s history, Sherry McAllister hopes.
The Aberdeen resident organized a rally outside the theater Wednesday night to show owner John Yonich the town’s support for his hard work over the years. The theater has been shuttered since Saturday, and Scoops and Backstage Espresso closed Tuesday when a wooden barrier wall went up.
At least 150 people gathered in the rain to cover the barrier with signs and notes, running the gamut from pure gratitude to messages of frustration with the government. Yonich has said government bureaucracy on many levels is the reason he closed the theater he spent years and millions of dollars restoring.
McAllister said if the theater re-opens, a photo of Wednesday’s rally could hang in the lobby alongside images of performers who have graced the stage.
“I want this picture of everyone rallying for him to remind him, maybe, when things do get tough, that everyone supports him,” McAllister said.
Her family members have been longtime volunteers at the theater, decorating for holidays, handling concessions and prepping for shows.
“This is kind of our home away from home,” McAllister said.
She knows firsthand Yonich’s dedication to the city: Funerals have been held in the theater, and when the ballet came to town, Yonich sent out free tickets to all the foster families in the area, she said.
“There’s so many things he does that people aren’t even aware of,” McAllister said.
She hoped Wednesday’s show of support would show Yonich his efforts weren’t unnoticed.
“There’s a little shred of hope, I think. Maybe if he saw how many people support him and are just devastated this is closed, it may bump him in the right direction,” she said. “This is us telling him, this is what we’re thinking.”
Suellen Metke, owner of the Grand Heron shop across the street, said she was disappointed she couldn’t be “front and center” for a planned Willie Nelson concert in August, but sympathized with Yonich’s frustration.
“We know it’s hard to do business,” she said. “Just the cost of everything,” from power and water to permits, adds up quickly.
Justin Smith said he loved coming to shows as well as frequenting the coffee shop and Italian restaurant Amore (another of Yonich’s businesses) which will remain open. While the issues Yonich has noted go far beyond the city’s control, Smith hoped the city would take the opportunity to redouble its efforts in areas in which it’s able to help.
“It’s their opportunity to step up now,” he said.”This is when government really works, when people step up and say something.”
Smith said he’d like to tell Yonich,”We’ll go to City Hall and support him and do whatever needs done to get this back up and running.”
Debbie Pickar, who grew up in town, said her daughter just abruptly lost her first job, working in the coffee shop.
“I’m hoping to see it re-open,” she said. “Aberdeen doesn’t need another boarded-up business. It just doesn’t. It’s a waste.”
Aberdeen native Don Keefer just arrived in town to stay with family and had been hoping to move back permanently. “Now I’m seeing this, and — second thoughts. Big time second thoughts,” he said.