Old Kingston firehouse to become theater, restaurant

KINGSTON — The former Kingston fire house: $930,000.

Four local men putting their heads together to bring Kingston families an avenue of entertainment: priceless.

Once the sold sign went up on the old fire hall — after it was on the real estate market for more than a year — rumors started spreading about what it might possibly become.

The 6,200 square-foot building, purchased by local residents and business owners Dave Wetter and his son James Wetter, Rick Lanning, and Kingston High School soccer coach Craig Smith, is scheduled to open this winter as an independent movie theater and restaurant with an open space designed for community meeting groups.

The deal closed June 16 and construction is already underway.

“Because I’m connected with the school I try to keep it low key but word got out,” Smith, 54, said regarding the rumors. “The people most excited about this idea are the local business owners and kids because it gives everyone something to do.”

The partnership formed in May while hashing out ideas of what Kingston needs to make it a self-sustainable, revitalized town. A movie theater and restaurant, which will serve breakfast, they said Monday, are it.

“You need to build what you need,” said Lanning, 48. “We need some community infrastructure.”

In addition to infrastructure the men wanted the chance to liven up their community themselves before a corporate chain or someone outside the area bought it.

“We wanted to make sure it was locally and viably used instead of someone outside just landbanking on the property,” said Dave Wetter, 63.

After their initial meeting, the four placed an offer over the course of about a week.

“You know it’s something good when four strangers come together and put on offer down in one week,” said Smith.

Smith, who studied theatre performances in New York and has 29 years worth of background in the video industry, plans to move his Peninsula Video store (currently located in Kingston Crossing) into the building. He’ll open up a movie theater that will show independent, art, documentary and foreign flicks to a house accommodating 100 viewers.

Ironically, the building is located across Kola Kole park from the old Kingston Schoolhouse, which used to house the Kingston Little Theater, Smith said.

“Back when things were bigger and better,” Smith said jokingly, “we used to have so much more to do here. We had the Mouse House, the Almo Theater, bowling lanes and a golf course.”

Smith said he plans on hosting matinee and midnight movies in the theater, which will be complete with a concession stand that sells popcorn “with real butter. It won’t be that phony stuff,” he said.

The restaurant, which has yet to be named, is set to be run by Sean Pickard, who currently owns Kingston Crossing’s Coastal Cafe.

Gillian Gregory, North End’s chairwoman on the board of fire commissioners, said she is extremely pleased with the whole deal.

“It’s exciting,” she said. “We were fortunate to find a group of people to put it to good use for Kingston.”

The money from the purchase will go toward enhancing current capital and real assets for the fire department, she said.

Now that the deal is finalized the men said they can’t wait to get started on the project and offer the meeting space to local non profit groups.

“Since the Kingston Inn burned down and Dickerson’s was torn down there hasn’t been really any good meeting spaces,” Lanning said.

Currently there are more than 20 local non-profit groups who regularly meet, he said.

“We signed on the dotted line before thinking about (monetary) numbers,” said James Wetter, 37. “Because we believe in this so much the money is secondary to filling a need in the community.”

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