One's a former upscale furniture store that's retained its stylish trappings.
The other's a former movie theater that just might have its own version of the Phantom of the Opera.
The Venue at Abode and The Boulevard are two new venues for live music and other events in Wichita. They're not nightclubs open on a daily basis, but they do plan to be a regular part of the city's entertainment scene.
The Venue at Abode is in the former Abode Home furniture store at 1330 E. Douglas. Bill Jackson and his son, Josh, operated it for six years before shutting the doors this summer. The store had been known for its contemporary merchandise, and the $2 million, 10,000-square-foot showroom's design by Wilson Darnell Architecture reflected that.
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"Aesthetically it's an amazing building," Josh Jackson, marketing director for the new Abode venture, said. "It's just got so much class and character."
The design includes "light cloud" fixtures hanging from a soaring ceiling with exposed ductwork and floors of hardwood, bamboo and stained concrete in the main space. There's an Asian-themed room with a shoji screen and oversized Buddha head, and a circular room with a skylight. Guarding one doorway are two huge serpentine sculptures.
"It kind of has that 'wow' factor," said Kyle Filiatreault, the new venue's general manager.
Jackson said his father didn't want to get rid of the building, since he owns much of the property on the block. The final impetus for turning Abode into a music venue were a couple of shows that were staged there before the furniture store closed, including a CD release party for the Moreland and Arbuckle blues duo that drew about 500 people.
"I probably had 50 people at Moreland and Arbuckle telling us, 'You ought to make this a venue,' " Jackson said. "We thought this had more chance for success than anything else."
Jackson said he hopes to book touring midlevel musical acts — "bands that are on their way up" — at Abode about once or twice a month, along with making it available for local bands, weddings, reunions and other events. Jazz is one genre that seems underrepresented in Wichita, he said.
The main hall seats 288 with room for nearly twice that many to stand, he said.
The Boulevard, at the corner of Lincoln and George Washington Boulevard, has a much longer history, opening as the Fox Boulevard Theater in the late 1940s. In the 1980s it became a Gold's Gym, then was converted into a production facility for Harvest Communications, which filmed health-related content there.
"It's basically a sound stage," owner Tom Rodriquez said. "It just has great acoustics."
Rodriquez also owns Complete Music and Video, which provides music and video for wedding receptions and other events. He had worked on several events with the hall's previous owner. When it came up for sale, he jumped at the chance.
The space has a capacity of about 400, with a dance floor, sound system and dedicated backstage area.
Local promoter Don Bean has been bringing touring acts like blues artist Laurie Morvan and zydeco master Jeffery Broussard to the Boulevard.
"Our niche is going to be offering great atmosphere that's not a bar for people to see national acts," Rodriquez said. "We want a place where people can sit down and enjoy themselves. It's not 300 people who are there and 50 are there for the music and 250 are there because it's a bar where they can drink."
However, both the Boulevard and Abode do have licensed bartending services that sell drinks during events.
Upcoming concerts include folk singer-songwriter Martin Sexton at Abode on Sept. 24, and theater rock group Sixx at the Boulevard on Halloween weekend.
The latter should appeal to the Boulevard's resident ghost, whom Rodriquez swears exists.
"We've had some occurrences where I've been here at 3 o'clock in the morning and I've heard an organ playing," he said. "There's no organ anywhere near this building. We have an employee who's scared to go upstairs by himself."
If you go>
new music venues
What: Two new spaces to hear live music
Where: Venue at Abode, 1330 E. Douglas, and the Boulevard, 900 George Washington Blvd.