Down, but not out Featured

9:56am EDT July 22, 2002

Shadowbox Cabaret owners had their hands full planning to open a second venue at Easton next month. Now they’re also faced with starting their original business anew – without delaying the expansion plans.

The theater group lost $24,000 in property and its only revenue source March 1 when fire struck the Spring Street building that’s been its home for more than four of the organization’s five years in business.

But rather than simply wait to collect the insurance money and rebuild, the nonprofit group has decided to follow the classic Broadway adage: The show must go on. And so it has.

“We were back at work at 4:30 the morning of the fire,” says Shadowbox President Steve Guyer, noting that the drive, determination and perseverance of the company’s performers and employees has been one powerful element in efforts to keep things going.

“We have knocked ourselves out to not merely provide a service, but to establish mutually beneficial relationships with everybody we meet in this community,” he says. “They’re turning right around and giving back to us.”

On March 2, Shadowbox opened a fund to handle donations and pledges, now topping $16,000, that came in from loyal supporters as soon as word of the fire spread.

“That fund has really grown, not by us spending energy soliciting; that’s people that have written us a letter and said, ‘I can’t believe it. I hope this helps,’” he says.

Those donations – paired with a $60,000 liquid reserve Guyer maintained for emergencies and for research and development — have allowed Shadowbox to continue making payroll for his 37 performer/employees and partners and pull together some off-site performances to raise additional money to help pay bills and recoup losses.

A one-night performance in early April raised more than $20,000, plus $3,000 thanks to a special donation from the Columbus Crew. The company kept expenses to less than $500 for the show because food, space, audio equipment and help were donated.

Shadowbox is also keeping expenses down by taking advantage of supporters’ offers of free or cut-rate office space and equipment. Guyer went to suppliers and explained the situation, obtaining some slack on bill payments.

This month, the group will begin another quest for income – an anticipated $32,000 – beginning May 5 with performances at the Riffe Center, which also is giving Shadowbox reduced rental rates.

“In a typical month of operation at the Cabaret, we generate $50,000 to $60,000 in revenues,” Guyer says. “With the change in our operations, suddenly we don’t have a theater.”

While Shadowbox may be saving some money by not having the expense of regular performances, Guyer says it takes more than $35,000 a month to cover salaries and other bills required to keep the Cabaret in operation. Insurance has provided some payment, and Guyer hopes the total amount covered will be between $130,000 and $140,000. Shadowbox still awaits a ruling on a cause of the fire.

Meanwhile, the group continues recovery of its original company, which will be renamed 2 Co.’s, as in second company, once the Cabaret opens its Easton operation.

Guyer leaves open the possibility of returning to the Spring Street location as 2 Co.’s, but he’s also looking at other possibilities, hoping to remain downtown. If that’s not possible, the group will consider the Brewery, Arena and Short North areas as well, says Stacie Boord, the group’s public relations director.

“We want to be able to have two different performing outlets,” Boord says. “It’s our hope that in a couple of years, the downtown location will be rivaling the [new] Shadowbox Cabaret.”

How to contact : Shadowbox Cabaret, 706 New York Ave., Columbus, OH 43201; phone 424-9190