Londonderry’s Loss is Derry’s Gain with Tupelo Move

Scott Hayward is bringing it all back home.

The Derry native and owner of the Tupelo Music Hall in Londonderry wants to move his performing arts venue to A Street in Derry. He was scheduled to go before the Derry Planning Board for a site plan review July 6, after this newspaper goes to press.

The building is the former Gold’s Gym and is owned by Derry Wellness Realty LLC. It is appraised at $1,056,0500 and is 20,000 square feet.

Hayward wrote in an e-mail, “I have been working on a plan to expand the venue for a few years. We began by trying to figure out a way to expand at our existing location but we couldn’t make it work on that lot because our parking requirements are more than we could fit on the property.

“The expansion is to take advantage of getting bigger artists, to be able to sell more tickets to shows that currently sell out really fast, to get more parking, more bathrooms, and be able to do more events,” he explained. “We also needed a bigger stage, a higher stage, and artist facilities that were on the same end of the building as the stage. Everybody (artists, patrons, and Tupelo) will benefit from these changes.”

Tupelo has been in Londonderry for 12 years, and Hayward said that he “loved being in Londonderry.” But, he wrote, “The best situation available for us ended up being in Derry. For the project to be affordable, we require an existing building with enough land to park 200 cars, gas, town water and sewer, and a busy area with good visibility and signage.”

The A Street property was “the only one that checked all the boxes,” he said.

“I’ve loved being in Londonderry,” he said. “The people and town have been wonderful to deal with.”

He termed the decision to move “bittersweet.” But he’s looking forward to being nearer home and supporting his home community.

Tupelo will join the arts scene that already has Pinkerton Academy’s Stockbridge Theatre and the Derry Opera House, he said, adding, “Derry will benefit in many ways. Whenever a performing arts center builds in a town, the surrounding businesses (restaurants, gas stations, shops) get a lot of business. If we have a sold-out show on Tuesday night, these businesses will thrive at a time when they were not typically busy.” Tupelo is a rising tide that will lift other metaphorical boats, Hayward observed.

He is looking at a July 15 closing date, he wrote, and hopes to open in Derry at the end of 2016. He will celebrate 12 years in Londonderry in September.

At its June 16 meeting the Derry Highway Safety Committee found no traffic issues with the plan.

Hayward’s Londonderry venue can seat 240 for folk, blues and bluegrass concerts featuring nationally-known performers. The A Street venue will have a capacity of 475.

Hayward noted that, “The beauty of a business like this is that 60 percent of my customers leave together. A smaller number remains behind, to get autographs from the performers and just hang out.”

His is not a heavy drinking crowd, he added. His customers are in the 45- to 65-year-old range, and they don’t show up early to party. “They come in to see the show and they leave,” Hayward observed.

His hours will be 8 to 11 p.m. except for Sundays, when he will open at 7 p.m.

There will be 207 parking spaces and Hayward said those will be adequate, noting, “For the smaller events, it’s one car per customer or couple. For the bigger events, they carpool.”

Hayward said he hosts a range of events, from small, intimate concerts with table seating to times when he turns the club floor into a stadium.

Hayward estimated that about 50 percent of his guests would exit onto Manchester Road (Route 28), while another 50 percent will take the back road to B Street. He has a lot of repeat guests, he said, and “once they know where Tupelo is, they find their own way to get there.”

He estimated that 70 percent of his guests are local, from a 30-mile radius.

He will rarely be at full 475 capacity, Hayward predicted. At 70 percent he would fill 330 seats, and generate about 150 cars.

Derry Superintendent of Operations Alan Cote didn’t think half the customers would go out B Street.

“Most people don’t think of using the back roads,” he said, adding, “But at 11 p.m., Manchester Road is pretty quiet.”

Hayward said 98 percent of his tickets are bought online, and he provides directions. “I can tell them to use the back way,” he said.

But Cote said he’d rather see the concert-goers leave by Manchester Road, noting, “The back roads aren’t conducive to high-volume traffic.”

Karl Dubay, an engineer with the Dubay Group, said, “Londonderry tried to keep him there. We looked at a couple of sites there, but they just didn’t work.”

Dubay predicted that Tupelo’s “mature customer base:” would not cause a lot of trouble for Derry. “This is a responsible client base, who will actually spend money in town,” he said.

That’s part of Hayward’s motivation for looking to his hometown. “When I book people to this venue, it will put Derry on the map,” he said.

Dubay’s design would also minimize congestion by having the entrance to the side, and tour buses would park in the back, he said.

The committee, which is advisory, agreed unanimously to send a memo to the Planning Board saying it has no issues with the Tupelo relocation.

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