Renovations continue at Shores Theatre as old marquee comes down

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

In April 2019, bar owner David Harden announced his intentions to purchase and renovate the historic Shores Theatre at Nine Mile and Mack in downtown St. Clair Shores. 

He would have liked to be open as a restaurant by now, but the ongoing pandemic set him back in ways that couldn't be imagined. Harden, who also owns popular whiskey bar Butter Run Saloon, says the next step is removing the decrepit marquee from the front of the building this week. 

Progress is being made on the renovated Shores Theatre in St. Clair Shores.

A modern, but vintage-looking sign will go up in its place. The restaurant and music venue could open as early as summer 2022. 

"It's going to be a new retro marquee, it's going to look like the original one in late '30s early '40s ... it's a pretty neat sign," Harden told The Detroit News earlier this year, adding that he knows he may hear it from local history buffs once they take the old sign down, but it has to go and the new one will be dazzling. "When you see it you'll say 'wow.'"

Harden says the plan is still to turn the nearly 10,000-square-foot Shores Theatre into a combination bar and restaurant and live music venue. 

"We lost a year with COVID. In January we started back up, we leveled the floor," he said, adding that he hasn't found any long lost treasures during the renovation aside from an empty American Red Cross canister from the 1945 war fund and a few concert posters from the 1980s that somebody had stashed in the attic. 

The Shores Theatre, seen here on Friday, April 19, 2019, has been vacant for several years. St. Clair Shores native David Harden has purchased the historic property that dates back to the 1930s. The owner of the Butter Run Saloon plans to develop it into a restaurant, bar and entertainment venue.

In the Shores Theatre's early days it showed first-run films and was one of many neighborhood movie houses throughout Metro Detroit, before the era of the multiplex theater. It hosted romantic war drama "Mrs. Miniver" in 1942, Disney's "Song of the South" the summer of 1956 and Roger Moore-era Bond film "Octopussy" in the 1980s.

In the 1960s it was renovated with wood paneling, Spanish-style lighting and renamed "Shores Madrid." In the 1990s you needed a only buck or two to catch family-friendly flicks like "D2: The Mighty Ducks" or "Air Bud" before the business was updated again in 1999. 

While some residents may complain about the construction (the building is surrounded with fencing now), Harden, a St. Clair Shores native, said at least progress is being made on the theater, which opened in the 1930s and closed in the 2000s. 

"It sat empty for 13 years. To me that was an eyesore," he said. 

More:Butter Run Saloon owner to turn historic Shores Theatre into music venue and restaurant

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Twitter: @melodybaetens