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The Bakery in Charleston fills a musical need
March 28, 2018

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Fans of live music rejoice! Charleston, West Virginia finally has an all ages music venue. The Bakery, located at 1007 Bigley Ave., has quickly become the go-to venue for audiences of all ages. The Bakery regularly features a wide range of music genres performed by both regional and local artists. The venue, created by longtime members of the local music scene, hopes to provide music fans of all ages a safe environment to witness live music.

The Bakery is owned and operated by three individuals: Chris Ojeda, vocalist and rhythm guitarist of the band Byzantine on Metal Blade Records, Dennis Strom of Limelight Theater, and Jason "Roadblock" Robinson of Luna Park. Robinson also handles booking duties for both The Empty Glass and Boulevard Tavern.

Graffiti spoke with Ojeda and Robinson about how The Bakery was conceived and their plans for the venue.

Graffiti: The Bakery is the first official all ages music venue to grace the area in many years, what inspired you to open the venue?

Ojeda: The catalyst was the need to keep the building known as The Bread Factory from falling into the wrong hands or continuing to degrade to the point that it could no longer by occupied by the artists within it. The owner of the building, Phil Shafer, is a wonderful man and has worked tirelessly to maintain the building but after losing a few of his bigger tenants, it started to look bleak. We decided to start a nonprofit organization called The Charleston Music and Art Collective and base our headquarters in The Bread Factory. This creation of CMAC instantly garnered attention to The Bread Factory and we were able to double the tenancy of artists with a week. We then raised enough money to rent the space that has become The Bakery. We knew this venue was to become a cornerstone in rebuilding an all ages music presence in Charleston, which has been sorely missed for well over a decade.

Graffiti: What struggles did you encounter and how did you overcome them?

Ojeda: The struggles have been mainly financial. There just isn't much money for the arts in West Virginia at this time and since we have been relying mainly on donations, fundraising shows, and free labor, it can only go so far when talking about building a 7,000 square foot music venue. We have just focused on short term goals and keeping our eyes on the prize. One of the biggest struggles as far as renovation is concerned has been dealing with a 100 year old building. Everything is harder when dealing with older structures, but the pay off will be worth it.

Graffiti: I know many of you are longtime contributors to the West Virginia music scene and I'm sure aware of the near complete lack of steady all ages venues in which to perform, which I assume was a major factor in opening The Bakery. What about all ages venues do you believe is important, and why do you think the areas needs an all ages venue?

Ojeda: Most of the musicians that currently occupy the stages in and around WV were weened on the all ages music scene that occurred in Charleston from 1990 to 2000. It was a fantastic time for us kids to hone our skills at all ages venues like Common Grounds, The Pit, The Brickhouse, LKM Music Auditorium, Blossom Dairy. It was a groundswell of young talent and that young talent constitutes most of the artists still performing today. When the all ages venues started to dry up, the only places to see bands perform were at the 21+ over bars. This effectively stunted the next generation of bands from performing locally. Now, we are limited to the number of younger bands because they simply didn't get to experience an all ages scene for well over a decade and it has impacted the bar scene tremendously. We believe if us older musicians can put in the time, effort and sweat equity to build a venue that caters to young and old, it will restart the scene again. It has been a hot topic for years. Now, it's coming to fruition.

Graffiti: Do you have a mission statement, or a summary of your goals for the venue?

Ojeda: Our mission statement has been simple, we are simply trying to create a centralized hub for the art and music scene in Charleston, WV that is exclusively inclusive to all forms of creativity.

Graffiti: I believe in WV that all ages venues are not allowed to sell alcohol no matter a customer's age, so does that mean that The Bakery is an alcohol-free venue? Are other drinks or snacks available at the venue?

Robinson: Actually, I was informed by the ABC that it is legal to sell beer at all ages shows in WV is done according to their rules. When you go to an event at The Charleston Civic Center they sell beer at almost every event, whether it be a sporting event, a concert, and I have even seen beer sold at the concessions at the circus before. The Bakery is an all ages venue but is also a rental venue and it was brought to our attention that some rentals and events will need alcohol i.e. wedding receptions, reunions, wine tastings, bigger national concerts, etc. There will not be alcohol sold at all events, but we are working with the ABC to learn the rules and regulations to be able to do so when appropriate. There are also plans to build a possible concessions area in the future and a small retail space.

Graffiti: What time do shows normally begin and end?

Robinson: When we have been doing all ages shows they are able to start any time after 5 P.M. and we have been putting a curfew on them of 10 P.M. since they are all ages. If there is a rental we will work along their timeline wishes to make their event successful for them.

Graffiti: How has reaction to The Bakery been thus far?

Ojeda: It seems to be widely championed across the board. The shows so far have been small and discreet, letting bands try out the stage as well as our staff learn the room and what needs to be added. It's been a growing process and we learn something each time we open the doors. Our intial plans for The Bakery have morphed and changed each month we finish certain renovations. Anyone who has attended a show so far has seen the progress we have made as well as the amount of work left to be done but they all leave with positive feedback. By April, we should be ready to show everyone what we have been working so hard to achieve.

Graffiti: What would you like potential customers to know about the venue?

Robinson: We are working hard to make The Bakery the best multipurpose venue on the state that includes a professional PA and knowledgeable sound engineer staff that can host anything from concerts (to) small theater plays. Also perfect for monthly rentals for meetings, lessons such as dance, Zumba, yoga, music, art. In the future the non-profit will be holding community and educational seminars out of The Bakery as well. We can do just about anything and would love to work with the community.

Graffiti: What are your hopes for the future of The Bakery?

Ojeda: Our main goal is to make The Bakery a hotspot for live music and creative outlet for art, free of restraint. We believe The Bakery can help put Charleston back on the map for national touring bands and artists alike. There is a segment of music and art lovers in southern and central WV that are starved of entertainment. We are striving to make The Bakery a place to fill that need.

Graffiti: If people want to get involved, either by volunteering, working, donating, etc. Is there a way that they can? Are you looking for any help?

Ojeda: Yes, we are always looking for dedicated workers to assist us. Anyone interested in volunteering their time can follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TheBakeryWV or at Charleston Music & Art Collective. You can also donate there as well.

Graffiti: Is there anything else you'd like to add? Any closing statements?

Ojeda: We just want to say we appreciate all of the support that we have been given over the last 6 months, we appreciate the opportunity to spread our message through outlets such as Graffiti and we hope that The Bakery will give the Charleston Music and Art scene a much-needed shot in the arm. We just have to keep the doors open and take it month by month.

You can find The Bakery online on Facebook. A website, www.TheBakeryWV.com is in the works and should be launching soon. Tickets for upcoming shows can be purchased online through the event pages on Facebook or at Budget Tapes and Records, Sullivan's Records, Rock City Cake Company and Bully Trap Barber Shop.

If you would like to contact The Bakery you can e-mail CMACBakery@gmail.com , message their Facebook page, or call (304) 807-9023.

Richard Allen is a freelance writer for various publications. He can be contacted at richardallenwrites@gmail.com.

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