By Felicia Farnsworth
This is the final installation of the continuation of Small Business Week. This week, we highlight two businesses located uptown on Prairie Street, The Red Door Theatre and Hembree Furniture Inc. The Red Door Theatre (RDT) is a non-profit organization with a business license through the Tourism Council of Union Springs.
Midge Putnam is the Executive Director of the Tourism Council and has been with them for sixteen years. The Tourism Council is a board made up of fifteen members, and RDT is an umbrella company under this board. RDT resides in the former Trinity Episcopal Church.
In 2002 the Tourism Council decided they needed something other than hunting and fishing to draw people to Union Springs. With the knowledge of the Trinity Episcopal Church being vacant, a theatre was proposed. Land was donated to the Episcopal Diocese in return to use the church to host the theatre. The red doors on the church traditionally signify “sanctuary” in many churches; the name Red Door Theatre honors this tradition.
RDT puts on three to four different shows a year. 2021 will host three shows. May 6-9, they hosted “In Her Own Fashion,” a one-woman production written and told by Dolores Hydock. Their next show will be held July 15-18, entitled “The Savannah Sipping Society,” a Jones Hope Wooten comedy directed by Kathryn Wood.
Their third show will be held on Dec 2-5 called “Smoke on the Mountain,” a musical which Kim Mason will direct. All shows in 2021 are being held at Dream Field Farms. COVID-19 has had a significant effect on the theatre. RDT was shut down for six months at the beginning of the pandemic.
They partnered with Dream Field Farms, and that allowed them to maintain COVID-19 standards and entertain at the same time by providing an outdoor theatre experience. Due to COVID-19, the theatre’s ticket sales plummeted; however, they are getting back on their feet and taking things day by day. With the help of Dream Field Farms, they were the first theatre allowed to return to the stage in Alabama during the pandemic.
A board made up of seven members determines what plays to do by reading the scripts and typically looking for southern playwrights or scripts based in the south. They also look for funny, musical, or pure entertainment pieces that are wholesome. “The theatre is held within an old church, so we try to honor the sanctity of the building and its meaning,” stated Putnam. RDT offers two different summer camps as well.
The children’s summer camp is for children in the second grade through sixth grade. The youth summer camp is for children in the seventh grade through the twelfth grade. They last for one week and this year will run simultaneously. “The camps are a great avenue for the theatre to give back to the community and get the kids interested in this art form,” commented Putnam.
The camps teach the children theatre skills, tech skills about musical theatre, and they are taught by the director of the Lighthouse Theatre Company. They put on a show on the final day of summer camp for their parents to see what they have learned. You can learn more about the Red Door Theatre by visiting their website reddoortheatre.org or following them on Facebook.
Anderson Hembree is the owner of Hembree Furniture Inc. The business has been in his family for 52 years. Hembree’s father, A.H. Hembree Jr., founded the store when it was in the old dollar store on Prairie Street. Mr. Hembree didn’t always want to follow in his father’s footsteps. After graduating from college, Hembree coached football, and Mrs. Hembree was a school teacher.
On a short visit to help his father, thirty years ago, Hembree decided to stay and help run the business. While Hembree Furniture Inc. has a wide variety of good quality furniture, his best-sellers are washing machines, mattresses, and living room suits.
Hembree’s has eleven different styles of mattresses and three different types of washing machines. COVID-19 has made running the business stressful for Hembree. COVID-19 protocols were put in place, and because they were deemed an essential company, they were able to keep their doors open.
The pandemic forced a majority of their sales to be done over the phone instead of in person. “It’s been stressful, but we are fortunate because we sell appliances. It’s harder to operate with plexiglass in place and wearing facemasks, but we have managed to stay operating daily,” stated Hembree.
With deliveries being made and business going on, as usual, Mr. Hembree stays humble to the community, “I’ve been blessed by the community. We went from coaching and teaching to running a business. The community has blessed my family, and I thank them for the opportunity to stay in business.”