Restored Crofoot Ballroom doubles employees to 50 people

It’s been three years since the Crofoot Ballroom
project began in earnest, creating one of the more stunning turnarounds
and successes in Metro Detroit today.

Blair McGowan took a
condemned historic building (the oldest commercial structure in Oakland
County) in downtown Pontiac, a Cool
Cities
grant, and some ambition and turned them into one of the
hottest new music venues in the region, on par with Detroit’s St.
Andrews Hall and the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor. The Crofoot Ballroom now
has 50 employees (up from 25 when the project started) and three
interns. He expects to hire even more people this year as he continues
to expand his business.

“The word is out that the Crofoot is here
and it’s a beautiful venue,” says McGowan, who also helped start St. Andrews
Hall
and Clutch
Cargoes
in Pontiac. “It has great sound and lights. People
appreciate it.”

The musical venue features rock bands, hip hop
groups, electronic DJs, and a host of other music genres popular with
today’s youth. It is branching out and bringing more shows to places
like the Compuware
Arena
in Plymouth, MOCAD and CAID in Detroit, and The
Factory
in Rochester. The Crofoot is also experiencing a good bit
of growth from helping some smaller bands grow by letting them play on
the building’s smaller stage (the Pike Room), the main stage, and then
onto bigger venues like the Royal Oak Music Theatre.

“We
treated them right the first time so they keep coming back,” McGowan
says. He adds that the venue is also hosting other events, such as
wedding receptions, bar mitzvahs, political gatherings, and business
meetings. “We’re just responding and it’s working,” McGowan says.

This
isn’t the first reincarnation for the building at the corner of Pike
and Saginaw streets. In the 1830s the Crofoot
survived a fire that decimated much of downtown. In the 1840s it was
renovated by Michael E Crofoot, a prominent business man who helped
build the 1880s-era Soldiers and Sailors Monument in downtown Detroit.
That resulted in a Mansard roof and Victorian-style tower, which were
eventually removed by World War II. The building nearly fell victim to
1970s urban renewal projects, but survived.

It was abandoned and
on the city’s demolition list as late as 2005 before McGowan saved it.
He restored it much to its 1850s state, preserving a number of interior
details such as old wood beams and brick walls. Today it serves as a
place with an incredible amount of character in a downtown filled with
architectural highlights.

Source: Blair McGowan, owner of the
Crofoot Ballroom.

Writer: Jon Zemke