“The building itself is beautiful and full of so many happy memories for people—including for our own team. It’s a space that’s ultimately about coming together and having fun through a shared experience, in the simplest of ways. We’re so excited to be bringing both the hotel—which has had a veil of mystery for 50 years now—and the theater back into community life.”
– Erin Stephenson
“The building itself is beautiful and full of so many happy memories for people—including for our own team. It’s a space that’s ultimately about coming together and having fun through a shared experience, in the simplest of ways. We’re so excited to be to bringing both the hotel—which has had a veil of mystery for 50 years now—and the theater back into community life.”
– Erin Stephenson
MACK Theater Announcement
November 29, 2022
McMinnville, OR—The Mack Theater, a shuttered icon in the heart of Historic Downtown McMinnville, is making steady progress toward a bright new future. Purchased in October of 2021 by Mactastic LLC—a group with deep local roots and a history of creating community-centric hospitality businesses—the historic theater and interconnected hotel have been the centerpieces of a yearlong study to determine how both buildings can be saved after decades of abandonment.
Partner Erin Stephenson, who is also Co-Owner of the Atticus Hotel, has led the charge, putting her full attention on the effort. “The Mack Theater is a cultural touchstone for our community—a place that’s always been about bringing people together through a shared experience, and we need that more than ever right now. Over the last year we’ve dedicated ourselves to pulling back the layers, gaining a better understanding of the challenges and the opportunities around saving both the Mack and the attached Hotel Yamhill. We’ve brought in engineers, architects, contractors, and consultants to evaluate the buildings, as well as consulting with historic theaters across the state to understand the financial realities of owning and operating a theater of this size, at this moment in history. We’re still in preliminary stages of this project, but we finally feel we have enough information to share our findings with the community.”
Originally opened by the Mattecheck brothers in 1941 as a 500-seat state-of-the-art luxury movie palace, by the late 1990s the Mack functioned as a second-run discount theater, before closing its doors in the early 2000s after maintenance costs outgrew revenue. Two decades later, the theater lacks electricity, heat, plumbing and a functioning sewer system. A river runs under the seats in heavy rain, and birds have left their mark throughout the once glamourous auditorium.
Upstairs in the 1886 hotel—which shares access through the theater lobby—the situation is much the same. Originally built as Cook’s Hotel, offering high end lodging for visitors to the bustling small town, the hotel existed under various names for more than 80 years. In 1971, as downtown McMinnville reached a low point in its lifecycle characterized by an exodus of businesses to Highway 99W, the three-story hotel went out of business. Now vacant and untouched for fifty years, the hotel sits in a state of graceful dilapidation. Lacking functional heat and plumbing, with limited light from a few old knob and tube fixtures, the hotel’s sole occupants for the last half century have been the animals who have called it home.
The condition of the buildings was known to the Mactastic team when they did their due diligence for the purchase. Undaunted, they believed that while the most economical choice might be to have them demolished, preservation and revitalization are always a viable option. Ultimately it comes down to finding the right use for the space and a long-term sustainable business model that supports that use. To do so, all options must be on the table.
To assess both the structural needs of the buildings and their associated costs, as well as define the viability of the various business models that would lend themselves to the spaces and best serve the community, Mactastic kicked off a yearlong feasibility study that encompassed all aspects of the revitalization of the buildings. Through the initial discovery process they created a business plan, had conceptual architectural plans drafted and had the project priced in the marketplace. Once pricing was complete, initial plans required substantial changes to find a sweet spot where their historic preservation efforts could both meet the needs of the community and be financially viable.
Stephenson commented, “We now have a preliminary understanding of what it will take to bring the Mack back. There are significant financial headwinds right now, in terms of both the high cost of construction and a spike in interest rates, which make an already delicate balancing act of priorities that much more challenging. Our goal from the outset of this project was to bring these buildings back to life in a way that lifts our community up, protects what we love and breathes new life into what we’ve lost. We believe we’ve found a path forward, but there’s still a lot of work in front of us to achieve it.”
Preliminary plans for the re-imagined Mack Theater complex would fully integrate the theater and hotel as an arts and culture destination with a variety of amenities for both community members and visitors to enjoy. A venue for live music and cult films, two onsite bars, and a Turkish bathhouse open to locals and guests, are all integral parts of the vision. To support the costs of the preservation of the two historic buildings, additional hotel rooms need to be added by reconstructing the adjacent Macy building to include rooms above the retail level. Existing businesses would be invited back to improved spaces throughout the buildings, including the ground floor of the Hotel Yamhill building, currently home to Thistle and Serendipity Ice Cream.
“As small business owners, we know how challenging major renovation projects can be for tenants,” Stephenson said. “We will work closely with both our architects and contractor to ensure that disruption is as limited as possible given the scope of this project.”
The theater, which will go from a 500-person capacity to 325 to accommodate code requirements for egress and bathrooms, would be restored to the glamour of its 1940s heyday. To create greater access for the community, the Mactastic team has worked with theater groups across the state to vet a concept that turns the traditional theater experience on its head. Unlike most theaters, which are only open to the public when a performance is happening, the Mack Theater would be open all day. Anchored by a beautiful bar, community members and guests would be able to enjoy the historic space for cocktails and lite bites. Current plans call for approximately 150 events a year, a mix of live music and movies, during which the theater would only be accessible to ticket holders.
Adjacent to the theater and hotel, a Turkish style bathhouse would be built on a currently unused tract of land on the property. Originally slated to be a patio with an additional bar, the team’s food & beverage consultant felt it would require more people to operate than the current workforce could supply. As plans continued to develop, a shift was made to a concept that would build out a beautiful, visually evocative bathhouse, featuring a soaking pool and a small bar. “We’re so excited about the bathhouse. It adds an element that doesn’t currently exist in our community and takes the deeply immersive experience we want to create to another level,” Stephenson commented.
To make the project flow financially, the Mactastic team realized quickly they must lean in. When initial pricing to renovate just the theater space came in at over $5.5 million—which consumed the majority of the initial project budget for the renovation of the two historic buildings—Stephenson said she and her team knew the only path forward would be to use McMinnville’s popularity as a destination to help fund the restoration of one of the community’s most important cultural assets. Research suggests that operationally, a theater of that size would break even at best. To cover the cost of the debt service on the theater renovation, more hotel rooms are needed. While the historical record shows that the Hotel Yamhill had as many as 51 rooms at one point, the need to add bathrooms decreases the room count significantly, putting the cashflow into the red. By adding rooms above the existing Macy building, the count can come up into the 60s—the minimum number required to support the renovation cost of the theater.
Stephenson commented, “If you pause to look at the post-COVID landscape in the world of travel and tourism, you’ll see that there has been a huge shift, refocusing the conversation on how tourism can best serve communities. Mirroring moves at the state level, Visit McMinnville’s newly adopted vision is to ‘cultivate the visitor economy to enhance quality of life for our community.’ This is an opportunity for our community to do just that: we can harness the power of McMinnville as a destination and make it work for us. In this instance, additional hotel rooms can be the engine that pays for the things we value—the Mack Theater—but eventually also out at Evergreen, where the addition of a hotel will help create financial stability for the museum.”
The hotel portion of the project would be positioned in the marketplace to land between McMenamins and the Atticus Hotel from a pricing standpoint. Described as ‘select-service approachable luxury’ the hotel would feature beautifully appointed rooms and an array of amenities but will not include labor intensive services, like concierge or bell service.
Stephenson remarked, “Our valley is experiencing a hospitality work force crisis, and our team doesn’t see that changing in the next few years. Every new hospitality business that opens stretches an already broken system further, pulling people from our existing small businesses and destabilizing them. To buffer against that situation, we’ve created a plan that treads lightly when it comes to the need for workers. We’ve also started promoting internally at the Atticus Hotel so we’re heavy on management and are creating leaders ready to move over to the Mack when we open, without negatively impacting other businesses.”
Planning for success, Stephenson suggested that it’s also imperative the city start a meaningful conversation on long term parking solutions for downtown McMinnville. The last time the theater was open, downtown McMinnville wasn’t the vibrant destination it is today. If the theater draws the numbers it will need to be financially sustainable, cars will be a part of the equation. “The last time the Mack Theater was drawing big crowds, downtown McMinnville was a very different place. We’ve all wanted the Mack back for so long and now that dream is moving toward reality. As such, we need to focus some attention on finding paths to increase the size of our current parking structure, and in combination with urban renewal dollars, long-term leases with downtown hotels could certainly be a part of the solution. We need to start working towards that now though.”
The current project timeline calls for the bulk of 2023 to be spent finalizing architectural plans and getting permits, with construction to kick off in early 2024 and finish in early 2025. The Mactastic team has been working closely with the State Historic Preservation Office, Business Oregon, the City of McMinnville, the Oregon Main Street Program, the McMinnville Downtown Association and other regional partners to find the right mix of funding options and partners to bring the project across the finish line.
“We’ve been waiting a long time as a community for the stars to align and make this possible. McMinnville is not the sort of place that looks around for outside saviors, or that lets things happen to us. This is the moment when we must collectively push all our chips into the middle of the table to support a thoughtful, community led revitalization effort. Our community has the passion, the creativity, and the determination to make this work. We’ve just got to dig deep and get it done,” Stephenson said.
MACK Theater: Reel Plans are Being Revisited
—The new ownership, which includes the team behind the Atticus Hotel, is committed to bringing the downtown properties back to life—
A new partnership with hometown roots and deep hospitality expertise has acquired two historic buildings in the heart of downtown McMinnville. Charlie Hays and Bob Komin have partnered with the team behind the Atticus Hotel—Erin Stephenson, Brian Shea and Ben Perle—to purchase the Mack Theater and Hotel Yamhill. The sale also includes the adjoining Macy Building.
The Atticus Hotel team will develop and operate the properties and intends to bring the Mack Theater back to life as a thriving entertainment venue, completely renovating and modernizing the hotel while retaining its historic character. Just as they did with the Atticus Hotel, Stephenson, Shea and Perle are committed to an independently owned and operated business model, and to putting the community at the heart of the project.
The new owners have deep roots in the McMinnville community. Hays and Stephenson are both McMinnville natives, and the Hays family has long been a part of the McMinnville business community: Charlie’s sister Linda Hays is owner of Hopscotch Toys, and their parents owned the shoe repair shop a few doors down from the Mack Theater. Charlie dreamed of buying the theater for years and was excited to find the right partners to make her dream a reality.
The reimagined hotel and theater will support local economic development through new jobs, urban renewal money and tax income. Additionally, the properties will further cement McMinnville as a visitor destination, bringing more tourism dollars to the community.
“There’s not much more sacred in the collective heart of our community than the Mack Theater, and the constant longing to see the lights go back on over the years has been palpable,” said Erin Stephenson. “The building itself is beautiful and full of so many happy memories for people—including for our own team. It’s a space that’s ultimately about coming together and having fun through a shared experience, in the simplest of ways. We’re so excited to be working with Charlie and Bob to help bring both the hotel—which has had a veil of mystery for 50 years now—and the theater back into community life.”
“This is an extremely exciting day for downtown McMinnville,” said Dave Rucklos, executive director, McMinnville Downtown Association. “The Mack Theater and Hotel Yamhill are both iconic McMinnville properties, and bringing them back to their former glory through the responsible care and vision of this local, independent, and seasoned team is absolutely the best outcome we could have asked for. With this restoration, McMinnville will be home to one of the top downtowns in the state and country—vibrant, historic but not outdated, multi-faceted and community-oriented.”
“The revitalization of the Mack Theater feels like a long-awaited answer to the dreams and prayers of countless locals,” said Jeff Knapp, executive director of Visit McMinnville. “To top it off, it is being executed by locals. This is the definition of a best-case scenario for McMinnville. These types of investments in our community have positive ripple effects, felt throughout our local economy for generations to come.”
“With the opening of the Atticus Hotel we saw the creation of more than fifty new jobs, an increase of over $10 million a year in direct visitor spending in McMinnville and a substantial increase in local Transient Lodging Tax revenue,” said Stephenson. “While these all contribute to economic development in McMinnville, more than anything we feel drawn to helping revive the crown jewels of our community—the Mack Theater and Hotel Yamhill—and we’re excited to keep this part of the city’s history intact for many years to come.”
Erin Stephenson is a McMinnville, Oregon native whose passion for travel is eclipsed only by a love for her hometown. After growing up in McMinnville, Erin headed south to the University of Oregon where she earned degrees in History and English. Her college years were punctuated with international adventures that eventually gave way to extended travels in Europe after she earned her degree in 2001. She returned home to McMinnville dreaming of opening a small hotel some day, but focusing her career in the nonprofit sector.
After serving as an Americorp VISTA volunteer Erin was hired as Executive Director of McMinnville Area Habitat for Humanity, a position she held for five years before taking a post managing the charitable giving programs for a local bank. While Erin loved working with local non-profits, she was still nurturing the dream of a hotel, so in 2010 she launched a boutique lodging company in downtown McMinnville. The company has since grown to include two brands—the Atticus Hotel & 3rd Street Flats—and three locations. Additionally, Erin and her partners own and manage several commercial properties in Historic Downtown McMinnville.
While Erin has worn many hats in her community over the years, some of her fondest memories are of summers spent during high school and college working at the Mack Theater as the day shift manager. While her skills may be rusty, she’s pretty sure she can still thread up the old projector if needed.
Erin has received a variety of awards during her career, including Business Leader of the Year, Woman of the Year, the Mayor’s Pillar of the Community award, and others. Erin continues to indulge her passion for nonprofit work through her role as board chair of Visit McMinnville. She and her husband Travis live in McMinnville with their two sons and two obnoxious but loveable dogs.
Brian Shea grew up in Salem, Oregon as a city boy with a love for the great outdoors. After earning a degree in Graphic Design from Oregon State University Brian headed south to Newport Beach, spending several years deeply immersed in California’s design culture. A chance meeting with his future wife convinced Brian that he was ready to leave big city living behind for the charms of small town life, and he set his sights northbound once again. He married a McMinnville native and moved to her hometown.
After returning to Oregon, Brian shifted his career from graphic design to real estate, taking on both commercial and residential projects. His knowledge of commercial real estate, great design aesthetic and entrepreneurial nature made him the perfect fit within 3rd Street Flats. Since coming on board with the company as a co-owner in January 2011 Brian has assisted with growth to a second location and its newest project, the Atticus Hotel. He has taken a leadership role managing the commercial real estate holding company and of course graphic design.
Over the past fifteen years Brian has wholeheartedly embraced life in McMinnville, and in his spare time enjoys playing the role of the gentlemen woodsman, hunting ducks and geese, and nurturing a giant garden. He lives in McMinnville with his wife Dianne, their son and daughter, and his faithful hunting companion, Remington Bell.
Ben spent his early years in San Francisco and Paris, nurturing a passion for slow living while embracing the cultural wonders of two of the world’s most vibrant cities. Driven by a passion for food and hospitality, Ben earned a degree in Hotel Management and then a Masters in Hospitality from Cornell University’s Paris campus.
Post graduation, a fortuitous introduction while working at Disneyland Paris led Ben to take the reigns at a nascent start-up called Chateauform—a unique hotel concept catering to corporate retreats—where he helped launch the first three locations of a company that now has 53 properties worldwide. The Pacific Northwest soon came calling though, and Ben moved to Bend, Oregon where he enjoyed a long tenure at Sunriver Resort eventually serving as Director of Resort Operations. Excited to indulge his creative side, in 2008 Ben jumped at the chance to help create Bend’s first luxury hotel—The Oxford–before moving into a regional role with The Oxford’s parent company, serving as Regional VP of Operations and overseeing properties across the western United States. In 2018 Ben made the leap to owning his own hotel and joined Erin and Brian as a partner and co-owner in Live McMinnville, Llc, managing both the 3rd Street Flats and Atticus Hotel brands. Since opening, the Atticus Hotel has received multiple accolades, including “Best Wine Country Hotel in America” by USA Today and “#12 Hotel in America” by Trip Advisor’s Best of the Best.
An avid gardener, beekeeper, cook and entertainer, Ben is now embracing a Willamette Valley lifestyle, indulging a lifelong passion for wine by getting out into the vines in Oregon wine country. A lover of both the valley and the high desert, Ben splits his time between McMinnville and Bend, where his wife Maeve and son Luka continue to make their home.
Charlie Hays & Bob Komin
Charlie Hays ~ Charlie is a local girl. She grew up in Carlton and attended Yamhill-Carlton High School. Her parents owned Hays’ Shoe Repair (now Crescent Café and R. Stuart) from 1983 until her father passed in 1998, and she feels like she grew up on 3rd Street. Weekends were spent working for her parents in the morning to earn money for the matinee at The Mack, or an ice cream at Aunt Aggie’s. During high school, she worked for Midge’s Diner, Frame Corner, and RJ Photography, all on 3rd Street.
Charlie and Bob met while working for different hi-tech companies in Portland. They married in 1995 and moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where Charlie graduated with honors from the University of Cincinnati School of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning with a degree in Art History and a minor in Painting. She went on to pursue painting while raising their three children and is also an avid cyclist, master gardener, and enthusiastic cook and baker.
Although not living there now, Charlie has a vested interest in the prosperity and success of McMinnville. Her mom still lives in town, and her sister Linda has owned and run Hopscotch Toys for the past 18 years. Acknowledging that there is a sense of collective ownership of the Mack Theater in McMinnville, Charlie feels a sense of stewardship for the buildings and the businesses they house as well as an obligation to bring them back to service for the community.
Bob Komin ~ Bob grew up in Beaverton, attended Jesuit High School and graduated from the University of Oregon before receiving an MBA from Harvard Business School. After spending the last 2 decades working in Silicon Valley as a CFO helping to build fast growing high technology companies, his family moved back home to Oregon last September relocating in Bend and are thrilled to be back in the Pacific Northwest and closer to family in McMinnville and the Portland area.
Bob is currently a private investor, member of the executive committee and chairman of the audit and risk committee of the University of Oregon Foundation Board of Trustees, and is advising 4 startup companies. During his career he has helped raise over $7.5 billion in equity and debt capital.
From March 2015 to June 2020 Bob was CFO of NASDAQ listed Sunrun, Inc. in San Francisco, CA. Bob previously served as CFO of Flurry, Inc. (acquired for $200 million by Yahoo! in 2014), a mobile application analytics and data-powered advertising platform with over 1.5 billion connected devices. Prior to joining Flurry, Inc., Bob held CFO roles at Ticketfly (acquired by Pandora and most recently sold to Eventbrite), Linden Lab/Second Life (pioneers in virtual currency exchangeable into multiple global real world currencies, micro transactions and virtual reality), Solexel, Tellme Networks (acquired for $800 million by Microsoft in 2007), and XOR.
ACCOMMODATING SINCE OPENING DAY – in 1886
The building was erected in 1886 by L. H. Cook of McMinnville and was known historically as the Cook’s Hotel. The building was described at the time as a three story brick building with plans drawn by B. F. Fuller. Fuller was a farmer and the brother-in-law of Lyman Hall Cook who built the hotel. The original hotel housed 28 bedroom chambers. It had a billiard hall, bridal chamber, an elegant second floor parlor and a large dining room where meals cost 25 to 50 cents. By 1890 the hotel was referred to as The Commercial House with lodging at the cost of $1.00–$2.00per day which would be approximately $27.00-–$53.00 today.
This large, rectangular, three-story, stuccoed brick Italianate building has a flat roof and a decorative pressed metal-bracketed cornice. Stuccoed belt courses articulate the story divisions. The Third Street façade originally had four bays but now has two as a result of the Mack Theater being installed in the eastern half of this façade. The northwest corner of the building is one bay wide with a clipped corner entrance. There is a concrete block building attached to the hotel which was built in 1946. Contrary to popular belief, Mack Theater is not named after McMinnville, but rather the Mattechecks, its first proprietors. (HistoricMac.org)
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Opening MACK Sign Photo: Holly Hursley
Historical Building Photos: McMinnville Downtown Association
Footer MACK Sign Photo: Visit McMinnville