July 2, 2008 Edition

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Renovated Sharum Theater
would be dream come true

Lauraetta Melton (right) owner of the old Sharum Theater, building in Walnut Ridge, talks with Susan Shaddox, interior design consultant with Main Street Arkansas, about plans for renovating the building.
TD Photo ~ Gretchen Hunt
Gretchen Hunt

Seeing the old Sharum Theater building in downtown Walnut Ridge restored to its former glory has long been a dream for owner Lauraetta Melton of Calamine.

She and her husband, Elbert, purchased the building in the mid 1980s with plans to begin renovations. Plans are to convert it into a community entertainment center that could be used to show family films or for live concerts or productions.

"I want this to be a place where people know if something is being presented here it is something they can bring their kids to," she said.

Melton said a setback with a bad hiring decision and then personal issues caused a delay in the work, which she is excited to be starting again.

"We're in phase one right now," she said of the progress on the building. "We're in what I would call the cleanup phase."

In addition to some general trash cleanup, the building received some damage when a water pipe broke several years ago. The building is structurally sound and has a new roof, according to Melton, so now attention will be turned to the inside.

She, along with several members of Downtown Walnut Ridge, a local group working to revitalize the downtown area, stopped by the theater building last Wednesday following the quarterly Chamber of Commerce meeting.

Susan Shaddox, interior design consultant for Main Street Arkansas, who was in town for the presentation naming Walnut Ridge as a member of the Arkansas Downtown Network, also stopped to see the building and begin forming ideas.

A benefit of being in the Arkansas Downtown Network is the use of consultants on the Main Street Arkansas Staff. This is a benefit that Melton said she is very grateful for.

The two immediately began brainstorming ideas for a design that could be both authentic and cost-effective. One idea includes having a small museum area to display items that have been found in the theater, as well as memorabilia and old photographs.

While Melton knows the renovation will be a long process, she said she is happy to be beginning again and thankful for the encouragement she has received from the Downtown Walnut Ridge group.

"I truly believe this is God's timing," she said.

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