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Patagonia to Move Into Old Town Theater

March 8, 2019

The iconic Old Town Theater was purchased this year by Asana Partners for $4.4 million.

The outdoor clothing and gear company Patagonia will be opening a store in the former Old Town Theater in 2020, Patagonia announced Friday.

Patagonia started as a small company that made tools for climbers. The company now makes clothing for a number of what it calls “silent sports” – climbing, skiing and snowboarding, surfing, fishing, mountain biking and trail running.

Patagonia is very active in environmental causes and focuses on corporate social responsibility. Since its founding in 1973, Patagonia has given more than $100 million to grassroots environmental organizations. In addition to corporate giving, each retail location has its own retail environmental grants program. In 2017, Patagonia retail stores provided more than $2 million in grant money to local environmental programs in addition to services, in-kind goods, products and thousands of service hours by employees, according to data provided by Patagonia.

The company’s website states: “We believe the environmental crisis has reached a critical tipping point. Without commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, defend clean water and air, and divest from dirty technologies, humankind as a whole will destroy our planet’s ability to repair itself. At Patagonia, the protection and preservation of the environment isn’t what we do after hours. It’s the reason we’re in business and every day’s work.”

The company tries to promote fair labor practices, safe working conditions and reduce negative effects on the environment from manufacturing. The company is Fair Trade Certified by Fair Trade USA.

The closest Patagonia store to Alexandria is in Georgetown, though several other stores sell Patagonia products, including Dick’s Sporting Goods, REI and Nordstrom. There are 33 Patagonia stores nationwide spread across 18 states and the District. Alexandria will be home to Patagonia’s only Virginia location.

About the Old Town Theater

While Patagonia does not have specific plans yet, the company does plan to honor the building's history. "We will preserve as much as of the theatre’s history as possible and don’t intend to change the outside much at all," said Patagonia's Corey Simpson.

According to the Office of Historic Alexandria, the Old Town Theater opened as the Richmond Theater in 1915. The 1914 permit indicated the space would be used for “moving pictures, bowling alleys and billiards.” (Estimated cost of construction according to the original permit application: $7,500.) In addition to an entertainment arena with a dance hall, the space served as a community meeting space, classroom space (in 1915) and more.

Renovations started in 1929, including the addition of the electric sign and interior upgrades. As vaudeville lost its popularity, the venue became a movie theater.

It became the Richmond Playhouse in the early 1960s with live performances again, but closed in 1972. In 1976, it reopened as a puppet theater, closed again, and opened as a two-screen movie theater in 1980. That closed in the late 1990s.

The next 15 years were a series of openings and closings for what had become the Old Town Theater: It opened as a comedy venue for several months in 2002, closed, and then opened in February 2004 as a movie theater. It closed yet again in early 2012, opened as a live-performance and event venue, and closed again – for the last time – in 2014. Jeffrey Yates bought the building in 2015. After he passed away, the Yates trust sold the building to Asana Partners for $4.4 million in 2017, according to City of Alexandria real estate records.

 

Source: Alexandria Living (magazine), Beth Lawton

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