When Pastor Dave Wilkinson first laid eyes on the space he was about to purchase, he wasn’t exactly thrilled. “I drove up to the front and said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding,’” he recalls.
The building in Spokane’s West Central neighborhood used to house Service Master Carpet Cleaning and, following that, a thrift store. It was a mess, but it was exactly what he’d been looking for. So in 2006, Wilkinson, who is affiliated with the Christian Missionary Alliance, acquired the building and established a church, called the Porch.
But the space’s original intent has begun to change. In the past two months, the Porch has hit the scene as the newest all-ages music venue, reeling in indie shows that, since the closure of the Empyrean coffeehouse in January, have been hard-pressed to find a home in Spokane.
Today, the converted warehouse space features rolling doors, high ceilings and wide windows. But Wilkinson says getting it there wasn’t a cakewalk. When he initially purchased the building, the leftover junk from the thrift store completely consumed the space.
“We were pretty naive,” says Wilkinson. “We thought we were just going to clean it out, slap some dry wall up and we’d be all good.”
After many repairs, replacing windows, painting and cleaning, the Porch is fully functional as both a church and a venue, although Wilkinson says he is only halfway finished.
The repairs, however much of a hassle they may have been, seemed to have enhanced some of the natural acoustics of the place. A metal or punk band might not sound great due to the sheer number of windows in the place, but the Porch staff says they’re open to giving heavier bands a shot here. But for the indie acts brought in by Pete Wells — who is in charge of sound and booking for the Porch, in addition to playing in the Perennials — it’s a solid place to play.
Deciding to make the Porch a music venue was a matter of looking at the space and what it was capable of, and seeing what the community needed. The Porch serves as a church only one or two nights each week.
“The space is there, it’s paid for whether we put shows on or not,” says Wells.
Financially speaking, this may help them avoid the major issue that has derailed local venues for decades.
“We don’t have to make money on these shows,” says Wilkinson.
“We just have to cover our expenses.”
Wilkinson acknowledges that the church affiliation could raise flags for some.
“We’re not using this as a gimmick to get people to church” says Wilkinson. “We genuinely care about the music scene in Spokane.”
He says they actively decided not to let the church and venue intertwine. Instead, it was more a matter of trying to fill a void lost in the Spokane community and not wanting to let a good space go to waste.
Said the Whale, Crickets of Cascadia and Wonder Wonder • Fri, September 2, from 7-10 pm • $6-$8 • The Porch • 1804 W. Broadway Ave. • 863-3822