Spokane's historic Garland Theater sells to new owner

click to enlarge Spokane's historic Garland Theater sells to new owner
Young Kwak
Katherine Fritchie has sold the historic Garland Theater after owning it for 25 years.
Nine months after a feared closure and a plea for community support, Spokane’s historic Garland Theater is about to see its next chapter unfold.

Today, longtime owner Katherine Fritchie, who’s operated the theater since 1999, sold the theater to local real estate developer Jordan Tampien of 4 Degrees Real Estate.
The transaction includes both the business and historic theater building, along with adjacent properties that house Mark’s Guitar Shop and Vintage Print + Neon, as well as the theater’s north parking lot.

Tampien is already planning improvements to the property and its adjacent parcels, and says he will maintain the Garland as a movie theater and community event center. More detailed plans for its future are still in the works, including who will run the theater for Tampien after Fritchie steps down from the role at the end of this month.

“I grew up going to the dollar theaters, it was the only theater we could afford to go to,” says Tampien, who grew up in Moses Lake but recalls going to the Garland when his family came to Spokane. “So I feel like now, we’re in a position that we should save the Garland. We have plans to revitalize and make sure we maintain this asset for another hundred years.”

The Garland sale closes after months of uncertainty about the theater’s future, which became apparent back in March when local artist and nostalgia enthusiast Chris Bovey (owner of Vintage Prints + Neon and former art director of the Inlander), launched his “Save the Garland” crowdfunding campaign. Bovey and his wife, Liz, had at the time agreed to partner with Fritchie to take over the theater as its operators, with Fritchie acting as more of a silent partner and landlord. The Boveys then teamed up with fellow Spokane businessman Tyler Arnold, who owns Jedi Alliance, the retro arcade and pop culture museum in Spokane Valley.

The plan by late spring was for Fritchie to hand over control of the business to Arnold and the Boveys, who hoped to make the theater profitable again by reigniting locals’ interest in seeing movies at a theater with themed screenings and events.

All summer long, however, news about that partnership and the Garland’s future failed to materialize, with a handover date that was continually pushed forward, according to Chris Bovey. By late September, the deal for Bovey and Arnold to take over the business had fizzled.

Fritchie then entered into negotiations with another interested buyer, Tampien, who would not only take over the theater as a business, but also wanted to buy its building.

Tampien also co-owns Brick West Brewing Co. and is responsible for restoring the west downtown building it’s located, the historic former Watts Automotive. Another of his current projects involves renovating the Peyton Building downtown on north Post Street into affordable apartments along with a group of fellow investors. Tampien was recently recognized by the Spokane Preservation Advocates for its 2023 Historic Preservation Awards, for his rehab of the Lolo Lofts downtown.

Fritchie, who still owns several historic buildings in Spokane, has been hoping to sell the Garland for many years now, and says several past deals fell through. After weathering the COVID pandemic shutdown, and people’s slow return to in-person movie watching, Fritchie says the Garland’s books were in the red, despite receiving federal funding during the COVID years for hard-hit businesses. Back in March, she was nearly ready to close the theater if it couldn’t turn a profit again.

Fritchie and current Garland staff will continue to operate the theater and the connected Bon Bon bar for the final weeks of the year. New sales of one-year movie passes to the theater, however, have been halted due to an agreement with Tampien, who has yet to publicly share his plans for the theater come the start of 2024.

Among other details that have yet to be settled include how the more than $48,000 in community donations Bovey collected via GoFundMe will be used to support the Garland. Bovey says he still hopes to use those donations for needed improvements to the theater.

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Chey Scott

Chey Scott is the Inlander's Arts and Culture Editor and editor of the Inlander's yearly, glossy magazine, the Annual Manual. Chey (pronounced "Shay") is a lifelong resident of the Spokane area and a graduate of Washington State University. She's been on staff at the Inlander since 2012...