Opening soon: Nashville Nights, Bangkok Downtown at Hardiman Building

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 9, 2011

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — It was worth the wait. Fourteen months after they started the project, Charles Steinman and sons Todd and Tim have completed a stunning redevelopment of the Hardiman Building at 131 E. Innes St.
The 87-year-old, three-story landmark will re-debut within two weeks, when the newly named Bangkok Downtown opens for lunch and dinner seven days a week. The Thai restaurant occupies the entire first floor of the 15,000-square-foot building, with office space for lease on the second and third floors and in the basement.
Two doors up the street at 125 and 127 E. Innes St., a sprawling new country and bluegrass nightclub will offer another eye-popping experience to downtown visitors. Owners Jeff and Karen Littleton and Dick Palmore have filled Nashville Nights with custom woodwork, including two hand-crafted bars and a stage that could fit a 12-piece band.
Nashville Nights should open within 90 days, they say.
“When people walk in, we want them to say, ‘Wow,’ ” Palmore said.
That’s the reaction all three projects likely will elicit as Salisbury residents soon get their first look at the Hardiman, Bangkok Downtown and Nashville Nights.
Owners went to considerable expense to redevelop the properties, which will rival similar establishments in Charlotte.
The Hardiman project hit the $2 million mark. Nashville Nights owners are keeping their price tag under wraps, but here’s a hint: Six separate restrooms, plus a private privy for the band.
1920s style
A gateway building to downtown, the Hardiman stands as a testament to the craftsmanship of the 1920s and careful renovation of the modern day. Contractor Bob Glover led the project, which qualified for historic preservation tax credits in part by retaining the original wood floors, sash windows and tin ceilings.
The Steinmans restored the facade as closely as possible to a photograph from about 1930. Constructed by entrepreneur Richard Baker Yancey, the building served for years as an unusually grand home for the Salisbury Elks Lodge.
“We’ve got everything back on the outside just about the way it was, except the elk,” Charles Steinman said. “We don’t have an elk’s head.”
The photo shows a taxidermy elk head outside the third floor.
Steinman even used a magnifying glass to study an ornate metal awning over the center door in the picture. He had the awning reproduced and installed over the door, which has reappeared after decades out of sight.
Also true to the photo, the Hardiman now has large canvas awnings. The Steinmans bought the buildings from downtown patriarch Al Hoffman.
Inside, a lobby offers a soaring ceiling, leather furniture, Clyde paintings, an elevator and elaborate staircase and an entrance to Bangkok Downtown.
From the lobby, diners will enter the restaurant’s sushi bar that seats 10, plus a half-dozen tall tables. The dining room, rich in color and texture, opens from Innes Street. In all, the restaurant can seat 100.
The familiar faces of owners Teng One Phomsaly and Kong Phomsaly, well known for their Thai cuisine, will greet diners. Their original Bangkok Garden on South Main Street is still open, under new ownership.
New night life spot
Like the Hardiman, Nashville Nights has been completely rewired and replumbed, with new heating and air conditioning. Owners Palmore and the Littletons restored the original tin ceilings.
With entrances at the front and back, Nashville Nights will feature a lounge, indoor waterfall, VIP area, pool tables, dance floor and projection TV system to broadcast the band to patrons throughout the club. Chris Harris crafted the extensive woodwork throughout the building.
The owners gave Harris creative license, and the results are impressive.
“We just came in every morning and watched it grow,” Karen Littleton said.
The only country and bluegrass nightclub its size between Charlotte and Greensboro, Nashville Nights will host big-name acts looking for smaller venues to play between their larger gigs, Palmore said. Owners also will feature local bands.
The nightclub occupies two storefronts, once Western Auto. Victor Wallace owns the property, and Palmore said he would have given up long ago if not for Wallace’s help with the project.
Met with skepticism by some, owners say they are winning people over with attention to detail, emphasis on security and high-quality renovations.
“We will show everyone what a high-class operation is all about,” Palmore said, adding the club will not be “uppity” and will offer patrons a good value.
“I have three rules,” Karen Littleton said. “Behave, make your mama proud, and have a good time.”
Ready for tenants
The Hardiman Building also held surprises for the Steinmans. They had to put on a new roof, refurbish the elevator, shore up the basement with steel beams and repair the cornice at the top of the building.
“No one ever looks at it probably, but I have a real appreciation for it now,” Steinman said.
They also didn’t expect to install a commercial kitchen, but Phomsaly strikes a hard bargain.
Tim Steinman said he hopes the Hardiman project inspires others to rehabilitate old buildings in downtown Salisbury.
“It can be done, and it’s worth doing,” he said.
At their veterinary practice, the family has heard excitement growing for months.
“The response from the community has been incredible,” Todd Steinman said.
He said he hopes that translates into business for the Hardiman, which has yet to sign a tenant other than Bangkok Downtown. They’ve just started showing the property, which offers a variety of space and shape configurations, as well as Fibrant, the city’s new broadband service with the fastest Internet speeds in the state.
While beautiful, the Hardiman isn’t just another pretty facade. And the Steinmans are ready to sign the next lease.
“It’s redone, and it’s happening,” Todd Steinman said. “And we’re open for business.”
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.