Historic Ownership

Brooklyn Arts Center venue keeps love and history alive

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A lifelong “Wilmingtonian,” JAY TATUM remembers walking by the Brooklyn Arts Center + The Annex building as a child and seeing it in disrepair for as long as he could remember.

Last year, he and his wife, TARA, became the proud owners of the historic building and are ready to take the venue to the next level.

“Sometimes we pinch ourselves and say, ‘How did this happen that we own such an amazing piece of Wilmington?’” Tara Tatum says.

While the couple has been running the event business that operates out of the BAC since 2018, they did not purchase the real estate until August when the previous owner, Dave Nathans, decided to sell.

Jay Tatum had a long history with the venue from when he was a professional DJ and worked hundreds of events at the center. That is when he met Nathans and previous manager Richard Leder, with whom he established a strong rapport over the years.

“We knew the building really well and it felt like home to me,” Jay Tatum describes.

When the decision was made to sell the venue, Jay and Tara jumped at the chance to make it their own.

“I loved the history. I loved the way it looked. I loved the way events looked inside it. I talked with Tara, a CPA who is more financially minded, and the stars aligned,” Jay Tatum explains.

That is until a worldwide pandemic hit, causing events to come to a screeching halt, closing the venue for six full months. Weddings, music shows, as well as corporate and community events were all barred from taking place at the center.

Upon reopening under the governor’s indoor capacity mandate, some couples were pleased to have their weddings on a smaller scale while others opted to postpone to 2021.

“I know this sounds cheesy and cliché, but you can’t stop love,” Jay Tatum explains. “We continued selling new dates along the way.”

The silver lining of the pandemic is their “100-point bulleted list of things to do” was able to get done. This includes new bar infrastructure, lighting, placement of local art on the walls, and redoing a handicap ramp. They also purchased a cottage behind the BAC Annex to add to their campus and they are currently renovating it to offer a space for bands and wedding parties to stay.

“We have definitely taken a huge financial hit like everyone else in the entertainment industry but on the bright side, Jay and I strategized to be resourceful with the money we did have and do what we could when we did not have so many weddings,” Tara Tatum explains. “It is in the best shape in every way since 1888,” Jay Tatum adds.

Luckily, they are currently booked every Saturday through August 2022 and plans are in the works to make the BAC moving and shaking on the daily.

“This building has been here since 1888, and it is the heartbeat of the Brooklyn neighborhood as an iconic structure of downtown Wilmington. In 100 years, I want it to be as iconic as it has always been,” Jay Tatum says. “I want it to be kicking butt in 2088.”

To view more of photographer Michael Cline Spencer’s work, go to michaelclinephoto.com.

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Categories: Culture