Nomads No More: The 5 & Dime Theatre Company found a home | First Coast Magazine

After years of roving, the 5 & Dime Theatre Company has found a home. In February of this year, the organization known for its nomadic theater productions moved into their permanent digs on Adams Street, one block east of the Jessie Ball duPont Center. “I don’t think some people realize all of the little things we are so grateful for now,” says Lee Hamby, managing director and co-founder. “Like having a place to put our tools and not having to carry them around in our cars.”

In fact, they had always intended to have their own space. “We became nomadic out of necessity,” Hamby says, “but originally we wanted to be in the Peterson’s Five and Dime building in 5 Points,” which is where they got their name. But the owner had a different vision for the space, so they had to take the show on the road.

Backstage wardrobe and props at the 5 & Dime Theatre.

A friend suggested that traveling around would be the best way to get started anyway: they could work on building their brand before taking on too many overhead costs. “Being nomadic actually became our selling point,” Hamby says. “It was cool and people loved it … but it was a whole lot of work and sometimes it was frustrating trying to find us.” They began performing in various spots throughout the city, including the public library, Underbelly and the Cummer Museum and Gardens. It would be six years before they landed their own place.

“The staff at the Cummer was wonderful and helped us get the kind of clientele we had always hoped for,” Hamby says. “We always saw ourselves eventually having a home.” They looked around for a long time, but couldn’t find the right spot until late last year.

In its 90-something years, the property at 112 Adams Street has had many lives: it was a tattoo studio, and before that a clothing boutique, and at some point it was a club called Poppy Loves Smoke. Hamby says that when they tore out the bar area, they found soil and carpet underneath. “It was the weirdest thing. That was a chore to get all of that out,” he says. They also had to clear out medical waste including piercing needles and rags for the blood and the tattoo ink. But now the space is a beautiful black box theatre that seats 80.

Local historian Wayne Wood helped the group learn more about the history of the building. It was originally built for United Cigar Company as a storefront in 1926, but the market crashed and the store never opened. They built 15 of the same type of building around Jacksonville, and this is the only one still standing. “We have talked about doing some sort of cigar night featuring the history of the building at some point,” Hamby says.

The theatre company is overjoyed to have a permanent home and very happy about the recent progress 5 & Dime has made. “I knew right away this was going to be absolutely perfect,” Hamby says. “We moved in and within two weeks had a fundraiser cabaret show. What was cool was that the people who came saw it [the building transformation] in process.”

The 5 & Dime Theatre Company’s motto is “Making Change in Jacksonville,” and their choice to put down roots in a historic building downtown is a testimony to their drive to help transform this city. Their new home is not just for their theatre company, but a space for Jacksonville’s local performing arts community to grow together.

Lee Hamby, managing director and co-founder of the theatre company.


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Photography by Mark Krancer