Tom Bailey | Crain's Connecticut

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Tom Bailey

About the company:  

The Capitol Theatre, a 90-year-old Port Chester, N.Y. landmark that draws about 50 percent of its customers from Connecticut, was reborn five years ago with its purchase by Peter Shapiro. Following a major renovation, the revamped venue held its first concert in September 2012 with folk rock legend Bob Dylan headlining. The Capitol hosts about 120 concerts and between 20 and 30 private events every year. Tom Bailey, the theater’s general manager, helped Shapiro scout the location in 2010. Following Shapiro’s acquisition, Bailey was asked to be general manager. To keep Connecticut residents coming, the theater advertises in the Hearst Media Newspapers of southwestern Connecticut as well as on several Connecticut radio stations. Bailey lives “about 100 feet from the Connecticut line” in Port Chester.

The Mistake:

Not initially considering the importance of food in planning our expansion.

In the early days we were very focused on the concert part of our business. We didn’t think that people would want to dine with us.

Our shows generally start at 8 p.m. We figured that folks would want to go to a restaurant in Port Chester then come to us for the show. We totally overlooked the possibility of maximizing time and revenue in our place. The more time we can get our customers to spend here the better it is for us.

We will continue to do more and more to keep up the rock ’n’ roll palace that this place has become.

The Lesson:

We’ve reassessed and now realize we are a building within a building. The concert theater is just one portion although it’s our most vital portion.

We also noticed that a lot of people come back to The Capitol. In other words, repeat customers. We want that trend to continue so we’re providing them things that will round out an entire experience here. Offerings are being expanded.

A big and beautiful serving bar was brought in from Pennsylvania and it is now the anchor for our lobby bar, which is known as Garcia’s at The Capitol Theatre (named after Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia). That area can hold 250 people.

We will be creating a food service area that will include a VIP lounge and a dining area. The seating capacity is 276. We want people to come and dine with us before the show. That is the next big step in our five-year plan. We think it will fit very well with the business. I can’t tell you the name of it just yet because it hasn’t been publicly announced but we’re pretty sure that our customers are going to like it.

We’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished. We will continue to do more and more to keep up the rock ’n’ roll palace that this place has become.

The Capitol Theatre is on Twitter at @capitoltheatre.

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