The Reed Opera House hosted a soft opening on Oct. 1, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

When the owners of the Reed Opera House decided to sell the building, real estate developer Scott Chernoff saw an opportunity for a re-emergence of downtown Salem.

Chernoff has led the building’s renovation since California-based investor Cumberland Holdings bought the historic opera house, rebranded as the “The Reed,” in 2018.

Now, with more than 80 tenants, the building’s makeover is nearly complete after developers repaired its 150-year-old brick and reorganized the businesses inside. It's a comfortable spot for visitors to enjoy a cup of coffee, go shopping or people watch.

One of the new shops at the Reed is Sun Bear Den, a plant shop that has operated out of the building for the past year after previously being online only. 

Owner Julie Vo said she was considering another location for the store, and when that deal “miraculously” fell through, her real estate agent asked if they wanted to check out available space at the Reed. “We just had to,” Vo said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime dream location.”

Julie Vo, owner of The Sun Bear Den, mists plants during the Reed Opera House soft opening on Oct. 1, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Vo recalled visiting the old Reed Opera House when she was in high school and said she often wandered in circles before finding what she was looking for.

Chernoff said while the diverse array of businesses is a strength of the Reed’s, it was a source of confusion for visitors, so developers worked to simplify the property through the renovation.

Businesses are now grouped together, with “personal services” like hair and nail salons on the underground floor, restaurants and retail on the first floor and creative office space on the third floor, Chernoff said. The Reed will have conference space where businesses can hold meetings as well as a ballroom, where he said they went from 50 events a year to planning 150 a year before Covid hit Oregon.

Cumberland Holdings also bought the building at 120 Commercial St. NE, where Masonry Grill and Alley Cat now operate.

“We envision the Reed to be the real central hub of Salem where there'll be a little bit of everything for everyone,” Chernoff said.

With around half of the underground floor still under construction, Chernoff said Salem residents can expect a full grand opening likely by the end of the year.

The under-construction basement is visible from the first floor of the Reed Opera House during the soft opening on Oct. 1, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Chernoff said he is particularly excited for the stage area planned for the underground floor, which will have new comfortable furniture, “beautiful lighting” and improvements to its wall treatments. The stage will host events including art performances, poetry and cooking workshops. 

The last addition planned for the Reed will be history vignettes, including news articles and pictures dating back to 1870, around the building so visitors can read about the buildings history as they walk through it.

Cyrus Adams Reed, who built the historic opera house, had a contract with the state to build a space for the Oregon State Legislature, the State Supreme Court and the State library, the Reed’s website said. Officials didn’t comply with the agreement, so Reed asked architect G.W. Rhodes to build seven shops, an opera house and a hotel in the building from 1869 to 1870. When Reed built the 1,500 seat theater, Salem’s population was around 1,139 people.

Many landlords and investment firms during the pandemic “decided to just sit tight and not do anything,” Chernoff said. “We made a decision to continue, and we knew we would come out of it.

It paid off, he said, with around seven tenants signing new leases in the building over the past year, and Reed dubbed last Friday its “soft opening” to acknowledge its momentum.

Also new to the building are coffee shop Caffé Capri, tattoo shop Zoulbound, clothing store 503 Unwind and Quantum Light, which offers metaphysical crystals, yoga, meditation and retail. Another addition, Dipped Temptations, sells dipped strawberry treats.

When Aaron Naden opened Capitol Menswear at the Reed in July, he renovated another space in the building and painted it white, planning to turn it into a shop for beard products. Then, he decided to open an apothecary instead and moved the beard products into his menswear store.

Chase Emery, a salesman at Capital Apothecary, said Naden opened the store after finding that Salem didn’t have a store like it that sold essential oils and skincare.

“A lot of people that come in the Reed don't have a whole lot of time,” Emery said. “They'll come in on their break, but they'll come in, check it out, and then they'll usually come back a little later."

When James Cureton and his wife, Diana, opened Munchies Market at the Reed on July 2, he said they pushed to have the best lighting possible. They got their wish, with the wall to the right of the market made up almost entirely of windows.

Cureton said he is most excited about the openness and bright lights the renovation brought to the Reed, which used to be dark and lacked activity inside the building. Now, he said, the interior is brighter and more inviting than ever before.

“There's a renewed attitude and improved outlook about the community that's building downtown,” Cureton said. “People moving here, new and fresh businesses popping up, people are excited. You've seen just a lot of promise.”

The Reed Opera House hosted a soft opening on Oct. 1, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Shirts in a display window at Awkward Peach Boutique during the Reed Opera House soft opening on Oct. 1, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Pastries for sale Caffé Capri during the Reed Opera House soft opening on Oct. 1, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Honey hair loft hair stylists and co-owner Katie McNichols, center, works on the hair of client Lacy Bollinger while co-owner Julia Bussard works with another client at the Reed Opera House soft opening on Oct. 1, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Soaps for sale at Capitol Apothecary at the Reed Opera House soft opening on Oct. 1, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

A sign in the front window of HattaWear at the Reed Opera House soft opening on Oct. 1, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.

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