Take yourself back to March 2020. What were you thinking? If you were a business owner it won’t take long for you to recount the questions that you had. Will they really close my doors? How will I pay my bills, my employees? Will they be able to support their families? Will I be able to provide for my family? We remember that as a stressful time filled with many questions and few answers.
Having raised a family in Glasgow, the Heltsley family was familiar with the complaint about the lack of activities available for youth, specifically the absence of a place for kids to call their own. That was the driving force behind the investment the Heltsley’s and their extended family members made in 2012 with the purchase of the 65,000 square foot vacant building that previously housed the Carhartt Distribution Center and Handmacher Garment Factory.
The new owners’ investment included repurposing the building to bring Ralphie’s Fun Center to the community. In addition to arcades and Laser Tag, they built a skating rink and a state of the art bowling alley that has hosted high school district, regional, and state tournaments. They have served as hosts to large community events and expos and expanded to offer full food service.
The growth meant that Jason Kuykendall would leave his job in 2014 as a geologist to oversee the family business. At one point during his management, Jason noticed that their property lines included some wooded acreage on the back side of the property. But, as it happens during the growth mode of a new business, there was never time to explore exactly what was available there.
Return to March 2020. March 22, 2020 at 9 am to be exact. The governor issued an executive order mandating that all non life sustaining retail businesses were to be closed. Like so many other businesses, Ralphie’s could not avoid closure. Filled with all the emotions every business owner felt on that day, as he locked the doors and turned his back to his family business, Jason found himself facing that wooded area on the back of the property.
Fifteen minutes did not pass before he had a chainsaw fired up and axes swinging, clearing a path in the overgrown woods. In the days and weeks to come, the more he cleared, the more the vision came into focus for The Grove.
By the time the doors to Ralphie’s Fun Center reopened in June 2020, the wooded area on the back side of the property had been cleared, a stage had been built, and the outdoor venue was ready to meet the concerns of people needing to gather for entertainment and meeting space in a safe, outdoor, open-air facility.
The Grove’s first national touring act to perform was Michael Cleveland in October 2020. The first full season of 2021 brought branding, social media platforms, consistent growth, and shows including: The Josephines, Forever Abbey Road, and the John Prine Tribute night.
Knowing that 2022 would mark a year of returning to some sense of normalcy, the team at The Grove was determined to achieve regional recognition as an outdoor venue. The season opened in April with The Travelin’ McCourys. Other headlining bands to perform included Keller Williams and The Local Honeys.
They have also expanded to rentals for weddings, meetings, dinners, parties and events. The Grove has also partnered with many community and non-profit organizations to host outdoor events. Future plans include the addition of a VIP Treehouse section for an elevated perspective of performances.
It is said that “a diamond is a chunk of coal that did well under pressure.” The Covid pandemic brought much stress and pressure to many business owners. It is beautiful to see the new diamonds in our community, such as The Grove, that emerged from that time.
-Article credit to Barren Inc Magazine 2022-2023
Here are a few of our most magical nights spent in the Grove listening to the enchanting tunes of amazing musicians, watching fireflies and making memories around the campfire.
We are proud to be a member of the Bluegrass music community and official members of the Americana Music Association, the National Independent Venue Association, and the International Bluegrass Music Association.
What a neat place! The vibe, the amenities, the music and the staff are all top notch. Sit by a fire pit. Relax and enjoy the sounds.
This venue is like an escape into a whole new world where you can leave all your troubles behind. Nature like setting, incredible sound, friendly staff, and a huge stage with phenomenal sound.
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