Meet Me at the Marquee: Local Icon Competes for Preservation Money

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- A local icon in Historic Valley Junction is now in the running for grant money from a national campaign called the Partners in Preservation Vote Your Main Street.

The Lyric Building, now known as the Theatrical Shop at 145 5th Street is the only three-story building left in Valley Junction.

Jim Miller with the Historic Valley Junction Foundation said this building is very special to the community.

“There’s a lot of history to this building. It’s probably one of the most historic buildings in the district. The original building was not built as the Theatrical Shop, it was built in 1913. Some people remember it as the Lyric Hotel, some people remember it as the Lyric Theater and then it has been the Theatrical Shop since 1970,” Miller said.

There are 25 historical places in the running all over the United States and if the Theatrical Shop makes it into the final ten they will win $150,000 to start the preservation project.

A common phrase heard by those who know and love the Lyric Building is “meet me at the marquee.”

"We have folks that always meet at the marquee. They take photos at the marquee. But again, it is something you don't find in many places and I think that even applies to the larger metro community. There just aren't districts like Valley Junction anymore," Miller said.

The current owner, Debbie Westphal Swander said this building was previously owned by her mother who passed it onto her when she died.

"There are so many stories that happened with this being originally a theater. People coming with friends, family and it's important to protect and preserve those places," Swander said.

This shop has walls and walls of costumes to be whoever you want to be on any given day of the year, especially on Halloween.

But Swander said the store is much more to her and long time residents in the area.

"Actually one of my favorite memories, is a picture of my mother standing out there on the corner. And she's looking out around at Valley Junction, proud of what she's accomplished, and thinking about what a cool place this is. So when I'm here and I look at decorated pumpkins, at children's costumes, a Cinderella dress, dance wear, all these scary but fun costumes. I think about the opportunity it is for kids, for families to just celebrate together and to have a positive good time," Swander said.

The building will always be preserved in memories but Swander said this grant will open doors for future generations to actually meet at the marquee.

“Many people have told us they remember coming to the Lyric Theater to see a movie, or they went on a date to the Lyric Theater or popcorn was a quarter, things like that,” Miller said.

You can vote five times per day at votevalleyjunction.org and visit their campaign headquarters just around the corner from the shop.