SOCIAL OPENING: Club Ready For Community

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The new home for the Des Moines Social Club is almost ready for its grand opening. The group moved into the city's old firehouse earlier this year. But, not all the programs are up and running. That changes this Saturday when the social club hosts a grand opening celebration.

The Des Moines Social Club is a buzz. Curtis Porter with Capes Kafe says, “It's been very busy, very hectic."

The coffee and comic shop opened a couple weeks ago, selling coffee and comic books to visitors and workers already calling 900 Mulberry Street home.

Executive Director Zachary Mannheimer says, "We've been operating at probably 40 percent since we moved in here at the end of January."

Mannheimer started dreaming up the idea of a social club when he moved to Des Moines in the fall of 2007. The non-profit bought the city's old firehouse in February of 2013. Now, the 37,000 square foot facility is ready for the community. Mannheimer says, "This is going to be a glorified open house. So, every room inside the property will be operating somehow."

On the main floor, you'll find the coffee shop and Malo Restaurant leasing space from the social club. There's also the Viaduct Gallery featuring work mostly by local artists. Mannheimer says, "A brand new show here every single month. The works are for sale."

You'll find three classrooms upstairs, including a movement room where they'll offer things like lunch time yoga, hula hooping and belly dancing classes. A sound-proof recording studio is also upstairs, along with offices for area non-profits and a place for future culinary classes. Outside is a courtyard for films, concerts and plays in the summer. And, you'll find the Kum and Go Theater, featuring plays and wrestling, in the fire station's old maintenance shop.

Mannheimer says, "We're using every single inch of this property."

Mannheimer wants the social club to provide the community three things. One, be a place for local artists to present their work. Two, work with local companies to recruit and retain young people. And three, build the community through art. He says, "The art is the catalyst. That's what brings them here. Our job starts after the show is over. How do we keep them here meeting their neighbors, meeting people in another room doing something else."

That's a long term goal. For now, Mannheimer is focused on getting people in the door. He says, "Plays we have been doing have been selling out, so the interest is there, the demand is there."

Porter says, "Just not even being open, and we've just seen so much traffic and so much interest both online and in here, and I do think it will be a success."

It's an $8 million project made possible through corporate contributions, individual donations and tax credits. The Des Moines Social Club is still trying to raise about $100,000. Mannheimer says the goal is to rent space, so the non-profit doesn't have to solely rely on donations and ticket sales.

The free grand opening is this Saturday from 5 to 9 p.m. Parking is available in the Wells Fargo ramp after 5 p.m. You'll have to find a spot on the street during the day.