Gayle Berry

Gayle Berry, director of the Willcox Theater, at the historic Palace Saloon, Friday, March 1, 2019.

WILLCOX — It started as a meat market during Prohibition days; later, it became a place that served drinks.

Now the historic Palace Saloon will be a part of Willcox’s creative dens.

The Willcox Theater and Arts bought the Palace Saloon, located in downtown Willcox in front of the train station and next to the Theater. The place will now be “an entertainment and cultural hub for all ages,” according to Gayle Berry, executive director of the Willcox Theater.

The board of directors of the Willcox Theater managed to secure the purchase on Valentine’s Day, Berry said Friday. According to Berry, the WTA offers offer more classes, workshops, community programs and summer camps, so the need for more room was imperative, she said.

“We knew we needed more space,” Berry said Friday, as she inspected the saloon and some workers started cleaning up the dark-lit saloon. “For us, having it next door is ideal.”

Cheryl McLaughlin, president of the board of directors, said, “It is a terrific opportunity and I’m looking forward to the expansion of our already amazing lineup of programs for our community!”

The Willcox Theater purchased the saloon for $185,000. Friday, Berry and a group went to inspect the saloon — she acknowledged there was much work to do in cleaning it up but said that the place will be refurbished in parts while it is being used, especially by its video team.

WTA will also expand on its current partnerships with the Willcox Art League, Sulphur Springs Valley Historic Society and more to support the WTA’s efforts, Berry said. She added that more space equates to more opportunity, and WTA is leading the way to better serve the community through the arts, humanities and science activities for all ages.

Berry said that, often, people who were raised in Willcox, and then left, have told her they would have loved to have had the work of the theater and Studio 128 when they lived in town.

“There is a need there that we are filling without initially knowing about it, Berry said.