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Deep Thoughts On Deep Ellum in 2011 with La Grange's Stephanie Schumacher

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For the last eight months, I've lived within earshot of La Grange, this year's Observer winner for Best Bar 2010, and have come to know owners Rob and Stephanie Schumacher through the drunkest of times and the soberest of times. Their foray into revitalizing their historic Deep Ellum block, along with a handful of other resilient restaurant and venue owners, has put the neighborhood back on the map after a period of real and serious decline (a period during which I also lived in Deep Ellum -- the dirty, dank days of '05 and '06). With Club Dada re-opening up some time next week, maybe, a once-dark stretch of Elm Street is alight again with booze and music.

I talked to Stephanie Schumacher earlier this afternoon to find out what she sees for Deep Ellum in 2011. Her hopes: that the neighborhood becomes a destination ... and not just on weekends. And that's going to take everyone on the block cooperating with each other and supporting their scene.

"Dada's opening is going to highlight that last dark spot," Schumacher says, and "then Deep Ellum becomes a destination again, where people park and walk around." There, she says, "you can eat, you can go to five different clubs and bounce around, and you have that cool outdoor feel."

To hear Schumacher tell it, the Deep Ellum business model is built as much on cooperation as it is competition. The more venues and restaurants cross-promote and support each other in 2011, the better off they'll all be. For example, she says La Grange already has plans to partner with Club Dada, and she's hoping to work on an event with the Double Wide.

"It's a matter of all of us kind of hanging in there for the next couple of months or so," Schumacher says. "I think Deep Ellum is really going to bounce back tremendously. You can feel the buzz in the whole music community. Everyone is really excited about it."

They key to long-term success next year, she says, will be getting visitors down on Elm Street during the week. At La Grange with their live music, "we really want to enhance that," she said. "We want to pull people down to Deep Ellum." By increasing and enhancing special events like screenings, concerts and and local music festivals "we can help promote the whole area."

But Schumacher says the neighborhood hopes to get more involvement from City Hall in the future. "The city has to kick in a little bit." Sidewalks are in bad shape, and Schumacher says "we have curbs where you fall off and break your neck." Those practical things need to be addressed if Deep Ellum is going to continue to flourish, but the neighborhood also needs aesthetic additions like lighting. Next year, Schumacher says, she'd love to see high-strung lights down Elm Street like the ones downtown along Main Street: "If [the city] can put a little bit of an initiative into that, the clubs and associations would step up to the plate." Cooperation, again, seems to be an important resolution for Ellumites in 2011.

Some nights, I find myself complaining about all that damned loud rock and roll music and yelling outside my window. But, damn it, I couldn't be happier about all that damned loud rock and roll music and yelling outside my window.

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