Wooly’s sold to Kum & Go4/1/2016
This week brought some of the most surprising news to hit downtown Des Moines in years, as Sam Summers, founder of the Hinterland Music Festival and owner of First Fleet Concerts, Up/Down and Wooly’s, announced that his empire would be one piece smaller this summer. After months of negotiations, Summers has sold Wooly’s to convenience chain Kum & Go, with the corporation taking official ownership of the venue on June 1.
Kum & Go has made waves in downtown already by purchasing a large tract of land near Western Gateway Park for its corporate headquarters. In that land grab, the company bought the building that currently houses Gas Lamp and announced last winter that the venue would close in August of this year, as the building is demolished to make way for Kum & Go employee parking. Now the chain has announced plans to close Wooly’s as well, gutting the space and installing a new 1,100-square-foot store into the famed East Village location.
“Wooly’s has been a major part of the revitalization of the East Village,” said Kum & Go spokesman Guy Lyons. “The venue has become so recognizable for Des Moines residents and visitors alike, that we feel a large part of the groundwork has been laid to make that space an extremely profitable location for us.”
Lyons went on to say that the new Kum & Go location would honor the space’s musical past, by incorporating an instrumental motif into the store’s wall art.
For his part, Summers has been largely silent on the transaction, with negotiations having been played close to the vest for months. He cites the recent Hinterland lineup announcement featuring Willie Nelson as a contributing factor for finally getting a deal done.
“Country legends don’t come cheap,” Summers said in a phone interview. “Last year’s event did well, but most of that money went into resanding Up/Down’s skeeball ramps. If I had known how much work it was to maintain old video games, I never would have opened the place to begin with.”
Lyons said that Kum & Go plans on operating the venue for about a month after taking ownership, because company owners are huge fans of The Wilderness and already had tickets to attend the band’s July 21 show at the venue.
“Although, now they won’t have to pay $70 for one of the booths,” Lysons added. “That’s just ridiculous.”
Summers said he plans on continuing to maintain Up/Down and Hinterland, and that First Fleet will still book shows into the city, though they will be of a higher profile than the current crop of Wooly’s shows.
“We’ve got Iggy Azalea coming to Wells Fargo in August with Riff Raff,” Summers said. “That should be a big one for us. We’re also working on Creed, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Avril Lavigne makes a Des Moines announcement soon, too.”
Fans of the East Village venue are understandably upset to see it go, but Streetcar 209 owner JC Wilson has looked into picking up some of the slack, booking The Wallflowers to play the intimate, 100-seat venue in August. But no matter where touring acts in Des Moines go in the future, one thing will be certain: They’ll have a place downtown to stock up.
“Kum & Go is committed to providing the best snack experience possible to our customers,” Lyon said. “The East Village really fits in with our company ideals of fast, mass-produced quality.” CV
CAPTION: The final show at Wooly’s will be July 32.