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After years without an audience, a 1913 performance space is ready for its next curtain call. The expansive Princess Theatre in downtown Southern Pines has been re-imagined into three separate spaces, each of which will house a small business.

It’s been a long time coming for Tom and Lora Gisler, real estate investors who acquired the vacant building from Frank Maser in 2018. Some businesses showed interest in the building as a whole, but the amount of work involved to retrofit the space was too great a burden for most. Three years later, encouraged by commercial real estate broker Holly Bell, Tom and Lora began splitting up the space to accommodate more than one tenant, starting with running plumbing beneath the dirt floors. Though the project was plagued by delays and a little thing like a global pandemic — when asked for an update in 2021, he told us “crystal ball was broken” — Tom says he feels honored to have been a part of fixing up the “biggest eyesore in the neighborhood.”

“I’m thankful for all the people who stopped by and gave us encouragement, or shared stories about the place,” he says. “Sometimes it wasn’t the best of days and sometimes I was very chatty, but I appreciated it all the same.”

The front of the building will house one 1,220-square-foot business on the right and on the left, each with Broad Street frontage accessed from a vestibule behind the double doors. Each also has extremely high ceilings, because this old theater still needs some drama. The first confirmed tenant, DAHR Interior, will be on the left.

A view of the back and front of the still-vacant space on the front right of the building.

The back of the building, which once housed the stage, is accessible from Broad Street only by a gated brick patio. Whoever moves in will put their business sign to the left of the door, which Tom hopes will stop people who don’t know the building’s history from thinking that it still operates as a theater. To that end, the Moore County Historical Association has placed a QR code on the other side of the building, which links to this video about its history.

The alley shows the signs of where windows and doors once stood, and the former stage area is more on the rustic side, too — dare we say business in the front, party in the back? — with exposed brick and ceilings. This space is about 2,600 square feet, with a 66-person capacity.

“I wanted this area to retain as much history as it could, and be a tribute to the trades,” Tom says, referring to visible pipes and wiring. He’s hoping “something fun” moves in. Same.

And because no renovation is complete without a few ~transformation~ pics, here are some before-and-afters:

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