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Making much of downtown


By Jeri Rowe, Staff Writer

News & Record

GREENSBORO — Joey Medaloni often sits on the new rooftop terrace he calls Heaven and thinks about the possibilities.

Much at a glance

Address: 113 S. Elm St., Greensboro

Phone: 370-1311. Reservations accepted.

Hours: 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Wednesday-Saturday

Menu: Continental

Entree prices: $8-$48

Staff: At least 31 people, including two chefs from South Africa and one from Italy.

Dining and entertainment: Patrons will eat European-style in one big group downstairs and have individual tables on the second floor. Much’s bar will offer 12 different types of martinis. A dinner receipt gives free admission to The N Club or the Red Room, which usually requires a cover of $7 to $10.

Guy in quotes: Joey Medaloni

What’s in a name? Much: “It’s a little bit of everything.” Temptation: “We want to indulge your senses.” Heaven: “This is as close as you can get.”

Why the investment? “Greensboro deserves something like this. It’s a great city. This will put us on the E! Channel.”

Whether it’s 5 in the afternoon or 4 in the morning, he sees the same thing: White marble floor. A bar on one side. Bathrooms on the other. And at least 200 people in between, enjoying themselves in the shadow of Greensboro’s downtown skyline.

“This new thing will keep people here,” says Medaloni recently from his rooftop perch that overlooks Davie Street. “It’ll get the traffic here, then other places will succeed and other places will want to come. It’s one big giant circle.’’

On Dec. 20, Medaloni plans to open Heaven, as well as Temptation and Much, short for Much Restaurant and Bar. He wants to give downtown Greensboro an entertainment jolt, worthy of coverage on the E! Channel, by offering food, live music, belly dancers and the sound of running water flowing over a two-story rock wall that looks like something from “The Flintstones.”

More on the belly dancers and the rock wall later. But think beyond the exotic details. Medaloni has taken an old, dilapidated building and turned it into a three-story, 10,000-square-foot restaurant and bar that some see as the one of the largest entertainment options in the Triad. And he jumps into this business venture at a time when restaurants across the Triad are closing because of the sluggish economy.

But Medaloni is no nightlife neophyte. He knows about entertainment.

In 1998, when weekend nights in downtown Greensboro were as quiet as a cemetery, Medaloni bought the old Center Theatre and created The N Club. He combined the dance club with the Red Room, an upscale bar in the same building, and The Sky Bar, another dance club just down the street. By the time he was finished three years later, he almost single-handedly created a block-long entertainment district that drew 500 to 1,000 people once the sun set.

He became what some called the unofficial mayor of South Elm Street. He had invested $1.25 million in downtown Greensboro and transformed the tawdry reputation of nightlife into a solid business venture respected by both city officials and downtown supporters.

And Medaloni, a former male burlesque dancer from Reidsville with broad shoulders and a Pepsodent grin, is only 33.

“Something that I think is important is the fact that Joey is a fairly young fellow, and he’s putting this amount of money into downtown Greensboro,” said Milton Kern, a well-known developer who owns 12 buildings downtown.

“You talk about keeping young people here; well, we have turned the corner with people like Joey … because older folks will make investments in real estate, stick with it for five to seven years and then retire and say, 'The hell with it,’ ” says Kern, who says he’s in his 50s.

“But it’s extremely important for young people like Joey to make that kind of investment because if they’re making that kind of investment, they’re not moving somewhere else.”

More than a year ago, Medaloni sold the Sky Bar so he could concentrate on his new business venture two doors away from The N Club. He didn’t tell anyone publicly what it was, other than saying it was “something new” for Greensboro.

Meanwhile, he started working on a building he says was a “battlefield.” The 1912 building, which once housed the Bargain Box clothing store, had been vacant for nearly a decade. In that time, ceilings collapsed, floors rotted and the building became another empty storefront along Greensboro’s main street.

Medaloni invested at least $600,000 in the building — some downtown supporters say that figure is conservative — and he has spent the past 14 months working to create a spot with a Las Vegas, vacation-like feel.

Anita Williams has had a front-row seat for the whole thing. She works behind the cash register at Lane Drug, the three-aisle drugstore sandwiched between the N Club and Much Restaurant and Bar, and for the past few months, customers have come in almost every day and asked, “What’s going to open?”

She told them a restaurant and bar. Just the other day, she sneaked over to see for herself. She says she was impressed.

“I’ve seen an old, rundown building for years, and I’ve never thought they could turn it into something that could look like that,” says Williams, who has worked at Lane Drug for seven years.

“I mean, you’ve got a wall that looks like it was made out of rocks in there,” she says, laughing from her spot behind the cash register. “It’s just something for downtown. It’ll bring a crowd and help downtown become what it used to be.”

Much will help fill the gap between the daytimers and the night owls by providing something to do between 5 and 10 p.m., says Doug Heberle, vice president of economic development for Downtown Greensboro Inc., a nonprofit organization working to spur downtown development.

“This shows signs of life,” Heberle says. “We don’t want people coming downtown and not seeing someone else or a congregation of people. We want to be active. We want you to see people so you don’t feel like you’re out on your own.”

Recently, Much looked like a big construction site. But listen to Medaloni, and he’ll paint a picture: the gas lanterns and the 11-foot doors made of Brazilian mahogany out front, the 38-foot martini bar inside and the two-story rock wall made of acrylic and concrete where water will cascade and create the sound of a calming, mountain stream.

Then walk up a wide staircase to the second floor: a 20-table, 80-seat dining room Medaloni will call Temptation that will have live music —maybe a conga and saxophone player, Medaloni says — and belly dancers performing twice an hour.

Step up to the roof, Medaloni’s version of Heaven: a 5,800-square-foot spot with a retractable canvas cover and 12 large heaters to keep the temperature at least 62 degrees.

“When I envisioned this, this is not Manhattan, not New York, not Charlotte,” he says from Heaven. “I want them to be jealous of what we’re doing. That’s my goal.”

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It really is amazing how Greensboro's downtown night life has changed over the past 5 years and its only going to get better with the future downtown ballpark and the number of projects planned for center-city Greensboro. I think Greensboro has the potential to become a mini-Atlanta in terms of the downtown entertainment and night life. There definately is a sense of a growing urban character for the center-city. About a month ago the media anounced a micro-brewery coming to the same area of downtown. It will located in a 3-story building built in the 1890s. The restaurant area will be 2-stories and the 3rd floor will be used as the restaurant owners office space. A 3-story Jazz Cafe' and night club/lounge opened up recently about a block over on Greene Street in another historic building. The restaturant portion will display art from many artist from the local area.

South Elm Street in the Old Greensborough downtown historic district is without a doubt the center-city's entertainment strip. I think that Greensboro is definately focusing on retaining its position as the entertainment hub for the Triad and central piedmont of North Carolina. cities with a vibrant night life are important for trying to attract new companies and young professionals looking to move to a vibrant city.

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go for it! :D

I also love the roof top terrace on the Kress building as well! Weddings, theatrical events, parties and small bands and live entertainment for weekend use are just some of the events held on that roof. I'd like to see more restaurant and other type of rooftop terrace on some of the other old buildings on S. Elm Street.









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