Last year did not end well for Casey Whitaker.
Following a shooting outside the building on Christmas Eve, the city padlocked the doors of 412 Market Street, effectively ending activity there for all the building’s tenants, including the Mosaic ministry and The Warehouse, an all-ages Christian music venue founded by Whitaker.
The Warehouse started four years ago in a small strip mall in East Ridge and relocated downtown last spring after Mosaic pastor Tim Reid offered to lease them a larger space in 412 Market for the same monthly rent.
“It was a good move at the time, and it worked out great until the issues started happening,” Whitaker said. “The city decided to shut the upstairs down, and that left us out in the cold.”
Faced with no way to host a benefit concert to recoup his debt and relocate the venue yet again, Whitaker turned to online fundraising site Kickstarter.
Kickstarter rules are simple: Set a fundraising goal and a deadline, then meet it or walk away with nothing.
Whitaker’s goal: Raise $10,000 between Jan. 11 and Feb. 11.
As with all Kickstarter campaigns, Whitaker was taking a risk. Without being able to host benefit shows, as The Warehouse had done in the past, however, it was the best of the limited options available.
Whitaker said he was praying for the support of the many fans of the venue, which offered one of the few places for the under-21 crowd to go to hear live music.
The gamble paid off. By Feb. 11, the campaign had received $12,225 from 178 backers.
“If everybody got behind it a little bit, I knew we’d be fine,” Whitaker said. “I was a little worried and stressed, but at the same time, I just had faith that it would happen.”
After an initial rush, Whitaker said, the donations had been tapering off until four days from the end of the campaign when the fund received $3,000 from an anonymous donor.
“He was a random guy who lives in California in the L.A. area,” Whitaker said, adding that he tracked down the donor to offer his thanks but was told none was needed. “He said, ‘Don’t send me a shirt. Don’t send me anything. I just want to do this out of the kindness of my heart.’ ”
Now that the money is in place, Whitaker said he has spent several weeks searching for a new home, a search that has narrowed down to a pair of buildings in Cleveland, Tenn. Regardless of where it ends up, he said he hopes to have The Warehouse’s grand reopening in mid-April.
As difficult as it has been to be shut down so suddenly, Whitaker said it has been rewarding to see the community rally behind him.
“It definitely was a hard time, like a storm we had to go through, but through the process, I think it made the young people of the city not take for granted what they had,” he said. “I kind of feel like all things happen for a reason.”
* * *
The first semifinal rounds of the McKay’s Road to Nightfall competition are Wednesday and Thursday at Rhythm & Brews. Shows begin each night at 7. Cover is $5.
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...