WINTERS — Those who yearn for the live, low-key magic of The Palms can stop reminiscing and start rejoicing: The Palms will open its doors at 13 Main St. in the historic Winters Opera House in January.
New owners Andrew Fridae and Nora Cary — who collectively are Cary & Fridae Productions LLC — made their big announcement this week that months of planning and negotiations are about to come to fruition. Very soon, tickets to their first show will go on sale.
Who is it, and where will the tickets be available? Those details and a few others are still being worked out, but come the new year, there will be something old and familiar returning to town — but in a new and fresh way.
Fridae and Cary come from families very familiar to most Winters residents. Fridae is the younger son of Winters school teachers Rebecca and Woody Fridae; Woody is a longtime former City Councilman and mayor. Cary is the daughter of Diane and Keith Cary; her father is an iconic musician and music teacher.
Besides their homegrown roots, Fridae and Cary also share a lifelong love of music, dance and theater. Fridae is a director of the Winters Shakespeare Workshop, and made his directing debut with the Winters Theatre Company’s “Circle Mirror Transformation” last year. Cary is an accomplished ballet dancer and mother of two.
Fridae and Cary are deeply appreciative of former Palms owner Dave Fleming, who retired in April and relocated to Las Vegas. Fleming was instrumental in making a smooth hand-off to the new owners, and they are devoted to retaining the musical foundation he established.
Fridae adds that “the network that Dave built and his rapport with musicians” have “amazing richness,” and he and Cary plan to continue where Fleming left off.
“Dave has been really supportive in helping us maintain those connections,” Cary adds.
Both grew up attending shows at The Palms and are quite familiar with its vibe, which they intend to carry forward into the next evolution of one of Yolo County’s most cherished music venues.
Loyal Palms customers (“Fronds of The Palms”) will be relieved to learn that many of the old, familiar musical acts are expected to return, along with fresh new musicians and bands in the same genres, particularly folk and bluegrass.
Fridae says folk music is thriving among the under-30 population, adding that he and Cary want to attract that younger crowd without alienating the people who already love The Palms. He is optimistic that love of music will bridge the generation gap.
“Previous fans will be delighted to find new music in the same genre,” Fridae says, predicting that “kids will bring their parents to Palms shows and parents will bring their kids to The Palms.”
While aiming to retain the familiar “spirit of The Palms,” Fridae and Cary also plan to complement the musical performances with new offerings, such as daytime music and dance workshops and theatrical performances, but for now, Fridae stresses that “the focus is 100 percent on the music.”
Returning customers will notice that the Winters Opera House room still looks pretty much the same, and there is still beer and wine at the little bar in the corner, but there are new selections on the food menu, like sandwiches and salads.
“But we’ll still have Cracker Jack,” Cary added with a smile.
Increasing the food menu allows The Palms to be open to all ages, and they didn’t waste any time getting a younger crowd through the doors: Winters High School’s winter ball is booked there on Jan. 21.
While some who grew up in Winters and moved away might view returning home with disinterest, Fridae and Cary both believe that coming back to their hometown after experiencing the world is a welcome experience. They see the town with fresh eyes and realize the business potential here.
“Now is the perfect time for people who grew up in this town to reinvest in this town,” Fridae says enthusiastically.
Central to Winters
He notes that The Palms came to Winters from Davis in 2002, on the cusp of a downtown business renaissance; Winters is poised to blossom once again and The Palms will play a key role.
He lists the PG&E training facility and downtown hotel as exciting changes that will impact the business community, bringing new people into town to attend classes or stay for the weekend. Those people will discover The Palms, which will “improve the quality of music and the quality of nightlife entertainment here,” he says.
Those who are already familiar with The Palms aren’t in for a huge shock, however.
“We love The Palms as it was and we don’t want to alienate longtime fans,” Cary says. “We want them to feel like this is a continuance of what was here before.”
She adds that she and Fridae are invested in retaining “the feeling that people get when they come to shows here; a warm, intimate environment … something that is familiar.”
Co-owning a music venue is a natural for Cary, who literally grew up surrounded by top-notch music and musicians. Her father, Keith, is known far and wide for playing a huge and eclectic number of instruments, and sitting in with various bands on a regular basis including Bonanza King and Miss Lonely Hearts.
“I grew up in a deeply musical family,” she says, adding that she hosted small, intimate house concerts of her own while living in Davis. A graduate of UC Davis with a double major in design and anthropology, Cary lived in Merced for a while before returning to Winters with her husband and children.
Fridae says The Palms was one of the things that inspired him musically as he grew up, and like Cary’s father, he has become quite an eclectic musician himself. He plays the guitar, ukelele, piano, “a couple of stringed instruments,” and even the musical saw, having learned from the famed saw-master himself, Winters resident Bob Armstrong.
Coincidentally, Fridae has even performed at The Palms before, as a member of the band Skidmore Bluffs, which toured the country.
Besides music, Fridae has a solid background in theatrical performance and is a skilled puppeteer. He is a graduate of Bennington College, with a liberal arts major and focus in theater and math. Fridae loves “interdisciplinary performance art” and performance that includes music (which is not the same as musical theater, he emphasizes). However, folk music is really where his heart is.
“Folk music on stage has been a big inspiration in my life,” he says.
As for which of Fleming’s musical connections might perform first, that’s still a well-kept secret. However, Cary and Fridae did reveal that John McCutcheon is booked to play The Palms on Martin Luther King’s birthday, Jan. 15. Palms fans can expect tickets for the reopening show to be available in early December.
Longtime fans surely will take solace in Cary’s summary of why she and Fridae are taking over The Palms.
“We wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t love The Palms,” she says. “I am honored to be one of the two people taking part in this next phase of The Palms, and we are so grateful to Dave (Fleming) and to The Palms community for supporting us and for giving us a chance to show you how great it can be.”
Fridae adds, “And it’s only going to get better.”
For more information about The Palms, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.palmsplayhouse.com. Ticket outlets for The Palms for upcoming shows will include Armadillo Music in Davis and Pacific Ace Hardware in Winters.
— Reach Debra DeAngelo at email@example.com