The Garber Door Company warehouse, a well-known haven for bands and artists in the RVA creative scene, closed its doors in June and with it ended an era.
With more than just a 65,000 square foot warehouse, the building had come to be known over the years for its flourishing community of musicians who used the space to practice and network.
Since the 1980s, Richmond bands had been using the building as it grew into a communal location over the years with more artists turning to its ample space for piece and quiet they could shatter without disturbing their neighbors.
The door company was barely using the building, so they decided to rent it out to help pay the bills.
“People kept asking us, ‘Could we do this? Could we do that?’ It kind of evolved,” said Carl Otto, president of Garbers of Richmond. “It’s not one of those master plan things where you sit down and just have this revelation and you go off and do some astounding things. It just doesn’t work that way.”
Local filmmaker and musician Allison Apperson was so inspired by the building and its impact on the scene she decided to shoot a documentary, Goodbye Garbers. With help from many RVA bands, the movie successfully reflects on the history and role the building played in the area.
“We were all really into this because we knew it was important to document what happened at Garbers,” Apperson said in an email interview with RVAMag. “It’s a unique place that we were very lucky to have. The previous owner of the building… was very open-minded. There have been a ton of random tenants in that building – I’m just not sure many other people would have allowed that to happen.”
The fact that the building became a hub of bands practicing and, through proximity, networking, was an anomaly of sorts, and the hole left by the building’s changing hands isn’t likely to be filled anytime soon.
“I used to practice there, and even six or seven years ago, whatever it was, I always had a feeling that the place was just too good to be true,” Apperson said. “We were lucky.”
Prominent local bands like Hot Dolphin, Windhand and White Laces practiced at the building. For all bands involved, the loss of Garbers has been devastating. While other practice spots exist in Richmond, Garbers had an inimitable life of its own.
“I’ve toyed with the idea of moving spaces before ‘cuz of convenience… but I just couldn’t do it because I love the collective energy here,” said Michael Harl, guitarist for Manzara. “I’ve met a lot of people here. I’ve made a lot of sort of new friends in the scene, and new music friends.”
For the bands displaced, there are other options available, though they aren’t likely to be the creative community Garbers became over the years. And yet there might still be hope for the spirit of Garbers – maybe it will live on as bands settle in elsewhere and start anew.
“People are finding spots, but I’m not sure it’ll be the same kind of community or hub that Garbers was,” Apperson said. “They’re more spread out. Garbers is gone, but maybe the next best thing is around the corner.”