Bryan’s Grand Stafford Theater is heir to a lengthy heritage. The building itself dates back as far as the early 1910s and has endured through cultural and technological innovations, as well a a few misfortunes.
In its first noteworthy incarnation, the Stafford was known as the Dixie Theater. After stints in New Orleans, Louisiana and then Houston, flamboyant entertainment entrepreneur Morris Schulman emigrated to Bryan and purchased the Dixie Theater on Main Street in 1926. (Eventually, he would also acquire the old Grand Opera House and refashion it as the Palace Theater. His wife later would purchase the Queen Theater, located on the same block as the elder Dixie.) Under Schulman’s management, the facilities operated successfully as single-screen theaters and venues. Schulman’s promotional tactics focused heavily on encouraging Texas A&M students to travel out to Bryan for events and showings. Considering the lack of established venues in the College Station area, Schulman seemed to understand his market well.
After Schulman’s tragic suicide, his wife, Edna, and son, Bill, assumed ownership of the lucrative theaters, including, of course, the ever-popular Dixie. In fact, business was thriving under their direction until the advent of the movie multiplex, which quickly outmoded the classic, single-screen cinema.
Then, unfortunately, the Dixie was shuddered after suffering a fire—allegedly set by a vagrant—in 1983.
Under the guidance of influential real estate developer Reid Monroe, whose efforts largely included revitalizing the downtown Bryan business district, the Dixie was remodeled and reopened in the mid-1990s as the Stafford Opera House, where it enjoyed several years of serving as a venue hosting popular touring bands, mostly of the bourgeoning college-rock scene. Groups like the Gin Blossoms, the Jesus Lizard, and Michelle Shocked performed here, as did Texas singer-songwriter greats like Robert Earl Keen and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
From there, the Stafford Opera House flip-flopped ownership and monikers, known again as the Dixie Theatre in the late 1990s, and later, The Venue, and finally, as Stafford Main Street. However, the facility itself has always maintained a draw as a prominent, historical entertainment venue in the Brazos Valley. With this new revitalization, as the Grand Stafford Theater, we hope to both hearken back to the theater’s long-earned significance as a sparkling downtown Bryan entertainment destination and to draw together folks from the college and local communities in pursuit of the highest quality in hospitality and musical entertainment.
If you have more information about this history of this magnificent Texas cultural artifact, please feel free to contact us. We’re enthusiastic about representing all of the important history surrounding this stalwart venue.