Heidi Alberts and Nicole Bjerke, owners of the State Theatre of Kasson
For the love of movies
© Copyright Dodge County Independent 2014
507-634-7503 - 105 1st Ave NW - Kasson, MN - firstname.lastname@example.org
Women in Business
Sisters Heidi Alberts and Nicole Bjerke do what they do because of their love of movies. As girls growing up movie theatre time was family time. In 1998 when the theatre building became vacant it was at their father's urging that the sisters decided to take the opportunity to purchase the building and restore it to an operating movie theatre. Their father's lawyer had a friend in Wisconsin in the theatre business and he assured them this was the business for them.
The theatre originally opened in 1937 and closed in 1968 when television was the preferred form of entertainment. Throughout the years two different churches had used the building and it was empty for a number of years. Thankfully none of the owners or tenants made drastic changes to the interior or exterior of the building. When restoration began false walls were taken down exposing art deco paint colors and designs which provided inspiration for the rest of the theatre. Purchasing the building in July of 1998 the theatre re-opened for business in November. Initial response to the theatre was very positive and the theatre was busy. The business has felt the repercussions of a new theatre opening on the west side of Rochester along with the impact of a down economy. The latest business challenge is the changeover from film to digital. Heidi figures in about 16 months film will no longer be available and the theatre will have to purchase a digital projector. "The quality of digital is unbelievable. It is like HD for the large screen", said Heidi. "This is something we want to do", said Nicole, "but the cost of $70,000 is considerable for our business. We love what we do and want to continue operating the theatre in Kasson."
Having a community presence in Kasson is important to Heidi and Nicole. The theatre opens its doors for many causes. For many years the KM kindergarten classes have conducted a fundraiser for Paws and Claws with the finale being a trip to the theatre for the kindergarteners along with a chance to meet a Paws and Claws dog. The KM middle school classes generally attend a movie at Christmas time and the Creation Kids Preschool comes for a movie day. Most recently daycare Thursdays in the summertime have become very popular. Children come free of charge to watch a movie in air conditioned comfort every Thursday during the summer months. "We love being able to provide the theatre for the kids to enjoy. We love it when it is so busy we have to take popcorn orders and run the buckets into the theater", said Nicole. Heidi nods in agreement. "We have employed over 80 youth during our 14 years here. They become like an extended family. We love that we can involve students in different ways." In the past they held movie/band bash nights with local bands playing plus a movie. "Those were lots of fun. Right now we don't have employees in bands, but we would do that again, if the opportunity came up", said Heidi. "We are interested in having the theatre used for Wii, video games or dance parties and events. We are open to suggestions as how we could do this", said Nicole.
The theatre is also asked frequently to donate movie baskets for various fundraisers and events. "We never say no", said Heidi. "We will ask families if they would prefer to come to the theatre for a movie instead of having us provide a movie basket. We want to help in a way that is best for their situation", said Nicole.
A special event scheduled at the theatre is the showing of the movie "Courageous" on Sunday, February 19 at 1:30. The movie centers on four men called to serve and protect as law enforcement officers. The men must also deal with the challenge of fatherhood and tragedy which calls them to wrestle with their hopes, fears, and faith. Numerous area churches are part of this event and all proceeds will go to the projector fund. Heidi and Nicole would like this to become a monthly event, another way to involve youth with the theatre.
The sisters have their creative juices flowing as to other ways to raise money for the new projector. "We have thought about giving people the opportunity to donate and become members of the Star-watchers wall or some such way of recognizing people and businesses that support our effort to keep the theatre open," pondered Nicole. "We also have that side of the building to the west that we have thought about using for a mural," continued Heidi. The theatre is asking for the community's support in this fundraising endeavor while at the same time is looking for ways to involve the community. A fund for donations has been established at the Kasson State Bank.
In reality it is more than just a love for movies. It is a love for the community, for its residents and youth and all the positive things that come from having a movie theatre in the community. With the support of the residents and businesses, Heidi and Nicole hope to keep the State Theatre open as a vibrant part of the community.