The Cambrian

Cambria landmark Pewter Plough Playhouse for sale — again

The Pewter Plough Playhouse in Cambria’s West Village is for sale.
The Pewter Plough Playhouse in Cambria’s West Village is for sale.

The Cambria property formerly known as the Pewter Plough Playhouse is for sale. Again.

But entertainment still will be staged at the J. Buckley Theater, according to the man who holds the lease on the restaurant and theater.

The property went on the market May 4. Listing agent Alex De Alba of Cambria said a few days later that some local and out-of-town prospects had already inquired, but no offers had come in yet.

The asking price is $1.195 million for the two parcels of land, the more than 3,500-square-foot building (some of which dates back to 1920) and a small, two-story storage barn in back. It was listed last August for $1.3 million.

The building at 824 Main St. has been for decades the compact venue for play productions and other entertainment. It has been on and off the market since its longtime founder, owner and driving force Jim Buckley died in September 2015 at the age of 102. His son, James L. Buckley, who had for years managed most Plough operations, died in late 2013.

Jim Buckley’s widow, Rebecca Buckley, tried hanging onto and managing the property as a theatrical producer and, later, as just a property manager. She has had various levels of activity in the small theater — including a period of hosting productions and entertainment several nights a week.

Recently, however, Buckley decided to re-list the property for sale.

“I thought that being just a resident landlord, not a producer, would work out for me best. But, it doesn’t,” she said in an email to The Cambrian. “There’s still a lot of responsibility and everyday problems and stress involved.”

Now, Buckley wants “to be free from it entirely … to sell, pay off all indebtedness and find a place to re-create my beautiful nest … then write and travel for the rest of my days. That’s it in a nutshell. That’s all I need.”

She declined to elaborate further on her future plans or other details.

One parcel of land includes three merged lots that front on Main Street, while the other stretches along the alley in back.

The theater/restaurant building, which is described online as “sports and entertainment ... theater and concert hall” includes an upstairs studio, the J. Buckley Theater and a restaurant/café, which is leased to Giovanni Grillenzoni of the Harmony Cafe.

On stage

Grillenzoni leases the restaurant and, as of March 1, also holds the lease on the J. Buckley Theater. As such, he’s now in charge of entertainment, too.

In several phone interviews, Grillenzoni said he has a “big, giant lease. No problem. My lease is fine,” and he has “big, big plans for the J. Buckley Theater… It is under my control now.”

Grillenzoni’s plans include a 2018 twist on a cabaret theme, with “music, food and drink,” and more, he said. There’s to be a movie showing every Monday, an upcoming Italian movie festival, concerts, appearances by musicians and more.

He doesn’t intend to produce any stage plays, however.

For now, much of the theater’s schedule will be set on a day-by-day basis, and listings aren’t yet available. To find out what’s playing, call the restaurant at 805-924-1219.

Jazz artist series

However, one series at the J. Buckley Theater is firmly set, according to internationally renowned jazzman Charlie Shoemake.

The long-running local Charlie and Sandi Shoemake Famous Jazz Artist Series is alive and well, he said in a Monday phone interview, and it’s based now at the J. Buckley Theater.

Charlie Shoemake also provides piano entertainment from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights at the café.

The jazz concert series began a quarter century ago and ran for more than two decades at The Hamlet (now Centrally Grown at Off the Grid).

Since then, the series was a bit nomadic, set up for a time at D’Ambino’s in Paso Robles, then the Cambria Community Center for the Arts Theater, then Painted Sky Studios in Cambria, in San Luis Obispo and even at the Shoemakes’ home.

At the Buckley Theater, the Shoemakes and their guest artists have already performed three series gigs (six performances, with each series including matinee and evening concerts).

“People really seem to like it,” Shoemake said.

The small theater provides an intimate setting, and food and beverages are available. He quipped, “It’s the Hamlet without the ocean view.”

The next series performances are Sunday, May 27, with the semi-annual fundraiser for the Shoemakes’ Central Coast Jazz Institute.

Performers will include some of his current students, “a whole bunch of really talented people,” Charlie Shoemake said.

Shows are matinee and evening. For tickets, $20 for general audience, $10 for students, or $25 for both shows, email Shoemake at or call 805- 927-0179

The next Famous Jazz concerts are set for June 10, with noted guitarist Frank Potenza, and June 24, with Andy Martin, whom Shoemake called “one of the leading jazz trombone players in the world.”

He added, “We’re back to bringing in the heaviest jazz hitters in the world,” but now they’re at the J. Buckley Theater in Cambria.