Cambrian: Arts & Events

Pewter Plough’s new operator plans to tweak the name, won’t have theater company

Giovanni Grillenzoni details his plans for the Pewter Plough during an announcement Tuesday at his Harmony Café in Cambria’s West Village.
Giovanni Grillenzoni details his plans for the Pewter Plough during an announcement Tuesday at his Harmony Café in Cambria’s West Village.

The Pewter Plough may no longer be called a playhouse, but new operator Giovanni Grillenzoni is intent on “keeping the image of (founder) Jim Buckley alive” at the theater in Cambria’s West Village.

Grillenzoni confirmed Tuesday that he’d signed a lease with building owner Rebecca Buckley to operate the theater. He already leases space for his adjacent Harmony Café.

“Gio plans to present a broad spectrum of programming and events in the theatre to entice the community as well as visiting tourists,” Buckley wrote in an email. “I wish him much success with his plan, and am very grateful that I will be just a landlord, which is what is best for me.”

Buckley and Grillenzoni both declined to comment on financial terms or length of the lease, but Grillenzoni called it “a very good agreement. We’re very happy both for the amount and for the time.”

“The Harmony Café lease is separate from the theater lease,” Buckley said. “The barn occupancy is separate from both, as is the upstairs of the main building that I occupy.”

The theater lease takes effect March 1.

No plays planned

Buckley, Jim Buckley’s widow, had put the theater at 824 Main St. up for sale at an asking price of $1.3 million, but took it off the market and decided to lease it instead. She operated the venue last year and brought in a range of entertainment to complement what had been its mainstay: stage plays. (The resident theater company and Buckley parted ways at the end of 2016, with the players moving to Morro Bay as By the Sea Productions.)

Grillenzoni said Tuesday that he doesn’t plan to put on plays in the theater, although he’s open to outside parties renting the space for that purpose — or for conventions, weddings, or various forms of entertainment.

“My vision is a little different,” he said. But, he added, he wants to preserve the stage and seating, specifically stating that he didn’t want to see someone “turn it into apartments or a store or something different.”

Part of that new vision involves a new name. Grillenzoni said he plans to keep the name “Pewter Plough,” but will be looking to replace the word “Playhouse” with something else. He’s not sure what, yet, but said he will be taking suggestions from the community.

He’s also replacing the carpeting, repainting the building and plans to expand the courtyard, he said.

Movies, food and music

Not everything will be changing, though. Grillenzoni said he plans to continue his Monday “dinner and a movie” nights, which feature dishes prepared to match the theme of each classic movie. He’s also looking to add a second movie night, forming a movie club and encouraging discussion of the films.

Charlie Shoemake will continue his piano performances, as well. Grillenzoni said he wants Shoemake to provide opening night entertainment for the new Plough, and Shoemake said, “I promise I’ll bring one of the top jazz musicians in the world here.”

Shoemake and wife Sandi have presented their Famous Jazz Artist Series in Cambria for more than a quarter-century; this Sunday, they’ll bring acclaimed saxophonist Lanny Morgan to Painted Sky Studios, across the street and down a block or two from the Plough (tickets for that 6:30 p.m. concert are $20 or $10 for students; for reservations, email or call 805-927-0179.) Shoemake said the series may make some stops at the Plough in the future, as well.

Grillenzoni also has plans for a cooking class with a special menu and special music. “It’s not just a cooking class, it’s a show,” he said. “I did it a long time ago, and it did super well.”

He wants to reach out to local youth and said he’s talked to Coast Unified Superintendent Vicki Schoemacher about getting students to get involved.

His goal, he said, is to make the Plough “a destination to go” and “a place to connect for special events and special foods.”

Meanwhile, he’ll continue to operate the Harmony Café.

“I’m a chef,” he said simply. “I make food.”

Stephen H. Provost: 805-927-8896, @sproauthor