Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Business

Woman's $1 million gift will help restore Clearwater's old Capitol Theatre

CLEARWATER— Geri Trautlein met her future husband Ray when she was 14. For seven decades, they danced, joked and traveled the world together.

"I had such an exciting life with him," she said. "We lived dancing."

But there was one thing Ray wanted and never got before he died in 2009 at 84.

On Wednesday, she gave it to him.

Trautlein donated $1 million to the project to restore the 92-year-old Capitol Theatre in downtown Clearwater — the largest single gift so far to the restoration of the city-owned theater, which is managed by Ruth Eckerd Hall.

The value of Trautlein's donation "cannot be measured," Ruth Eckerd Hall officials said Wednesday in a news release.

Her gift helps Ruth Eckerd meet its obligation to the city to provide a multimillion dollar endowment and contingency fund for the project, for which the city has budgeted more than $7 million.

More importantly, it allows the organization to provide "an anchor for the comeback of downtown Clearwater," said Zev Buffman, president and CEO of Ruth Eckerd Hall Inc.

The Trautleins "have a long emotional history with the Capitol Theatre," Buffman said.

In an interview, Trautlein said she knew her gift was something her late husband would appreciate. After the couple moved to the Island Estates neighborhood near Clearwater Beach in 1972, Ray often would comment about a building on the corner of Cleveland Street and Osceola Avenue, adjacent to the theater. Ray, who founded LEM Products, a manufacturer of labeling products for industry, would try to talk himself into buying it.

"He always wanted that building," said Trautlein, 86.

One day, Trautlein, who modeled dresses for local women's clothier Pat Lokey, told him her boss beat him to it: Lokey bought the building and made it her signature boutique.

The Lokey building was demolished for the expansion of the Capitol, which will be transformed from a run-down remnant to a 750-seat venue for national acts. Trautlein's gift is a third of the $3 million donated so far.

Opened in 1921 as a vaudeville venue and movie house, the Capitol, one of the oldest theaters in Florida, eventually fell on hard times. It later was renamed the Royalty Theatre, but major acts were few and far between.

The city bought the theater in 2008 and turned over its operations to Ruth Eckerd Hall, which brought in national acts like punk-rocker Henry Rollins, comedian Steven Wright and singer Richard Marx. Based on that success, the restoration and expansion were launched. The theater closed in March and is scheduled to reopen in mid December.

Trautlein, a lifelong dancer, served on the board of the Royalty Theatre. She also danced on its stage in a 1983 production of Sweet Charity.

"I loved that show. And I had so much fun. I always said if I died on the dance floor, I'd be happy," she said.

The couple never had children. Trautlein's accountant recently suggested that she think about making charitable donations.

That made sense to Trautlein. Her philosophy: "Giving while I'm living so I'm knowing where it's going."

A light bulb went off as Trautlein drove by that familiar corner now ringing with the sounds of construction.

"Oh, Raymond, there's your building," she thought.

When she first walks through the doors of the Capitol and sees the new lobby and VIP lounge that will be named in their honor, Trautlein said her eyes will fill with "happy tears."

And with memories of the boy who took her to her first show — a production of Tobacco Road — back in Buffalo, N.Y., when she was in high school.

"I just hope he knows what's going on," she said. "It's give-back time."

Charlie Frago can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4159. You can follow him on Twitter @CharlieFrago.

 
Comments
HSN to cut hundreds of workers as it merges with QVC under new ‘QXH’ business unit

HSN to cut hundreds of workers as it merges with QVC under new ‘QXH’ business unit

ST. PETERSBURG — Hundreds of HSN employees are losing their jobs as their parent company combines the local shopping network with long-time rival QVC under one operation with shared resources.HSN and QVC will maintain their brand identities, but are ...
Updated: 12 minutes ago
Man files suit against Diocese of St. Petersburg saying a Tampa priest sexually abused him in the 1980s

Man files suit against Diocese of St. Petersburg saying a Tampa priest sexually abused him in the 1980s

ST. PETERSBURG — A former parishioner of Christ the King Catholic Church in Tampa, now a lawyer and magistrate in the Virginia Supreme Court, has filed suit against the Diocese of St. Petersburg alleging that he was sexually abused as a child by a no...
Updated: 1 hour ago
After hauling away nearly 1,000 tons of dead fish, Pinellas County sees Red Tide scourge easing

After hauling away nearly 1,000 tons of dead fish, Pinellas County sees Red Tide scourge easing

Pinellas County is nearing 1,000 tons of total collected dead fish since Red Tide exploded into the Gulf coast last month. But based on an update to local tourism officials Wednesday, the smelly situation has improved."We are in a good place with win...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Canada now world's largest legal marijuana marketplace

Canada now world's largest legal marijuana marketplace

MONTREAL (AP) — Ian Power was among the first to buy legal recreational marijuana in Canada but he has no plans to smoke it. He plans to frame it.Canada became the largest country with a legal national marijuana marketplace as sales began earl...
Updated: 5 hours ago
They’ve met 475 Tuesdays in a row to help real estate pros rebound from the housing crash

They’ve met 475 Tuesdays in a row to help real estate pros rebound from the housing crash

TAMPA — A decade ago this fall, the U.S. economy was in crisis. The investment firm Lehman Brothers collapsed in the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history. Major banks were about to fail. The stock market plunged. And in Florida, "real estate stopped co...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Dr. BBQ opens to the public today. Here’s a look.

Dr. BBQ opens to the public today. Here’s a look.

ST. PETERSBURGDr. BBQ needed a beer. Mission accomplished: A sip of Green Bench’s Dr. BBQ Pale Lager dispatched, he was ready to start the tour. See that teal tufted couch against that wall? It’s like something from Girl & the Goat in Chicago. The wo...
Published: 10/17/18
Report: Tampa drivers pay different insurance rates based on ZIP code

Report: Tampa drivers pay different insurance rates based on ZIP code

It can be tough to figure out why insurance companies charge some more than others for auto coverage. But a recent analysis by the Consumer Federation of America suggests that a driver’s neighborhood could be a factor. The analysis, released Monday, ...
Published: 10/17/18
As drug prices soar, drugmakers keep setting records for campaign donations

As drug prices soar, drugmakers keep setting records for campaign donations

Before the midterm elections heated up, dozens of drugmakers had already poured about $12 million into the war chests of hundreds of members of Congress.Since the beginning of last year, 34 lawmakers have each received more than $100,000 from pharmac...
Published: 10/17/18
Mum’s the word but Murman’s a player in departure of Glazer Children’s Museum leader

Mum’s the word but Murman’s a player in departure of Glazer Children’s Museum leader

TAMPA — Jennifer Stancil was looking forward to Halloween and the role she would play in a new downtown event celebrating the spooky holiday."WE ARE SO EXCITED to be a partner with the Riverwalk for Halloween," Stancil, president and chief executive ...
Published: 10/17/18
Giant law firm Baker McKenzie picks Tampa for business services center with 300 new jobs

Giant law firm Baker McKenzie picks Tampa for business services center with 300 new jobs

TAMPA — Baker McKenzie, a global law firm with 13,000 employees in more than 40 countries, said Wednesday it would open a new business services center in Tampa with more than 300 new jobs by early 2020.The hub will provide support to the firm and its...
Updated: 3 hours ago