Peek inside the historic 8,000-square-foot property in downtown Davenport, and one will see a blank slate of sorts.
Outfitted with a concrete floor, red brick walls, large windows and garage doors, the building’s stripped-down look is no accident.
“That was part of the plan,” said Mary McDonald, who with her husband, Randy, has spent months renovating the structure that was built in 1924 and formerly housed Emeis Automotive Services.
“My vision for this space is for whoever books it, whether it’s a 50th wedding anniversary or a concert or a 21st birthday party or a quinceañera, that this room can transform into their vision for their special day,” McDonald said.
Her vision will be on display for the first time Saturday, when The Stardust, billed as a multi-purpose event center, hosts a concert featuring Bob Schneider, a singer/songwriter from Austin, Texas.
The property at 218 Iowa St. has come long a way since Sean Terrell, a Davenport fire captain, bought it in October 2016. At the time, a section of the building’s roof had caved in and he was told the property could soon be slated for demolition. Terrell spent more than a year rehabbing the building and was looking for someone to lease it and turn it in to something. That’s where Randy and Mary McDonald, who are both in their 60s and retired, came in.
“When we saw this, we absolutely fell in love with it because of the history and character of it,” Mary McDonald said. “We wanted to remodel it to fit its original charm.”
The Stardust, which has a capacity of about 600 people, has also come a long way in the last few weeks.
Ahead of the deadline for Saturday’s show, the to-do list included installing new windows and garage doors, a new heating and air conditioning system, painting, “and on and on,” said Randy McDonald.
He called the scene outside and inside of The Stardust last week “absolutely frantic.”
Part of the “chaos,” he said, came from having to update the property’s water and sewer lines. Crews dug up an 8-foot strip of Iowa Street, which caused the road to be closed between 2nd and 3rd streets for three weeks.
“Everything comes down to the 11th hour,” he said. “We knew how close it was going to be. But it got done. And we’re ready for people to see it.”
Coming up on The Stardust's calendar are two shows booked by Sean Moeller, a Davenport-based concert promoter who co-owns the Triple Crown Whiskey Bar and Raccoon Motel.
But it's not serving as just another music venue.
McDonald says the space could host a wide range of events, such as wedding ceremonies and receptions, parties, meetings and festivals. With her experience and help from her two daughters, McDonald said the space could transform from “casual barn dance to elegant affair.”
McDonald, who has worked as a florist since 1977, has experience accommodating “different personalities.”
“I have never said no to a bride. I always say, ‘Let me see what I can do,’” she said. “It went from just doing flowers to event planning.”
Inside The Stardust, the decorations are, so far, spare and packed with history. Among them is a century-old, 20-foot wooden bar that McDonald found at an auction. Atop the bar hangs a stained glass piece and vintage sign that came with the bar. Just inside the front entrance, visitors will see two Emeis-era window signs that were repurposed.
The name of the venue is inspired by another story from the past.
Randy and Mary McDonald, who have been married for 43 years, met in sixth grade and started dating three days after high school graduation. About a year later, they were married and honeymooned at the former Stardust Motel, which opened in 1962 in Moline.
“He’s my best friend,” Mary McDonald said. “If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t be here. Even though it’s my business, he’s such a big supporter.”
On the second floor of The Stardust, there’s a roughly 1,200-square-foot space that will serve as a separate venue. The couple named it the “October Room,” because that’s their wedding month.
While there are plenty of last-minute details to complete before Saturday, Mary McDonald said she’s “excited for people to finally come see it.”
“I can’t wait for people to walk in and say, ‘This is such a cool place,’” she said. “I can’t wait for the next thing that happens here.’”
Kyle Carter, executive director of the Downtown Davenport Partnership, said The Stardust “fits a niche” in the Quad-Cities.
“They took on a really difficult project and one that we’re going to all benefit from,” he said. “They have saved another historic building and opened a space that will help continue to build our scene in downtown Davenport. It’s another good piece to the puzzle.”