Easthampton’s Popcorn Noir becomes The Platinum Pony with new mission but same spunky attitude

Last modified: Monday, July 28, 2014
EASTHAMPTON — Change has been the rule at 30-32 Cottage St. since Kristen Davis and Thomas Doherty turned the space into Popcorn Noir, a free movie theater, in October 2011. One year later, they expanded into a next door storefront and opened The Lobby at Popcorn Noir, a bar and restaurant.

On Friday, the newest version of the business will open under a new name: The Platinum Pony. Davis, who now owns and operates the business alone, knocked down a wall between the two former spaces and plans to use the more open floor plan to host a mix of movies, live performances, and dance parties, as well as special events from drag shows to story slams. Doherty will still be in charge of the movie club that will show free films there.

Taking a break from the renovations last week, Davis, 31, put up her combat boot-clad feet on the restaurant’s patio. She said each time she renovates the space, it gets a little easier.

“By now, I should be good at it, right?” she said, and joked, “I think maybe I should get into flipping houses.”

This time, she has a hard deadline in which to finish the six weeks of work. That’s because the newly hired event coordinator, Elizabeth Jensen, has booked the entire month of August with entertainment from bands to bingo and trivia nights.

“We’ve always done a little of it,” Davis said of the special events and parties that usually drew bigger crowds. “We looked at the part of our business that was most successful and decided to do more of that.”

The Platinum Pony will also offer its customers some unusual novelties: wine and champagne on draft, tabletop speakers for anyone who wants to watch a movie over dinner, and a free shuttle to taxi people from Northampton to the DJ dance parties on Friday nights.

Davis said a lot of customers live in Northampton and the reliable transportation will make them more likely to make the trip to Easthampton to partake in some of that champagne without having to drive. The shuttle starts at 9:30 p.m. and runs every half hour until 1:30 a.m.

The diverse entertainment at Popcorn Noir and The Lobby, as well as its reputation as a “queer-friendly” nightspot, has brought in people from Springfield, Greenfield and farther away, she said.

Mayor Karen L. Cadieux said Davis met with her to discuss the new entertainment offerings at 30-32 Cottage St. “Of course we’re very happy she’s been so successful and is expanding her business,” Cadieux said.

Businesses like The Platinum Pony are helping to put Easthampton on the map for nightlife, she said. “We always want to attract people from other communities,” she said.

Davis declined to put a price tag on the renovations and the relaunch of the business, but said she paid for it from her personal savings. “We like to build a little and then reinvest,” she said.

What she has reinvested in, with the help of employees and contractors like Rainbow Home Improvement and Whiteley Electric, is removing a wall, adding glittery flooring and disco balls, and improving the facade improvements. The centerpiece of the facade is a silver unicorn head, crafted by Northampton artist Scout Cuomo.

Davis said the prominence of the shiny steed and naming the business after it is meant to send a lighthearted message about what goes on there.

“It’s the whimsy,” she said. “We take things too seriously sometimes, and we want this to be fun, glitz and glam.”

Popcorn Noir isn’t going away, though. It is now the name of the film club run by Doherty, 41, that will continue to show free films on Sundays and other designated nights.

Davis will be managing the bar and restaurant, as well as spending some time behind the bar and in the kitchen. The Platinum Pony employs 15 people, the same as Popcorn Noir.

Davis said the business will continue to strike a balance between being patrons’ “regular Friday night spot” and having special events that draw new faces. She also wants to keep the vibe that makes the spot fun and comfortable for anyone.

“You might have a 20-something guy with a foot-tall Mohawk sitting next to a 50-something couple,” she said. “That’s really what we’d like to continue to see in the future.”

Davis said a “huge portion” of Popcorn Noir’s customer base identify as queer — an umbrella term that can describe anyone who identifies outside of the societal norms related to gender or sexuality.

There aren’t many local nightspots that promote themselves as queer-friendly, she said, and it is exciting to fill that void in the area. “It’s really an important thing and something the Valley prides itself on. It’s important for new venues to carry that torch,” she said.

The Platinum Pony is closed Tuesdays but will offer entertainment every other night. There are barbecues on the patio on Mondays, trivia on Wednesdays, and offerings on “Twisted Thursdays” from drag queen bingo to karaoke.

Fridays feature dinner and a movie at 6 p.m. followed by a DJ dance party, sometimes with special themes such as the underwear dance party on Aug. 15. On Saturdays there is live entertainment, including music, comedy, drag shows and a “shadow performance” of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Sunday morning offers all-you-can eat pancake breakfasts with old school cartoons and Popcorn Noir will present films at 4 and 7 p.m. on Sundays. Movies will be shown at other times as well.

Some of the events have a cover charge, she said, but the money goes to the performers. The Platinum Pony is usually an all-ages venue, but some events will be only for those 21 and up.

The restaurant’s menu is also changing. Instead of the former full menu, the Platinum Pony has a small plates menu that will be available later — until 10 p.m. on Sunday and Monday, until 11 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, and until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.

“We tell people to get one plate for a snack, two or three for a meal and four or more to share,” she said. They range in price from $4 to $13 per dish.

Davis said she can’t wait for the community to get a look at the newest incarnation of 30-32 Cottage St. at the soft opening Friday night or the opening party Saturday night.

“It’s super exciting for us to come to a community that is interested in what we do and has given us an opportunity to expand and evolve our business,” she said. “If we don’t change our model to reflect the feedback we get, we won’t be here in the long term.”

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.