Founder and current owner of the High Noon Saloon Cathy Dethmers recently made the decision to sell the beloved Madison venue to Frank Productions.
The Badger Herald talked with Dethmers about the recent decision and her plans for the future.
The following interview was edited for style and clarity.
The Badger Herald: You have been the founder and owner of the High Noon Saloon since 2004, correct? How has that experience been for you?
Cathy Dethmers: It’s definitely been a mixed experience. I’ve loved this place with all of my heart and had a blast putting on shows for years and years and working with all kinds of musicians and all different kinds of community events and having the ability to be really creative about how we use the space, what kinds of things we present here. That all has been really awesome. I’ve also been very lucky to work with largely the same staff for all of that time. I’ve been very fortunate to have a really good team to work with and they’ve been really loyal and have stuck with me through all of these years so that’s been great. It’s like working with a family.
I guess the flip side of it is, you know, it’s a very active business. We have often 45 shows in a month, and I do the booking for that. I also run the business, and it’s time-consuming and kind of a high stress environment a lot of the time; lots of details to coordinate at all times and a very constant pace where there’s not really ever a break. So, in that sense, I m relieved to be stepping away from that for a while.
BH: The High Noon Saloon has been a favorite venue in Madison and has hosted a large variety of music acts. Are there any that stand out to you? What has been your favorite show or tradition at the High Noon?
CD: It’s hard to pick a favorite show because there have been so many. I’ve liked so many of them for different reasons. I don’t have like one or two highlights. Everybody is asking that question, but I just don’t have that. But you know, I can say to the other part of your question, there have been a lot of traditions that we’ve built here that I really value. For instance, our St. Patrick’s Day tradition of having The Kissers play here. The Kissers got their start at my old venue, O’Cayz Corral. They played there every Monday night. So being able to have a continued tradition like that here has been really cool. And as the band and myself and some of their crowd have grown older, they’ve added a family show as part of their tradition and that’s been not only really fun, but also a huge success. People seem to love that portion of it and it’s always sold out and crazy and fun.
We’ve had some long-standing annual events with Natty Nation who have been really great to work with. They work really hard to promote and not only get their own name out but give exposure to other local and regional reggae bands that maybe are having a harder time making their break. And so they do that through their annual Black Friday show here or their annual Bob Marley birthday party show here, and those have just become traditions that people really look forward to year after year.
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BH: Why did you initially make the decision to sell the High Noon?
CD: Well, someone actually approached me and got the wheels turning in my head, just because I had two young boys at home and just the constant pace and stress level that I have here is just really a challenge to balance with being a mom and trying to spend time with my family. So I was kind of starting to hit a breaking point anyway and then someone popped the idea into my head that it was a possibility to sell the business and have it continue on as it is, but without me at the helm. So I pursued that.
BH: Why did you believe Frank Productions would be a suitable fit to take over?
CD: Mostly because we’ve had a really long-standing relationship working together already, so they understand the culture of the High Noon. They bring bands here multiple times in the month; we work with a lot of their team that deal with those shows and the promotion of those shows. And, you know, our staffs are all friends and it just feels like it would be a fairly seamless transition, because we’re not going to have to spend any time explaining to them what we do here. They already totally get it. And they respect that and want to keep it going and maintain the legacy that was built here. That’s a huge relief to me, because I care very deeply about this venue and what happens here. To know that they are excited about continuing on that same thing is a huge relief to me when walking away.
BH: Did you have any initial reservations to selling?
CD: Oh, of course. This is the only career I’ve known for my entire adult life so it’s a huge game-changer for me to walk away. But yeah, I think any person selling something they’ve created from scratch would have reservations, but the Franks have worked closely with me just to make sure they do understand how things run here so that they can just do their best to keep it going seamlessly.
BH: Do you think there will be any initial changes to the place?
CD: I mean, I don’t know exactly what they have in mind but my guess is there would be little change other than perhaps small aesthetic changes. But I think they pretty much plan to take the keys and keep it rolling.
BH: When will the sale and transition be finalized?
CD: The plan is for it to happen on May 1.
BH: You have been a very prominent member of the Madison music scene for years, and some people might be sad to see you go. What would you say to those people?
CD: I feel sad too. Like I was saying, it’s very bittersweet. It’s hard for me to walk away from something that I have poured my heart and soul into for so long. And I still care deeply about it and I always will. I’ve been doing this for 23 years and the time is right for me for me to make a change and I feel I have a responsibility to do it while my kids are young and still need me. You know, I’m not leaving the scene forever; I’m just changing roles.
BH: How do you think the venue might grow in the future?
CD: I don’t know. I mean, it’ll be really interesting for me to see how someone else views what else is possible here. I can’t even guess because I only have my own perspective that I’ve worked within for so many years. So it’s hard to say what someone else will view as another option.
BH: Are you going to try to stay involved in any ways or attend shows there regularly? What are your plans for that?
CD: Oh yeah, I definitely plan to keep attending shows. I’m hoping to also play more music. It’s hard to say, I’m still of in the midst of a crushing work load, not only getting ready for the sale but also continuing to run the place. Once I have a month or two breathing freely to sort of figure out and refocus on what’s next, then I can probably answer that question better. But yeah, I love live music. I always have, I always will and I’m sure I’ll be involved on some level just probably a lot more in the background than I have been.
BH: What are your plans for the future, after the sale is complete?
CD: Honestly, I just don’t know. I mean, obviously spending a lot more time with my family. That’s my first priority and what I’m going to do first. And then I just don’t know. I have honestly never had the time or the headspace to even really consider what else I might do. I guess I need to get to that space to really think about what else I might like.