WRJ’s Engine Room Back Up and Running

Valley News Correspondent
Sunday, January 28, 2018



White River Junction — The Engine Room has been many things in recent years. The 4,000-square-foot space at 188 South Main St. in White River Junction originally opened as Tupelo Music Hall in 2010.

Four years later Tupelo left, and the space was used as a worship hall and a co-working space.

Next month, The Engine Room will return to its roots when Maple Street Catering takes over the space to host live music acts and private events.

“The Engine Room has always been a great place,” said Brandon Fox, who owns Maple Street Catering along with his mom, Bethany Lewis, and stepfather, Clay Vagnini. “It just needs to have direction and some TLC, and we can do that.”

Maple Street Catering, which already owns and operates Big Fatty’s BBQ next door to The Engine Room, will take over the space this week, branding it as an event and music center.

Fox plans to book live music acts for most Fridays and some Saturday nights.

“People are looking for this in the Upper Valley,” Fox said. “There’s not really amazing bands in the area being played right now because there’s not the space for it. But every Friday, you’ll know there’s going to be great music playing here.”

While the musical acts are fun, the main focus for the space will be private events hosted by Maple Street Catering, ranging from business luncheons to showers and other celebrations.

Big Fatty’s BBQ is established in the Upper Valley as a restaurant, but catering events remain the largest part of the business, Fox said.

Currently, the business is limited by the fact that it can only book off-site events. Fox hopes that by having a dedicated space will allow the catering business to grow and will help balance times of the year that are traditionally slower, including the winter months.

“We’ve always said we need to find a space that’s bigger where we can do events,” Fox said. “This is going to give us an outlet for Maple Street Catering to put on great events.”

Maple Street Cater employs 23 people full-time with another 50 working part-time during the busy season. Fox has already hired more employees for the new space, including security and a sound manager.

The Engine Room can hold 200 people for standing room events and about 150 for more formal buffet or sit-down meals, making it one of the larger event spaces in the Upper Valley that is available to the general public, Fox said.

The first show at The Engine Room will take place on Friday, Feb. 9 at 9 p.m.

After that the space will be closed for a few weeks for renovations including putting in a kitchen, revamping the bar and updating decor to be more upscale.

“We want a really nice fresh look when you walk in,” Fox said. “Right now it needs some love.”

By the end of February, Fox plans to formally open the space, with events for Maple Street Catering customers and the local business community. Over the first six months, he plans to host more public events so that people can experience the space for themselves.

“You have to have to spend a little money to make money,” Fox said. “We have a great plan for what we’re going to do, and we’re going to make it popular.”

Mike Davidson, who owns the property, said that the new endeavor will bring more vitality, energy and creativity to a formerly blighted area.

“It’s a win-win,” he said in an email. “Brandon and his team are top-notch operators and will bring their penchant for quality to (The Engine Room).”

The addition of an event space will continue to boost White River Junction, Davidson added. “The south end of South Main is becoming the type of place that we envisioned.”

Fox agreed.

“The Upper Valley has turned into a sophisticated food place and we’re lucky to be part of that,” he said.