What Jeff Schorr needs is the final scene in It’s a Wonderful Life, for Uncle Billy, Mr. Gower, Mary and Harry and everybody else in town to rally around him and drop piles of money into a basket. He needs that telegram from Sam Wainwright, pledging a lifesaving loan. Hee haw and Merry Christmas!
But Jeff Schorr is the owner of Craftsman House Gallery, not George Bailey of the Bailey Bros. Building & Loan. St. Petersburg is not Bedford Falls, nor is it Hollywood.
And anyway, he couldn’t pass for Jimmy Stewart in a blinding blizzard.
But Jeff Schorr does need help, and he’s too proud to ask for it, so his friends Sara Norine James and Becky Michela did it for him. They’ve organized a benefit concert, tonight (Wednesday, Feb. 19) at the Side Lot, the outdoor performance space at 2133 2nd Avenue South.
At press time, the acts confirmed to play were Gracie Grieshop (Sunset Bridge Band), the Rebekah Pulley Twosome, Matt Weis (of Boxcar Hollow and Antelope), Sanderling (Reina Collins, Kristen Holloway and Bart Hanchey), Natty Moss Bond and Steve Peake, Steve Connelly, Emily Turnage, Rich Whiteley (of Uncle John’s Band and the Rich Whiteley Band) and The Petty Experience (Featuring the songs of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers). As usual with such things, more performers will likely be added.
The 6-10 p.m. event is called Raise the Roof because Craftsman House, which was built in 1918, needs a new roof. And Schorr, who bought the cozy, craftsman-style home in 2003 and turned it into a cozy, light-filled art and craft gallery, with a small, cozy kitchen and a shaded front porch (also cozy), only has one-third of the $90,000 needed to do the job.
That came in the form of a Community Redevelopment Area grant from the City (Craftsman House is in the Grand Central District, just inside the boundary eligible for South St. Pete CRA money).
“So I’m trying to get a loan for $60,000,” Schorr says. “And I haven’t used credit cards in the last 10 years, which in some ways is good, but when you go to get a loan, that’s not good.” He’s looking into loans that don’t come attached to restrictive federal guidelines.
It’s not so much the roofing that needs work, he explains. It’s the 102-year-old structural wood – and the necessary carpentry – underneath.
“There’s 175 rafters. A lot of them are rotted and have to be replaced. A lot of the beams, especially towards the front of the house – the sun room and the front porch – are longer beams. And they just don’t grow pine that big in Florida, so they have to use fir. Which is a lot more expensive than pine.”
Roofers have been hammering away at the Craftsman House since November, working on the areas (over the back office and the edge of the kitchen) that have been leaking. So far, much to Schorr’s relief, none of the gallery’s public areas have been affected.
Because he occasionally will move the racks and displays off to the side and host acoustic-music concerts in the main room, Schorr’s friends suggested he hold a fundraiser there. “Well, it’s just not worth the work,” he told them. “I can fit 50 people in here. How much can I charge for a concert?
“Anyway, I feel weird asking people to give me money.”
So they went to the Side Lot, which is part of Cheers! Events (the event-planning company) owned by Ronnie Lee and his wife Kristin Coffey.
The open-air courtyard is adjacent to the Cheers! office and warehouse.
“I’m always trying to lend a hand,” says Lee, “and in the same breath I get some new faces in to the Side Lot, to see what it can be also. So it’s for a good cause, and it’s great synergy.
“And I think that’s what St. Pete’s all about, especially the art world – it’s all about synergy and helping each other.”
And until he discovers a guardian angel named Clarence, Jeff Schorr is simply grateful for the love and support he’s getting from his friends.
He humbly insisted admission be by minimum donation ($5). “I figure at the very least, it’ll be a fun time,’ he enthuses. “I don’t want anyone to feel like oh gosh, I can’t afford to go there.”