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New concert venue in the making for Maggie Valley

Carolina Nights, a closed-down dinner theater in Maggie Valley, could make a comeback as an entertainment venue under new owners.

A Haywood County couple with a track record as local business partners bought the building last month for $235,000.

Phil and Camala Ferguson envision a venue that brings in well-known bands and performers from all genres of music.

“Country and classic rock and bluegrass — a little bit of everything,” Camala said.

Camala emphasized that the idea is only in its infancy. They are still fleshing out their business plan and crunching numbers to make sure it is a viable endeavor.

The Fergusons own and operate Steel Horses, a motorcycle shop outside Waynesville, and Thunder Disaster Services, which manages clean-up services after natural disasters around the country.

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Camala said she and her husband enjoy the challenge of opening and running new business ventures, and when the opportunity to buy Carolina Nights presented itself, they went for it.

“We had been looking for another project and that building came up; it was a kind of a nice surprise,” Camala said.

Camala said Maggie Valley has always been a special place for her after vacationing there often as a child.

“Maggie means a lot to me personally. We could have done this anywhere. We really want to see Maggie grow,” Camala said.

Maggie has been hit particularly hard by the recession and has fallen from its former status as one of the mountain’s premier tourist towns.

Some have complained about a lack of places to go in Maggie at night. While Maggie Valley has a robust bar scene, it currently has no concert venues for big name acts following the closure of both Carolina Nights dinner theater and Eagle’s Nest, a large formal auditorium-style venue. While several bars host bands on the weekends, it’s not the same as a ticketed concert.

“We really want to do a music venue,” Camala said. “Not a bar. Maggie’s got plenty of bars.”

Steve Hurley, owner of Hurley’s restaurant, said he definitely thinks there is more room for businesses that offer nighttime entertainment.

“I certainly welcome them,” Hurley said.

The Haywood County building inspector Bruce Crawford has already visited the property and said the building does not need much renovation beyond installing a fire alarm and sprinkler system.

Camala intends to speak at the Maggie Valley Board of Aldermen’s meeting next month to outline their vision. Maggie Town Manager Tim Barth said he welcomes any new business to town.

“It sounds like they are planning to do something, so that is a good sign,” Barth said.

The Fergusons were not the only ones eyeing the former Carolina Nights building. A robotics manufacturing company, the Ohio-based Automation Design Technology, had considered moving its operations along with 10 jobs to the valley after its owner, Mick Combs, bought a house in Maggie last year. Combs lobbied the town board to change the zoning to allow his operations in the downtown commercial district. Combs could not be reached for comment on his plans at this point.

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