BETTER IN THE BURBS?: The Factory has found success in place where many fans actually live. (Getty Images)
New Venue Churns Out Hit Shows
It’s been called the City of Blues and is known for spawning legends. St. Louis’ rich musical history is kept alive in museums and at places like the Fabulous Fox Theatre, a Broadway House that’s stood since 1929, among many others.
For the past two years, The Factory at The District has taken its place in keeping the musical spirit of St. Louis alive, albeit in the ‘burbs.
The Factory, located in the western St. Louis community of Chesterfield, has quickly become a popular destination for concerts, hosting Olivia Rodrigo, Paramore, Buddy Guy and The Roots, among others.
Two years after opening in an entertainment area known as The District, the $22 million, 52,000-square-foot, 4,000-capacity venue has seen business continue its positive trajectory, according to talent buyer Dan Merker. The Factory is the anchor tenant of the larger development from the venue’s ownership group.
“Things have been going great. Our show volume for the year has almost doubled and tickets continue to sell for everything we have on the books,” he said in an email exchange. “So far this year we have sold out shows with Colter Wall, Boyz II Men, Ian Munsick, K Michelle, Buddy Guy and Lil Wayne just to name a few.”
In addition to pop superstar Rodrigo, Merker cited a few other highlights from the past two years, including shows by Deadmau5, Old Dominion, Jelly Roll and Turnpike Troubadours.
Dan Wessel, the venue’s general manager, leads day-to-day operations. Marketing is handled by Erick Greene, who has a decade-long working relationship with Merker.
“The venue is unique because we can scale to a capacity of 4,000 with a GA floor and reserved balcony, but we can also program the room like a PAC that scales to fully reserved seating ranging from 900-2,400 capacity,” said Merker.
There’s a convertible wall system that allows for maximum flexibility to “intimately create the right capacity for almost any touring artist,” Merker said,
The Factory managed to avoid major operational glitches upon opening in July 2021, he said.
“We didn’t really experience some of the traditional growing pains of a new venue, thanks in large part to our terrific venue staff,” Merker said. “Being able to construct the venue from the ground up really helped solve many of the hiccups and nuances you might normally have when opening a venue. We were also blessed to be able to hire our full-time staff during COVID when mostly everyone in our industry were out of work.”
The venue filled a void in the market, said Merker, who was born and raised in St. Louis.
“A mid-cap room like ours was needed,” he said. “The clubs in town have capacities that range from 1,000-2,000, so (there was a) need for a scalable large club that can do 1,500-4,000,” Merker said. “We’re also located west of downtown in the suburbs where many of the concertgoers throughout the St. Louis community live. Sometimes people just don’t want to make the drive downtown and our location can be more convenient with plenty of free, well-lit parking.”
In addition to The Factory, The District includes Main Event and Topgolf. Merker said opening during a pandemic was an interesting endeavor.
“Looking back at it now, and I think most can say the same, the pandemic just kept kicking us unexpected obstacles that none of us have ever dealt with but day by day we all figured it out and here we are.”