Brewster Street Ice House celebrates 10 years of providing the best live music in South Texas.
By: Stephanie Kusy
Photos by: Mark Joseph/Darklab Photography and CSA Marketing
If the walls at Brewster Street Ice House could talk, they sure would have a bunch of stories to tell. Instead, Mark Schaberg, who is one of Brewster’s operating partners, is willing to dish out details on some of his best memories as the establishment celebrates its 10th anniversary. With more than a million visitors and nearly 2,000 concerts in the last decade, the dance hall and family restaurant has evolved into a staple of the live music scene in Corpus Christi and the centerpiece for the Sports, Entertainment and Art (SEA) District.
Schaberg moved to Corpus Christi in 2002 after managing several clubs in Austin. Concrete Street Amphitheater hired him to bring in new acts to the live music venue. As landmarks like Whataburger Field and the American Bank Center began to rise, Schaberg and operating partners discussed creating a “hangout place” between events. They wanted to create an establishment where folks could bring their families on game day, stay for a concert or take part in other art events. The partners agreed to create a family-friendly atmosphere for everyone to enjoy.
Construction began on the former Yellow Freight Distribution building in 2005 with hopes to open with the 2006 Hooks baseball season when former Astros pitcher Roger Clemens would make an appearance. “We got to be open for this,” Schaberg remembers. “So we pushed and did two months of work in two weeks. We were pushing sawdust out the back and bringing customers in the front.”
Only a few weeks after opening, former Gov. Rick Perry visited the area for a press conference. Schaberg quickly thought of a creative way to get the governor’s attention. “We went to Fast Signs and created a banner that said, ‘Governor Perry, let us buy you a cold one,’” he said, chuckling. They hung the massive banner outside, and sure enough, the governor came by for a visit.
Shortly after, Schaberg recalls Justin Timberlake stopping in for lunch while filming a movie. “All the female workers were excited,” he said. “Then Justin comes walking up the steps, and he has Jessica Biel with him. He came in and sat down and was real gracious.”
While the restaurant attracted celebrities to come in to eat four-star food in casual environment, the outdoor music venue soon began hosting big-name bands. Texas country artists like Randy Rogers Band, Kevin Fowler and Eli Young Band have entertained concert-goers for years. “Here you get a mix of people that are truly coming for the artist, and then others who are just coming to hang and be around the music and the scene,” said Schaberg, who is also the general manager at Concrete Street Amphitheater.
Roger Creager, a Texas country artist with local roots, holds the record for the largest show. Brewster’s opened up the parking lot to hold 3,000 people for not Roger’s, but his dad, Bill’s, 80th birthday party.
“Bill is essentially retired, and he’s probably the coolest dad you could ever have,” said Schaberg. “He rides around on the bus with Roger. He jumps onstage every night to sing ‘Rancho Grande,’ one of Roger’s songs. Pretty much everyone in the Texas country industry knows him.” Bill continues to celebrate his birthday every year at the venue.
Schaberg believes Brewster Street also opens up doors for local musicians by giving them a stage to attract larger audiences. “One thing I think Brewsters has done for the music scene is develop the artist from that little local small club environment to where they can stair step into the bigger shows.” Artists like J.R. Castillo and Steven James & The Jaded have made a name for themselves in Corpus Christi and throughout Texas, and they regularly perform at the venue.
For looking like a Texas honky tonk, Brewster Street brings in bands from a number of genres. In 2014, Meghan Trainor performed her Grammy award-winning song, “All About That Bass,” to a sold-out crowd, and in 2015, Ciara surprised Corpus Christi with a special club show. Still, if someone wants to see a Top 50 artist perform live, they usually travel out of town. Schaberg said it is sometimes difficult to bring in big-name acts if they’re doing shorter tours because they go to the larger cities like Houston, Dallas and Austin first. He said supporting all music in Corpus Christi would boost ticket sales and show booking agents that this is a hot spot for music.
As the music scene in Corpus Christi grows, the restaurant and entertainment venue is committed to holding onto strong community ties. “We try to engage with the local community as much as we possibly can,” Schaberg said. “That’s been a really big part of our business model. Whether it’s a press conference or a school or charity event, we want to stay as engaged as possible.”
The award-winning Brewster Street Ice House has become one of the best-known establishments in Corpus Christi. Schaberg believes the next 10 years will only bring more music and great food to the folks who live here.
Brewster Street Ice House is located 1724 N Tancahua St. For more information, look for them on Facebook or at www.brewsterstreet.net.