“The sale officially took place on my fortieth birthday,” says Joe Malcoun. “I spent my fortieth birthday in a boardroom … signing the last documents then waiting in an office of the Michigan Liquor Control Commission. Best birthday present ever,” he says with a grin.
In our December 2017 Marketplace Changes item on the sale of the Blind Pig, talent buyer Jason Berry credited an unnamed “local businessman” with leading the group that rescued the downtown music club. That mastermind turns out to be Malcoun, CEO of Ann Arbor-based Nutshell software.
“It was funny. For the last year we watched the community fret, we watched the comments on MLive, their Facebook comments about, ‘Aw man, I bet the Pig’s going to some assholes who’ll turn it into some condos,'” Malcoun says. “Well, we didn’t. We didn’t turn it into some condos. We stepped up.”
Malcoun describes the other investors as a “pretty broad group of local folks. Not everyone’s giving me their permission to share their names, but there’s a few that are pretty particularly notable, given the role they’ll play,” he says. “We have musicians represented with a friend of mine, Darrin Greenawalt. He has a band called Darrin James Band; he’s an investor. [There’s also] Noah Kaplan of Leon’s Speakers. He’s going to redesign the sound stage. My partners, who helped me put the deal together, are Jason Costello and Bennett Borsuk. We have Jon Oberheide; he’s one of the founders at Duo” Security, and contractors Al and Josh Bloom. “We have a great cross section of the Ann Arbor community.”
Malcoun says the Pig’s longtime owners, the Goffett family, “were awesome–they were really nice folks. It was very emotional. When we purchased it, they asked us to take care of it. They wished us well.
“They didn’t disappear. If we have questions, they give us help. They truly want to see us succeed. We’re very lucky we have a great relationship with them.”
At this early stage, he says, “we’re just observing and seeing what’s normal for the place. We’re talking and getting to know the staff every weekend; we’re trying to get these new systems set up. We’re trying to design the website, and we’re reinvesting in the ticketing system, so they’ll be in and out quickly. Honestly, I don’t think people are going to see a lot of change.”
But Malcoun, who admits that he’s a fan first, insists that the key to the Blind Pig’s future success is giving Berry the freedom to invest in more local talent.
“The prior owners built it; they made it the thing that you and I love. [But] in recent years, there wasn’t as much of an investment in local music, and there’s less risk being taken overall. One of the big changes was telling Jason to do what he wants to do. If he wants to book more local music, we’re going to do more of that.”
Malcoun stresses, though, that the venue can’t succeed without a supportive audience. “My hope is that the community, who vocalized that they didn’t want it to become a condo, show their support [by] coming out and supporting the Pig.Because truth is, without that support, we can’t keep it from turning into condos one day.”
The Blind Pig, 208 S. First. 996-8555. Daily 3 p.m.-2 a.m. blindpigmusic.com