In 2008, White Horse Black Mountain owners Kim Hughes and Bob Hinkle had a vision: a room filled with good people enjoying good music in a relaxed and welcoming environment.
Bob and Kim enjoyed long careers in the music and entertainment industry in New York for many years. In 2007, they left New York, relocated to the mountains of North Carolina (where Bob had been born) and were looking for new adventures. They hadn’t planned on opening a music venue but soon after arriving in Black Mountain they were led to a large brick building near the corner of State Street and Montreat Road. The building had served many purposes in the past: an automobile showroom, and parts and service department for automobiles, a climbing center, and more recently a warehouse for a variety of goods.
As they walked through the door of the building the first time, they immediately noticed the exquisite natural acoustics resulting from the high curved ceiling constructed of wood. The building looked quite different then: large piles of items scattered about the floor, bare walls, and open space predominated. Bob and Kim sensed the potential to transform this building into something which could make a positive impact on the community and on individuals. As they walked throughout the room the vision of a music and event center began to crystallize.
They set to work scrubbing, cleaning, painting. Crews were brought in to construct the stage, the green room, the bar, the restrooms, the sound control booth. Table and chairs, microphones, speakers, were purchased. Sprinkler systems, Heating systems, plumbing systems were installed. By the fall of 2008 the transformation of the building built as a car dealership in 1946 into White Horse Black Mountain was completed.
In the midst of the construction process, other changes were taking place — changes in our country’s economy. The recession of 2008 was one of the most challenging times in our country since the Depression of the 1930’s. The fall of 2008 saw the near collapse of the global financial and banking system. It was far from an ideal time to be opening a new business. But Bob and Kim were determined. Their vision remained strong and in spite the mounting obstacles they committed to seeing the project through and on November 2nd of 2008, White Horse Black Mountain opened its doors. The first concert featured Larry Keel and Natural Bridge performing before a packed house.
The first four years of operation were both rewarding and challenging. Rewarding in the sense that a variety of top quality performances from around the world took place on White Horse stage. Challenging in that huge variety of entertainment opportunities abound within an hour of Black Mountain — the number of live music venues in the region rivals that of much larger populations and thus the supply vs demand factors of drawing audiences presents unique obstacles. When combined with a soft economy and low incomes for local residents, a variety of challenges were present for a new music venue in the region.
Bob and Kim ventured forward against the odds with grit and determination. White Horse Black Mountain gradually developed a unique identity as a true “listening room”, a place where people could some to enjoy quality performances in a relaxed environment at reasonable prices. Unlike many regional venues, White Horse audiences found a place where the music was cherished and honored. No televisions, no loud talking, no noisy bar; instead, it became a place where you could hear the music distinctly and clearly without distraction.
White Horse found themselves attracting a slightly older, more mature audience by starting their concerts at 7:30pm or 8:00pm. Ease of parking, ease of access, and consistent quality of performances began attracting audiences from an expanding radius with many patrons driving over an hour to come to White Horse Black Mountain.
White Horse featured a distinctly diverse mix of live entertainment including Classical Music, Jazz, Blues, Bluegrass, Songwriters, Native American performers, poetry, storytelling, and more. Their 16 foot wide screen and High Definition digital projector provided opportunities to show documentary films and other video content.
As White Horse enters its second decade of operation, it continues to bring in top quality entertainment. Past seasons have seen performers from Hawaii, Ireland, Russia taking the stage. Classical piano, Argentinian Tango, Native American, bluegrass, and jazz were also found on the schedule. Diversity and quality continue to be defining hallmarks.
The financial challenges continue and the future of both White Horse and the country remain uncertain. But one thing is certain: as long as the doors remain open, White Horse Black Mountain is fully committed to bringing the best in upbeat, positive entertainment which appeals to a broad audience. We LOVE presenting uplifting, inspiring, and relaxing music and other performing arts at affordable prices which appeal to a broad audience and we’ll continue to do so as long as we’re able to pay the bills.