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Turning a 1920s Baking Company into The Bakery District

Updated: Jun 4, 2021

When the owners of this 40,000-square-foot interior and 5,800 square-foot outdoor space came to us in early 2019, The Bakery District was still a bold project on the drawing board.

In 1920, the Shipley family built the structure which was home to Shipley Baking Company for three generations, from 1921 to 1996, when it sold to Flowers Foods. Flowers' subsidiary baked bread there until 2006, closed, then reopened and closed in 2008.

Photo of vintage Shipley's delivery truck hangling on brick wall

Freshly baked bread

Nostalgia runs deep in the Oklahoma border city of Fort Smith, AR. The aroma of Shipley's freshly-baked flagship Holsum Bread, and in later years, rolls, cakes, pies, and other bakery products, became a much-loved part of living and working downtown. With the Flowers' permanent shut down in 2008, the landmark structure began its fall into obsolescence.

Restore and renovate the bakery for fun

As the old bakery buildings marked time, Fort Smith was changing. New businesses moved in, and indie businesses were opening up. Bill Hanna, president of Hanna Oil and Gas Co., purchased the old Shipley building, abandoned for 10 years, and a sad eyesore. By late 2018, three generations of the Hanna family had made a decision. The city was developing a Downtown Entertainment District, and the old bakery sat within those boundaries.

The Hannas would renovate the iconic downtown landmark into an event center and bring it back to life as a hub of activity!

When Sam Hanna approached Annidale Sound, initial plans called for three interior event rooms and multi-tasking outdoor space. Locally owned indie Bookish and Fort Smith Coffee Co. had grabbed space in the structure and designed bold multi-functional layouts. Long-term development included large-scale office space on the second floor and residential apartments next door.

Classic red and white VW bus parked inside gallery room

Defined separate areas, large spaces, and outdoor sections would transform the Hanna family's vision of an active, diverse event center into a reality. Their concept of an almost free-form space would provide versatility, community, and privacy with a capacity of 1500 people!

All this while maintaining the integrity of a nearly century-old industrial manufacturing facility.


Even though we don't really think we'll find ghosts, exploring old buildings is even more fun if we imagine ourselves decked out in 1984 ghostbuster gear with Bill Murray and that crew!

The real benefit of being brought into the project early is that along with saving our client money during the initial renovation, we prepare for future additions. As with this project, we find pathways for running wire and prepping for future installations that otherwise would have been blocked.

Our customers say we give them Peace of Mind but don't mention our Ghostbusting skills!

The challenge

The Bakery District event center is part of the Hanna family tradition of people coming together to make a community stronger and closer and a lot more fun!

How do we make it possible for 1500 people to gather in such open and sectioned areas and "do their own thing" together? Being brought to the project early certainly gave us a head start. But when interior demolition began, we also made use of some surprises in those old walls!


The main thrust of this project was sound control and maintaining the integrity of the interior structure. You'll be hard put to locate all the speakers and other equipment we installed when the eye naturally goes to the fantastic restoration work and design.

Red and white vintage VW bus with bicycles on top parked in Event Spaces

We begin audio projects with a site survey using JBL Pro system software for audio projections and calculations. Even with current blueprints, we also input our own room measurements and other variables, including "what if" scenarios and future expansion options. "What if..." a vintage VW

bus is parked inside during an audio-critical event? We'll make sure it sounds as cool as it looks!

Six different types of speakers were required, which amounted to nearly three dozen individual speakers for this first round of installation.

Partioned interior of event spaces

JBL C67P/T Contractor Series speakers fit the bill for high-ceilinged interior open spaces that could be used for one event or sectioned for multiple uses. These industrial-looking hanging pendants look great and provide vocal intelligibility and music clarity. JBL subwoofers would deliver low-frequency reinforcement for foreground and background music, provide bass extension and well-balanced overall frequency response.

Outdoor spaces are covered by three different types of JBL Control Series speakers, all with weather-protected circuitry and clean installation through the access point behind the logo

badge. Each speaker offers slight differences that, when used together, met the specific needs of the outdoor space and provides foreground or background applications as well as paging needs.

Keeping with their open system and varied interior and outdoor spaces, we partnered Shure's SLX24/SM58 rackmount complete wireless microphone system. It's perfect for installed sound applications, brings reliable transmission and high-quality audio, and is easy to operate!

For other specific audio/visual needs, we added a Vutec motorized projection screen. We installed JBL Control HST speakers because they are Perfect for wide-open commercial spaces, they maximize audio dispersion over a wide area and produce even, balanced sound.

Controlling and maximizing the equipment's customization and flexibility was a massive job. We chose a pair of the technologically impressive Crown CDI 4/1200 BL Power amps for this responsibility.

To protect equipment, we added a rugged Furman sequencing power distributor. This sequencer allows the gear to power up in stages so that each unit stabilizes before the next piece begins its pre-sequenced power up.


What's the fun setting up for amazing sound without adding some light? We used Elation Professional all the way and literally set the stage for the future. For The Bakery's portable stage, often set where backlight causes problems, we went with LED KL Fresnel 4 Warm White Luminaires with zoom that easily set any mood with their wash of soft-edged beams of light.

Since there's more lighting on the horizon, we turned again to Elation for their Show Designer 1. This 512-channel lighting console, not much larger than a computer keyboard, has abilities far beyond mortal humankind. Able to hold over 1000 scenes and hundreds of presets, chases, and shows, the Show Designer sets the stage for large-scale productions at The Bakery!

These old walls

Interior demolition nearly gutted the structure and exposed the old support framework. We took the opportunity as sections of the interior were exposed to explore and prepare for long-term options. To facilitate those future retro-installs, we found and opened surprising pathways that would not have been visible or possible to pre-wire without this level of demolition work. Aside from admitting we got dirty, there is a lot to be said for getting in on the ground floor of a demolition!

The Wrap

ANNIDALE is proud to bring professional audio and lighting to this restoration project that restores wonderful memories as simple and friendly as sliced bread.

Three generations of the Hanna family felt the dreams of three generations of Shipley's. They transformed Shipley Baking Company into a lively, interactive gathering place in Fort Smith's Downtown Entertainment Center.

Our thanks to The Bakery District gallery of photos and Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine for their excellent article.

Should you choose Annidale Sound for your renovation project?

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