Old Coupland dancehall gets new owner who channels charm and history

by Lindsay Liepman

Thursday, July 5th 2018

About thirty miles east of Austin, is a Texas legend, so authentic, movies like "Lonesome Dove" and a Stevie Ray Vaughn music video were filmed there. Today, there's a "new" Old Coupland.

A train blares its horn as owner Abbey Road and CBS Austin News Reporter Lindsay Liepman sit on the dancehall's front porch.

It cuts through the silence twice a day. It reminds Liepman, that David Allen Coe once said trains...and mama...and getting, well you know, make the perfect country and western song. But every song needs a stage.

"Is this how you would write your own script or your own story?" asked Liepman.

"No...you couldn't write this s***," said Abbey with a laugh and then covering her mouth.

Before Abbey Road brought back the luster of Luckenbach, booking acts that brought people and the place to life again, and then in 2017 bought Coupland's historic dancehall and inn, she was a little girl with a lot of grit.

"My grandfather and I were best buds. He taught me how to chew tobacco and spit and everything. He actually entered me in a spitting contest one time," said Abbey.

"Did you win?" asked Liepman.

"No," said Abbey laughing.

Her grandmother didn't approve of spitting, but loved music and now that legacy lives in Coupland. The 1904 building with a 7,000 square foot dance hall, 7-room brothel-style B&B and a restaurant with savory steaks and BBQ.

"You can't go wrong, it's all good," said waitress Aimee Wodlinger.

Abbey mans the pit and the grill herself.

"I literally got a phone call out of the blue and by June 8, 2017 we closed. And here I had a dance hall," said Abbey.

"The commute to work is 24 steps," said Abbey who lives in the B&B.

The dancehall is the heart of Coupland. A small town that only spans about ten city blocks wide but it's full of people as independent as the performers on stage.

We shot the breeze with Texas-native Sunny Sweeney before her first performance ever at Coupland.

"If you can make people feel something then you've done your job," said Sweeney.

As Sunny puts it, good music is just good music and that's what you get here.

"I don't just warm bodies on a stage and there's a lot of bands out there," said Abbey.

"I think it's very important for a venue to have a sound and a vibe," she said.

Abbey quotes her good friend Daryl Dodd, saying it's about connection not perfection.

"That's totally what music does and dance halls do. And a little bit of beer doesn't help," she said.

"Hi there!" said Jan Swenson as several customers walked through the door.

Jan is the first smile you see.

"It's just exploded. A lot of good acts are coming in," she said. "It's a destination because you get the whole package. You get music, food, you get somewhere to rest your head," said Swenson.

Not just for milestones anymore says Jeff and Marion Krueger who celebrated his brother's wedding, their engagement and her birthday all within Coupland's walls.

"It's just comforting. It's fun, it's home. Like a diamond in the rough. There's not a whole lot of old places like this," said the Krueger's while they ate their chicken fried steak in the dining room.

Out on the porch, when the weekend winds down, Abbey will tell you there's nothing else like it. A new sign, new acts and restoration plans are all channeling that Old Coupland spirit.

"When you're doing something, you just do it. You don't do it for the fame or the fortune. You're doing it because you can't do anything else. Everything takes care of itself if you're coming from that place," said Abbey.