Nita’s retirement party at Stage Stop 

You can't stop the Stage Stop. The longrunning venue for hard rock and blues (and even a dash of country now and then) will continue its traditions of live music and insanely long happy hours. But after Saturday night's party, the top of the hill in "Rockin' Raleigh" will never be the same again.

"With me, it was all about the music," says the Stage Stop's owner, Nita Makris. After 42 years of minding the shop and playing second mother to wayward rockstars, Makris is retiring.

The Stage Stop wasn't always a music venue. "It was topless for about 6 months," Makris says, recalling a fateful phone call from her husband Steve. "He called me out there and said he was auditioning this band and wanted me to listen to them. It was a young guy, and he did a lot of Elvis and I'm an Elvis fan, so I said, 'If it was up to me, I'd hire him.' Later on, my husband asked if I thought I could run the place, and I said, 'I don't think I can; I know I can.'"

And she did.

click to enlarge Nita Makris
  • Nita Makris

Things may have started with an Elvis act — jumpsuit and all — but the Stage Stop's reputation for good sound (and a stage with a built-in drum riser) also caught the interest of the hard rock and metal bands.

"I'll get to see all my old kids that I feel like I've raised," Makris says of Saturday night's retirement party. "I've thrown them out," she says. "I've barred them. I've done whatever I had to do because I never put up with no junk." She also wore out one of the toy water guns she'd use to correct customers and musicians she heard cussing.

"I guess if a plastic squirt gun is only supposed to last 10 years, 42 is enough for me," she says.

Makris' real life daughter plays guitar and sings with the band Seeing Red, who'll provide the evening's entertainment.

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