308 West Main Street - Friedman's/ Ringside

35.996254, -78.902588

Year built
Construction type
Local historic district
National Register
Building Type
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308 West Main was built circa 1906 by John Sprunt Hill.  According to city directories, the first tenants were a physician, C. E. King and Sons druggists, and the Durham Art Shop. 

In the picture below, the last 3-story building moving right to left is 308 West Main - one of the last buildings surviving in this block - the Temple Building and its attached 3 story building (the buildings on the right) being the others.


(Courtesy Duke Archives)

Another view below, 1940s, shows a bit of the building along the fleshed out West Main St. streetscape.


(Courtesy Duke Archives, Wyatt Dixon Collection)

By the 1950s, the building was occupied by Martin Jewelry Co.


"Parking Ban on Main Street" - 01.09.58. 308 West Main has the "Bulova Watches" sign. "Martin Jewelry Co." is inset in the sign, and also displayed on the front facade, mostly obscured by the retracted awning.

By the 1960s, Friedman's Jewelers had taken over the building.


(Courtesy Durham County Library)


Looking northwest, early 1960s (Courtesy Herald-Sun)

Sometime during the 1960s, it acquired the fine false facade as well, obscuring all of the brick detailing.

~1970 (Durham County Library)

In 1977, all of the Belk buildings to the west were demolished, leaving a large gap in the block immediately west of this building.

The picture below is from ~1980.


(Courtesy Durham County Library)

I remember hearing that at some point this building did a stint as a movie house - I'm very unsure of its 1980s-1990s history. In May of 2000, it was opened as "Boxer's Ringside," a cool downtown club that spanned all the floors of the building. Ringside was owned and operated by Michael Penny, member/descendent of the Penny family that ran Penny Furniture.


2006 (Gary Kueber)

Ralph Rogers collection / Durham County Library, 2002.

Ringside closed in 2007.



As of 2011, the building has been completely renovated, with the upstairs as a private residence, and the first floor as retail (vacant as of July 2011.)





Since at least early 2016 the storefront has been occupied by a real estate agency.


I wandered into Ringside a few months ago when a band was setting up; this is a cool space. What is the vibe like in the evenings? I gathered from the flyers on the facade that it has quite a diverse clientele.


It is a cool space - I especially like the top floor, which someone's slightly decrepit/ arty / homey living room with big windows looking out onto Main St. The owner is from (or at least was a longtime resident of) New Orleans, and it has some echoes of places there for me.

I don't go much unless a band I really like is playing, because there is usually a cover, and I can't hang with the young 'uns 'til 3-4am too often anymore. But the crowd is definitely diverse, and varies depending on the programming.


your readers might be interested in checking out this article on Ringside, from the Indy back in '02:

While the DADA group of the article seems to have died off, Michael Penny, the owner of Ringside, has been around Durham for years, and I expect will be for many more. i'm pretty sure he was here before he went to New Orleans, and the old Boxer's out near what is now New Hope Commons was a "fixture" in the gay bar scene of the early 90's as much as the Power Company you mentioned in a previous post. i've always been curious as to whether he is related to the Pennys of Penny Furniture - perhaps I'll ask him next time I'm there.



Thanks so much for the good info! I remember now when that article came out, but I'd forgotten about it. I wonder what ever happened to the DADA thing - perhaps in morphed into ABCD. Very interesting to read their comment circa 1992, though.

I appreciate the additional background info.



I was able to go to Ringside several different times for shows and I loved the layout, except the narrow stairs and walls seemed a bit unsafe, but I think that was part of the allure and ambiance. Unfortunately I believe Ringside closed last year or early this year and it is now vacant although I can't find any news articles not to substantiate it.

Yes, another nail in the coffin for downtown Durham nightlife now that Ringside is closed. First The Palace/Wonderland fire, now Ringside, so sad.
It has now been renovated and is being advertised here:
"First-Floor space available: Commercial, Retail or Restaurant"

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