About 30 Gainesville rock bands are hitting the road, but they’re not going on tour.
In fact, an era is coming to a close, as these bands are losing the space where they have met and practiced for over 20 years — the MiniMaxi Warehouse, a storage facility off Waldo Road in northeast Gainesville.
Watson Realty Corp., a property management and real estate company, is evicting the bands on behalf of the Santa Fe College Foundation, a nonprofit corporation that primarily raises scholarship money for Santa Fe College students. Company officials declined to comment for this story.
Mini Maxi Warehouse “has been a stalwart of warehouse practice places, but now a lot of people have shows lined up with nowhere to practice,” said Piss Test frontwoman Debra Fetzer.
Officials at the Santa Fe College Foundation would not say why they are evicting the bands or what their plans are for the development of the land they have owned since 2015. After three weeks of frequent but unsuccessful attempts to reach Chuck Clemons, the Santa Fe College Foundation’s executive director, the foundation’s spokesman issued a terse statement.
“We have no comment that we can make right now,” said Jay Anderson. “We don’t have any further details at this time.”
James Michael Yoho, who goes by Mike, was the manager at MiniMaxi from 2004 until the end of 2022. He regularly interacted with many of the tenants who are now being evicted.
“They don’t need to have a reason to evict them. The owners no longer wish to have bands practice at the facility,” Yoho said.
Although he claimed there were “multiple reasons” for eviction, tenants were adamant they were given no such justification.
MiniMaxi Warehouse has long been the beating heart of the Gainesville music scene. What started as a well-kept secret became a popular place to practice, a spot where bands from all across town could work on their craft and store their equipment. Band members would pool their money — about $25 a head — to pay the monthly rent of the unit.
“Most musicians can’t afford to pay more than that,” said Tate Clair, the frontman for the band Loose Bearings, which has rented a unit there for more than a decade.
The musicians who have come through MiniMaxi, located at 2150 NE 31st Ave. near Gainesville Regional Airport, are not just individuals with a common interest — they are a tight-knit community. Over the years, countless bands have been formed there, making a culturally significant mark on the city of Gainesville.
But on Feb. 16, the bands at MiniMaxi found eviction notices taped to their doors, ordering them to move out of the self-storage units by March 18. To their surprise, all the other tenants who weren’t in bands did not receive similar eviction notices and will be allowed to stay.
“It’s really just kicked a hole in the heart of Gainesville bands,” Fetzer said.
Fetzer has rented bay 37 at MiniMaxi for more than a decade. There, she and other musicians practiced and stored equipment. Now they’re scrambling to find another place where they can go.
“It used to be easier to find a place, but because of the way the town has been built up it’s a lot more expensive and difficult now. You have to be away from residential areas; you need extra power. There’s not a lot of options,” Fetzer said.
Fetzer explained that rumors started surfacing in November and December that MiniMaxi’s ownership was going to kick the bands out. This came around the same time as the publication of a WUFT article that spotlighted the musical community that was thriving at the local Gainesville warehouse.
As a result, many of the bands have speculated the article may have had something to do with the eviction.
“I’ve been getting a lot of hate mail for talking to that last reporter, and a lot of people are really mad at me,” Fetzer said. “Since nobody knows the real reason, everybody is blaming the article.”
Fetzer expressed confusion as to what the article could have revealed to the owners, as MiniMaxi had been collecting a band fee for more than a decade and had known bands were playing there.
“There’s something fishy going on here. Why would they kick us out after playing here for so long and not give us any reason,” Fetzer said. “I think they’re just using that article as a scapegoat and that they were planning to kick us out anyway.”
After hearing they were being evicted, the bands offered the warehouse management to negotiate their rent to account for inflation. But management declined their offer.
Then, Fetzer and other tenants asked the management at MiniMaxi for the identity of the owners and why they were being evicted. MiniMaxi refused to provide answers.
“They don’t need to get an explanation,” Yoho said. “They are on month-to-month leases just like every other customer that’s out there. Either the owner or tenant can cancel the lease at any time, and that’s what the owners are doing.”
As for the cultural importance of the bands, Yoho said: “I don’t see any value in them being there for over 10 years.”
Although most of the bands are focused on finding a place to play, Shane Haven, the drummer for the band Radon, is more concerned with what to do with his equipment.
Haven is being evicted from unit 22, a 10-by-10-foot space he rents for $159 a month. He said he has been at MiniMaxi for almost 25 years.
“I completely understand if you don’t want bands out here, but I’ve never once been late on my rent,” Haven said.
After he found the eviction notice, Haven said he told Yoho: “I’ll stop playing music, but I’ve gained a lot of equipment over the years, so it’s kinda stressful finding a spot for it all so quickly.” He said Yoho responded: “I’m sorry, but you guys gotta go.”
Haven said the evictions will hurt the Gainesville music scene. After counting up the 11 eviction notices, he estimated more than 30 bands will have nowhere to go. Often, more than one band will use the same unit because musicians will play in more than one band.
Haven said he feels as though the bands are being targeted.
“It feels discriminatory. ‘Hey, you have equipment and you’re in a band, so you can’t be here, but that guy who has boxes of books and a couch can stay,’ ” Haven said.
Although many of the tenants facing eviction say they are clueless as to why, Clair said he has his own theories.
“Last summer, I was in Boston working, and once in a while, I started getting messages from Mike [Yoho] complaining about people parking in the wrong spaces. That started becoming an issue,” said Clair.
At MiniMaxi, semi-trucks come through late at night for a bread company that has units of storage. Clair explained that sometimes musicians would come to MiniMaxi for the first time and park in the wrong place, making it hard for the semi-trucks to get in and out.
“There were no problems at all until about last September. Parking started becoming an issue, and we were told if we didn’t start policing the parking, then the owners were gonna start wanting to get rid of all the bands,” Clair said.
Afterward, the bands told Yoho to put up signs or paint diagonal lines to show where people were not to park. According to Clair, they finally painted the lines the same week they evicted the bands.
Although this provides a motive, something was not adding up for Clair.
“I don’t think that’s the reason we were evicted, I think there’s a lot more to it than that. I think it was a scapegoat to work toward whatever they want to start doing out there,” Clair said.
In the wake of the evictions, many musicians at MiniMaxi blamed the management, but Clair recalled that Yoho was actually the reason his band was there to begin with. Clair’s band rented a 750-square-foot space for $298 a month for nine years until the rent was raised to $312 two years ago
“When we first came to MiniMaxi, we couldn’t afford the price Mike offered. So we were getting ready to leave, but then he said, ‘you know, what I’m really looking for is a band,’” Clair said. “This is before they had security cameras out there. Mike is an old hippy who’s into music, and he knew we all looked after each other, and if you have a gig you might not get back till about 3 a.m., so if we saw someone breaking into a unit, we were going to watch out for each other.”
The three tenants who were eager to give their thoughts on the matter all shared one speculation: The evictions had less to do with MiniMaxi, and more to do with its owners, the Santa Fe College Foundation.
“The only thing we’ve come across is that it’s owned by Santa Fe [Foundation]. We’ve heard of these ‘owners’ but we can’t reach them,” Haven said. “Mike wouldn’t have a real reason to remove all the bands, it doesn’t affect him, I think they just told him you gotta evict them.”
Clair agreed, suggesting that the lot is prime real estate and that they might use it for Santa Fe College.
Santa Fe’s main campus, located at 3000 NW 83rd St., is over nine miles away from the 2.84-acre MiniMaxi Warehouse, which was originally purchased on a foreclosure for $730,800. The property’s current market value is more than $1.4 million, according to Alachua County Property Appraiser Ayesha Solomon.
From 2016 to 2022, Santa Fe College Foundation filed six separate permits, spending more than $160,000 on improvements on the property, according to Alachua County Permitting Offices.
Given Santa Fe College Foundation’s silence on the matter, it’s uncertain whether the organization intends to develop the land or sees it as an investment and plans to sell it.
“I think it’s a long-term thing. They just don’t want people around there, and they’re taking baby steps to get to where they need to be,” Clair said. “There’s been heart and soul put into this thing, and it’s just like the rug has been pulled out from under us overnight.”