The fuse that was lighted five years ago has reached the payload. Business investment is booming on Enterprise Main Street.
Michael and Jody Berry brought the match that caused the explosion. They began the investment trend with the purchase of three storefronts on West Main in 2012. They developed “Wild Carrot Herbals” at 114 W. Main, experimented with the popular “Dandelion Wine” shop next door 2015-17, and are remodeling the 110 W. Main storefront that was “Jay’s Place” computer and music supply store. Jay moved around the corner to 103 SW First Street last summer.
The Brann boost
Further west down the block Darrell Brann fanned the flame when he purchased both the OK Theatre and the former Weaver Building (214 and 216 W Main) in 2014. The Weaver Building had multiple retail spaces.
The renovation and dramatic rebirth of the theatre as a community center and entertainment mecca is ongoing. In addition to serving as a live theatre, site for fundraisers, showcase for special film presentations and the Ruby Peak Film Festival, and music venue, the theatre has also become a sound studio where local musician Bart Budwig has recorded approximately 20 albums for a variety of musicians.
“Some big stuff happened as a result of that,” said Brann. “Music from one album has been used in a movie. Another artist is now touring with a big name performer. We hope to build that part of the business with the theatre.”
The historic theatre building is also getting a lot of love. Brann has received grants for restoration and is currently swamping out the basement to dramatically upgrade heating, cooling and wiring. ADA-approved bathrooms will also be installed.
Next door in the Weaver Building, Brann has been “picking away” at remodeling with the plan of having three retail spaces. Two spaces are already spoken for and there has been a lot of interest in the third, Brann said.
Deyette Perry of “Perry and Associates Certified Public Accountants” began renting office space in November and Grady Rawls’ “Living Skies Production” is planning to move from the theatre into the Weaver Building as well.
Getting in on the growth
Meanwhile, former Wallowa County native Bill Warnock and his wife, Michelle Starr, began buying up buildings on the other side of Main, beginning with the buildings now housing “R’s Consignment” and “Bird Dog Signs,” which they purchased a year ago. Warnock and Starr live in Vermont but will be returning full-time to Wallowa County in the next five years.
A week ago, they expanded their holdings west to the old Masons Lodge that used to serve as the “Annex” to Steve and Cathy Lear’s Lears’ Main Street Pub and Grill.
“We’re going to put that building on the historic registry, fix it up, and put apartments on the second story and two smaller commercial spaces downstairs,” Starr said.
The Bowlby stone building suffered structural damage recently when the back wall collapsed, but the investors were prepared for that event. The wall that fell is part of a 1910 add-on to the original building, which enclosed a porch.
“We’ve been looking at this building for six years,” said Starr. “It’s not an impulse buy, and we did a really thorough investigation.”
The focus is stabilizing the building, which engineers and contractors say can be accomplished. Contractor Ken Nash of Enterprise began work on it this week. Warnock and Starr also hope to have Dave Melville of Enterprise doing the tucking and pointing on the Bowlby Stone restoration, just as he has done on the newly remodeled Burnaugh Building at 107 N. River Street.
The investors are very excited about the future of their buildings.
“Bill grew up there and we have a house up at the lake and we plan to live there in a few years,” Starr said. “We like Enterprise. It was at one time the hub of the county and we think it will become that again at some time. We think the buildings are a great location, and Bill has memories of going downtown and getting whatever you needed. We think that’s possible again and we want to be a part of that.”
Lear’s Pub still for sale
When Steve and Kathy Lear left for Lewiston, Idaho, they leased their building to Rachel Esquibel of Enterprise for her bid at running “Stockman’s Lounge.” Unfortunately, an especially bad winter shortened the life of the venture.
The restaurant with full kitchen and upstairs apartment remains for sale for $250,000. The fire marshall’s sign recently posted on the door of the restaurant was placed there in error, real estate agent Diane Daggett said. It belongs next door on the Masons Lodge where the wall fell.
McKee Brothers Investments
Across W. Main Street, McKee Brothers Investments is restoring and significantly remodeling a second Bowlby Stone building project within city limits, the Litch Building on the corner of River and Main streets.
Joseph resident Andy McKee is the builder in the brother-investment-team, and his first project was the Burnaugh Building.
The enormous Litch Building stretches west down Main Street to include the storefronts that formerly housed “R’s Consignment” at 100 W. Main and currently houses “Sugar Time Bakery” and “Favorite Finds on Main.” Another business located on the River Street side of the building, “Valley Barbers E & B” (Bunk’s Barber shop) has also moved.
All four of those renters were advised of McKee’s intent to remodel when he purchased the building and as the remodel process developed and conversations were had about what renters needed and what McKee felt he could reasonably commit to — all the renters decided that moving was their best option.
McKee intends to remodel the street level buildings to house seven or more smaller business spaces.
“These big units are hard to fill based on the price point you need,” he said. “It’s hard to rent out 3,000 square-feet without giving away a ton of real estate.”
Most of the displaced businesses have already found new locations. Bunk’s Barber Shop has moved further west to 211 W. Main, “R’s Consignment” moved across the street to 105 W. Main and “Sugar Time Bakery” will move to the newly remodeled Burnaugh Building in January.
Sugar Time Bakery owner Eva Herold opened in the Main Street location two years ago and said it had been “amazing.” The new space she’ll occupy is also amazing, she said. McKee is busy building it to her specifications.
“The Burnaugh Building space is about the same size as our current location, but we’ll expand our services,” Herold said. “We’re going to be doing sandwiches on our fresh bread, serving soup — it’s going to be an expansion of the menu. We’ll have more seating, there will be a public restroom, it’s very exciting.”
Sondra Lozier, owner of “Favorite Finds on Main,” has been offered the other retail space in the Burnaugh Building, but the layout is a big change, so she’s still considering her options.
“It’s still undecided,” Lozier said. “I have 3,300 square-feet of display and another 700 of storage here, and I’d have 1,400 square-feet and no storage if I went to the Burnaugh Building.”
Despite the inconvenience, Lozier is pleased with McKee’s plans.
“Andy (McKee) has a good vision for Enterprise, and I’m really glad he bought the Litch Building,” she said. “I think it’s wonderful they are going to preserve the building.” Montana investors have purchased the old Ace Hardware building and McKee has gotten “at least five serious inquiries about investing in the county.” The potential investors are out-of-county people, he said.
Bowlby buildings filling fast on E. Main
East Main, a bastion of Bowlby Stone buildings, has not been left out of the boom. There, an entire block of ground floor business spaces is filling up.
• Dr. Rusty Woods retired and moved out, but the fire at city hall saw his 117 E. Main address filled again as a temporary location.
• Meantime, next door, the 119 E. Main “Stage One” space was taken up by two new businesses: “Belle Salon” and “Eagle Cap Wellness.”
• Christ Covenant Church took the 115 E. Main office space.
• A private space owned by Julia Zeise that is sandwiched between “Pioneer Guest Home” and “The Bookloft” is sometimes rented out for yoga classes.
• A group of massage therapists is discussing Dr. Barton’s old chiropractic office as a possible site for a business.
The back half of that block is where the old City Hall is located. That area will soon be the site of the new Enterprise Fire House and City Hall. The Burnaugh Building is also on that block.