Downtown buildings see restoration for new projects
By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — Hand-crafted, microbrewed beer in Salisbury?
A microbrewery is one of several unique projects on the drawing board as business owners and developers dip a toe in the post-Recession waters and test which ideas can float by landing funding and winning approval.
Some projects are already up and running, including a cigar shop on South Lee Street.
As the new owner of the old firehouse at 113 S. Lee St., Sara Jo Bartlett wants to open a microbrewery and small cafe in the city’s first firehouse and city hall, built in 1896.
Focusing on local, fresh, seasonal items, Bartlett said she hopes to earn approval to put doors back on the front of the building, a la the old firehouse bay doors, so she can offer an open-air bar and restaurant on nice days.
“It will be a friendly, relaxed, healthy, authentic place that anyone can feel welcome in, mixed with really great food and beer,” Bartlett said.
If things go according to plan, Bartlett would live upstairs with her daughter.
An airplane pilot, Bartlett moved to Chongqing, China last week to raise money for her renovation project by flying planes for two years for China Express Airlines. China has had such rapid growth in aviation that companies with a shortage of experienced pilots are recruiting in other countries, Bartlett said.
She will continue to work on the firehouse project while abroad and has started putting together a team of designers and builders in Salisbury.
“I am excited that Sara Jo bought the firehouse and cannot wait to see the plans,” said Randy Hemann, executive director for Downtown Salisbury Inc. “I am impressed by the team she is assembling to assist, and I look forward to working with her.”
Meanwhile, the Hedrick Building in the 100 block of North Church Street is undergoing a major face lift, with interior renovations coming up next.
The building behind St. John’s Lutheran Church has been mostly vacant for years, save the corporate office for Hedrick Industries, a gravel and sand company.
Co-owner Joanne Johnson hasn’t set her plans in stone for the striking granite building constructed in the 1920s. Tentatively, Johnson said she’s considering apartments and retail or office space on the left, with indoor, private parking on the right for tenants and customers.
“Right now, I’m just thinking about ideas,” Johnson said. “It all depends on the ultimate approval for tax credits.”
Johnson will apply for federal and state tax credits available to developers who rehabilitate historic structures to certain preservation standards.
She plans to make the space flexible, so she can respond to whatever Salisbury needs at the time, Johnson said.
The building, family owned by Johnson and Hedrick Realty, last housed Earle’s Office Supplies and a dance and karate studio. Realtor John Casey will work to find tenants.
Johnson, whose office has been in the building for years, said the time had come for a renovation, led by Eberhard Denker.
“We did not have anybody interested in renting it, and the outside really needed it,” she said.
Other retail and restaurant updates:
• Cajun cuisine is coming to Salisbury.
Chef John Hudson and developer Bev Ryan will open a new restaurant called Gritz in the former Sweetest Thing bakery at 121 E. Innes St.
Hudson, who started his career at the Sheraton in Washington, D.C. and has cooked at the Country Club of Salisbury, the Downtowner and the Warrior Golf Club, plans a low-country menu for breakfast and lunch, possibly expanding to dinner.
Owners haven’t set an opening date. Renovations are under way with a new hood installation.
• The Perfect Smoke opened Thursday in the 111-year-old Victorian cottage in downtown Salisbury at 213 S. Lee St., thanks to a $41,000 grant from the state.
Salisbury received a Main Street Solutions grant a year ago to help pay for the $124,000 rehabilitation of the house near the Norvell Theater. Owner Darren Moody is selling cigars and cigar-related accessories.
• Next door at 209 S. Lee St., restaurant owner Allen Terry is ready to start work on Emma’s of Salisbury, a new breakfast and lunch spot.
Salisbury landed another Main Street Solutions grant — this one for $70,000 — to put the new eatery in the old house near the strategic corner of South Lee and East Fisher streets.
Terry should have grant details complete within the next two weeks, so work will begin soon, Hemann said.
• Nana’s Nook opens Saturday in Wallace Commons, the shopping center anchored by Kohl’s on Klumac Road. The gift shop will host a grand opening Aug. 24.
Also at Wallace Commons, Los Arcos Mexican restaurant has opened and hosted large crowds last weekend.
No word yet on whether Belk will move from the Salisbury Mall to the shopping center near Interstate 85. The department store is considering building a 75,000-square-foot store next to Kohl’s.
• Construction has started on Go Burrito at 115 W. Fisher St. in the old Carousel Cafe building. Downtown Salisbury Inc. offered an easement on the lot beside the building to allow access to the new side door, as well as outdoor dining, Hemann said.
• Verizon is moving from 1009 E. Innes St. to the old Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon at 215 Bendix Drive. Verizon has submitted plans to the city for an interior remodeling project.
• Office Depot at 715 E. Innes St. plans to subdivide into three parts. Office Depot will condense its business into one section and lease the other two, said Preston Mitchell, the city’s Planning and Development Services manager.
Panera Bread plans to build a new restaurant nearby, next to Cookout.
• Waffle House has talked to the city informally about building a new location on East Innes Street next to Wendy’s. Waffle House is tentatively interested in razing the out-of-business Japanese fast food restaurant and constructing a second Salisbury location, Mitchell said.
The idea is preliminary and no plans have been submitted to the city. The company requested information on design standards and code requirements, Mitchell said.
• Growing Pains Family Consignment Shop is moving this fall from its longstanding location at 115 W. Innes St. to the Oestreicher Building in the 100 block of South Main Street. The property belongs to Evening Post Publishing Co., which owns the Salisbury Post.
• Downtown will lose one merchant as Peanut Doodles, a scrapbooking shop, closes down at 107 E. Innes St. and moves to the web for an Internet-based business.
• Downtown Salisbury Inc. has made a marketing push on the Empire Hotel project with good results, Hemann said.
The vacant hotel stands at 212-228 S. Main St. Downtown Salisbury bought the property in 2007 for $1 million with the help of financing provided by seven local banks.
“Nothing that I can go into detail on, as it is premature, but people are interested in the project,” Hemann said. “People looking at the hotel see how the city’s efforts through the downtown master plan are being fulfilled, and they understand the long-term commitment of the people of the community to follow the plan and fulfill that vision.”Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.