Breathing new life into an old building
Vacant building becomes new village hot spot
Village of Wales - The building at 104 Main St. had fallen into a state of disrepair after sitting vacant for some time. For nearly two years, Town of Delafield resident and real estate agent Leslie Bley would drive by and see the potential in the building.
"I always thought it was such a significant building that it really was sad that it was in such bad shape," Bley said. Despite the lack of a roof in some spots and the extensive repairs the building desperately needed, Bley saw a diamond in the rough. Being so close to the bike path, it could be a perfect place for people to stop and relax. And one year ago, she bought the building.
Work quickly began to replace the missing pieces of ceiling, replace the electrical system and to repair the damp basement. HVAC was installed, and the rotted wrought-iron railings were recreated with new materials. Most of the interior walls had to be repaired or replaced. "I just wanted to restore it back where it was," said Bley.
The building was divided up to accommodate several retail spaces.
"I really wanted something like a restaurant or coffee shop so that you'd be able to walk to it from anywhere," Bley said.
Hairstylist and makeup artist Jatziry Neuburg of North Prairie remembers seeing the building before the repairs were done.
"It needed everything new. The building really needed somebody with courage to take it over," she said. Loving the uniqueness of the building, Neuburg signed on as a tenant and opened her salon, Studio Amour, in the building last November.
Post renovations, "One of the things that caught my attention is that through the ceilings, you can see the naked wire outside of the wood," she said. It's just one of the many old details Bley kept that caught Neuberg's eye.
Beyond the physical building, "I really like the story behind the building. I really like hearing the stories of people who say 'you know, there was a restaurant here,' " said Neuburg. "You have a home feeling when you come into it." Many people come into her salon and tell her about a previous owner who was known her for having flowers outside of the building.
Occupying one of the upstairs spaces is Mama D's Coffee, owned by Oconomowoc resident Diana Markus.
"It's been a tiny seedling almost my whole life, to have something like this," she said. "I'm more old bones and vintage and eclectic and comfortable."
Bley was right to want a coffee shop in the spot, as the response has been tremendous. Wales is "a sleepy community but they get out." People who use the bike path want a destination, and they've found it at 104 Main St.
"I think it's been a good spot," said Markus. "People are happy the building came alive."
Village President Jeffrey Flaws said Bley "did some terrific renovations to (the building) and made it into some really nice spaces." He added that "it's a very pleasant space to have a little something."
Flaws explained that as a village, "we've tried to structure things so if that can get people interested in taking over residence in the village and converting them to retail space."
The building is also home to Bright Ideas Learning and Jill Vento Attorney at Law.
The building was constructed in 1912 as the Wales Bank building. The bank opened Dec. 16, 1912. Since then, the building has been home to the Wales Post Office, a pool hall and a barbershop in the basement. Bley said the building also once housed a restaurant.
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