This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

For rent

I have noticed a number of commercial buildings for rent around Rensselaer, and since I like to take pictures, I began to stop whenever I saw one and take its picture. There are, after all, interesting stories behind each of these empty buildings, though I often am not one of the people who knows what those stories are.

On the north end of town, Sharper Image Salon recently moved out of this building, which was probably a gas station originally. In the not too distant past it was either a pizza place or a Mexican restaurant, or both. What do you remember being here? Is Sharper Image Salon out of business, or did it move?

Across the street is this old gas station, which not too long ago was housing a bridle shop or feed shop of some kind. I did not understand what market they were trying to reach, so I am not surprised that it did not last. Retail is a very risky business with a very high turnover.
The Japser County Interim Report (discussed here) liked this building, which it dates about 1930-36, giving it notable status:
A notable house-and-canopy gas station on the north side of town testifies to the heyday of the [Jackson, now US 231] highway, whose route was significantly eclipsed by the coming of Interstate 65.
Here is a little background on the house-and-canopy style for gas stations from the Internet, and a house-and-canopy style gas station in Illinois with an impressive write up on Wikipedia.
To the east, the old Schumacher factory is still empty.
In the downtown, part of the historic old Horton Building is without a tenant. When I came to town, it housed Dr. Gribble the optometrist. Then for a while it was an antique store, and after its rent was raised and it left, the building served as a tatoo parlor for a while. The building was built in 1902 and is in the style of functional neoclassical, whatever that means.
Also downtown is this nondescript building next to the bank. Most recently it was an antique store, but the owner bought the old Murray building, and decided it gave him enough room so there was no reason to rent his orginal quarters. I think when we came to town this was part of Schultz's Department Store, which went out of business and was replaced by Harvey's. Then I think it was vacant a while. If you have more accurate information, please share it.
Across the street is another empty building that was most recently TJs Unfinished Furniture. Before TJs I think it was Falveys, a clothing store. If you have more information, please share.
Leaving the downtown and going down river, we find the old laundromat on College is empty. When I first came to town there were several laundromats and they were fairly busy. Now I know of none in town. I have not read anything about the demise of the laundromat, but it is a business that has declined as general prosperity has increased. Maybe the rent-to-own businesses were the final nail in its coffin.

The last business in this location was a vacuum cleaner shop called the Ho Ho Vac Shop. I always meant to take a picture of it but never did, and now it is too late. There was also a pool hall somewhere in this building.
Just north of Pizza Hut is another empty laundromat. I do not think anything has been in here for years. There were rumors that the Mexican restaurant that was displaced when CVS built downtown would move here, but it never did.
In the strip mall itself there is currently only one vacancy, an empty spot between American Rental and the Check-to-Go. I think it is an ideal spot for a Starbucks--location, location, location.
My final picture is of the east end of the bowling alley, in the spot formerly occupied by the Kentland Bank, which has moved to its new location. I was hoping to go to its open house, but it was postponed by weather and I missed it.

There are almost always empty commercial buildings. I cannot tell whether there are more than usual this year or not, though nationally vacancies in mall are at a ten-year high. We are in a recession, so we should expect to see more vacancies, but anecdotal evidence is always risky.

Update February 20, 2009: The old Schumacher building has a new tenant, How About That. How About That is the name of a trucking company owned by Ron Kasparian, who is a very recent graduate of SJC. He was unusual as an undergraduate because he already was running a business. Now that he does not have to bother with classes, his business seems to be rapidly growing despite the tough economy. Good luck, Ron.


Anonymous said...

Readmore was in the area between the bank and the department store on Main Street.



Good photos. These are some substantial building vacant, good locations and good square footage.

Anonymous said...

I have not lived in Rensselaer since 1973.In 1973, the store in between Readmore's and the bank was a ladies dress shop - Lord's, I think. I was only ten years old and am now 45, but my mother purchased her dress there for her wedding to my stepfather.Also in later years,my father's sister, Phylis worked at Readmore's.Haven't been back to Rensselaer very often as I live in Canada.

Anonymous said...

There is a laundromat on Drexel between Ricos and the popcorn factory but on the south side of the street. They are always completely packed on the weekends and frequently on weeknights. They send their dry-cleaning out for service.

And you should put Starbucks in...I would be your best customer...not that you have any idea who I am since I will post this as anonymous since I am much too lazy to create another screen name. :)