A bold move: The benefits and challenges of restoring an old building

October 2015 Posted in Business
The Gathering Spot’s Anna Kuzmin is ready to move beyond building restoration and get into her new location.

The Gathering Spot’s Anna Kuzmin is ready to move beyond building restoration and get into her new location.

By Melissa Wagoner

Moving a business to a new location is a big decision, especially when that business is thriving, but the rewards can outweigh the risk.

This fall, The Gathering Spot in Silverton will move from North First to the corner of East Main and South Water Street.

“We want to evolve with the people and evolve with the community,” owner Anna Kuzmin said.

Kuzmin opened The Gathering Spot in 2011, in part because she was unable to find options in Silverton that fit with her dietary needs.

“I have a daughter and when she was a toddler and we went out for breakfast or lunch we ended up driving to Portland,” Kuzmin said. “I was disappointed that there wasn’t more availability for organic and local. I saw the need.”

Kuzmin’s idea took off, and The Gathering Spot serves around 120 customers a day, with numbers rising to 180 or 200 on the weekends, from her small 35-seat location.

With a seasonal breakfast, lunch and catering menu based on local products from healthy sources, Kuzmin is kept busy not only with the daily operations of a restaurant but also with the demands of keeping that much perishable food on hand.

“When we get our delivery from farmers on Friday afternoon, we are empty by Monday and fresh produce takes up a lot of space. Our pantry is a quarter the size of our fridge,” Kuzmin said.

The refrigerator size has been a major problem and is one that will be remedied by the move into the larger building and the upgrade to a walk-in cooler.

“That’s a huge plus. In the summer we get a delivery every day,” she said.

Beyond the added benefits of a larger cooler, more kitchen space, and a more visible location, the move will also afford Kuzmin a bigger retail space.

The building, built in 1890 and measuring about 2,400 sq. ft. was originally a department store but renovations during the 1960s and ‘70s covered the old brick walls, lowered the ceiling and divided the space into smaller sections.

Now, with the help of her husband Mike Kuzmin, architect Victor Madge and a grant from the Silverton Urban Renewal Agency, the old building is coming back to life.

“We are completely gutting the inside trying to restore it to the original state,” Kuzmin said.

With the help of photographs unearthed by Gus Frederick of the Silverton Country Historical Society, the Kuzmins were able to uncover original windows high in the brick walls along the Water Street side affording the building more light.

In the process Mike discovered four original chandelier medallions, all in excellent condition, as well as the original wooden beams and crown molding.

But it has not all been roses. Along the way, the project has encountered unexpected snags that slowed the work and changed the goal for when the new space would open.

“The kitchen floor was rotten. Electrical wires had been cut off and taped together,” Kuzmin said. “Every inch of electrical wire has been replaced.”

She expressed gratitude toward her husband for the work he has done to restore the building.

Now with renovations firmly underway, plans are in place for the move, hopefully in late October, with few changes to the Gathering Spot’s mission including continuation of a children’s area and the maintenance of the current menu.

“We don’t anticipate the breakfast or lunch business growing very much, but we will have local items on display,” Kuzmin said.

The display that Kuzmin is speaking of is going to be a small amount of retail space in the front of the dining room devoted to local products the restaurant uses or produces such as Mama Lil’s Peppers, Silver Falls Coffee, a variety of local cheeses and some The Gathering Spot dressings.

In the meantime Kuzmin has her hands full running the current restaurant and renovating the new space.

“I am currently the only baker, recipe curator, plumber and master toilet cleaner,” she said. “I’m ready to have one project instead of two.”

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