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Investment in Winsted’s history will aid downtown recovery
Feb. 7, 2011
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By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

WINSTED, MN – There is finally some good news on Winsted’s main street after several downtown business owners have closed their doors, leaving empty storefronts and a deserted look to the town.

Major renovations are now in the works at two downtown buildings. Each owner has the same purpose in mind – both want to do their part to revitalize the Winsted business district.

Doug and Diane Remer have been the owners of the old barber shop at 131 1st St. N. since April 2010, and Galen Schlagel is owner of what is known to many as the Campbell building on the corner of 1st St. N. and Main Avenue.

Schlagel, who lives in San Diego, CA, recently reclaimed the Campbell building after the buyer defaulted on a contract for deed that had been in effect since 1999.

The building, built in 1858, was left in disrepair, and was nothing like the building that he had sold 10 years previously, according to Schlagel.

About the only thing that was still in good condition when the building was returned to Schlagel was the roof, which he had replaced before he sold the building in 1999.

From the time Schlagel bought the building from Jim Neff in 1992 until he sold it in 1999, it was never without tenants, both upstairs and on the main level, and that’s what Schlagel wants to see again. Today, the building stands empty.

Working for General Atomics Aero Systems in Palmdale, CA, as an instructor in training development on Predator aircraft, doesn’t give Schlagel much time to come home and work on his Winsted building, but his sister and brother-in-law, Cindy and Don Laxen of Howard Lake, and brother, Gary Schlagel of Howard Lake, have been working on the building and keeping him informed of its progress.

The Laxens see the character in the old structure, as well as its many possibilities, and take pride in all of the tasks already completed.

The removal of part of the old deck, and the addition of a new deck with a wrap-around design, is Don Laxen’s favorite accomplishment to-date. The deck provides an additional exit for each of the two apartments upstairs, and allows for a nice view of Winsted Lake.

Other items already installed are an eight-zone heating system, air conditioning, which is a new addition to the building; and new wiring.

There are approximately 2,000 square feet of commercial space on the main level which can be made into several different configurations to accommodate up to four renters.

Finishing the largest apartment upstairs is the next step in the renovation, hopefully it will be ready sometime in March.

The two-bedroom (with the option of a third bedroom) apartment is 1,500 square feet. Its Victorian ceiling, that has the original molding still intact, gives an old-fashioned look to the spacious rooms. The original ceiling was discovered when an old suspended ceiling was removed.

Other projects completed for the next renter are the restored hardwood floors, new cupboards, a dishwasher, and new bathroom fixtures with new flooring.

There is also a second one-bedroom apartment upstairs, which is slated to be remodeled when the larger one is completed.

Both have a view of the lake, and are within walking distance of the bank, post office, drugstore, and church.

“One thing that really attracts people is the park right across the street,” Cindy said. “One couple is interested in renting because of the trails around the lake.”

The Campbell building is special to Galen, who discovered after he purchased it that his grandmother’s family, the Mulvannys, had owned the building from 1898 to 1905.

“People remember this as the Campbell building,” Don Laxen said. “But there are so many different people that have owned this building. All the showcase windows, it’s a good place for almost any kind of business.”

Plans coming along on the old barber shop

Doug and Diane Remer of Howard Lake have worked as a team to successfully design, build, and decorate several homes together over a number of years.

In addition, Doug owns R & R Drywall, and Diane owns Lake Mary Photography, both of which keep the couple very busy. Not to mention their six children and two grandchildren.

Although their life is hectic, they took on another project last year when they purchased what was once the barber shop of the late Sy Seymour.

Using their previous knowledge and experience, they began a renovation project on the old barber shop, built in 1916.

Because of all of the interest in the building and its history, one of the first things Diane started was a blog page, www.1916building.blogspot.com, titled “A Renovation Tale of a 1916 Building.”

The blog includes photos, history facts about the building, bits of humor, and a progress report on what is happening.

On the website, Diane is even keeping track of the money found in the walls (a total of 13 cents to-date).

And she is asking her readers to send her stories about the building or a time they remember getting their hair cut, or their children’s hair cut by Sy.

One of the reasons the Remers purchased the building in Winsted was to help enhance the downtown. They also wanted to use the opportunity to show others what kind of things can be done to improve the looks of the older buildings.

Diane said the completed building, both inside and out, will be quaint and charming, “sort of a modern vintage.”

“I am anxious to get to the part where we can show our progress,” Diane said.

“People have already expressed an interest in renting the upstairs,” Diane said. “But at this stage of the remodel, which is the slow part, it’s hard to say when it will be ready.”

A lot of work has already been completed in the upstairs apartment of the old barber shop. All of the plaster has been removed, new wiring is in place, and new bathroom designed.

There have been doors that have been moved around, and walls that have been opened, to give the entire upstairs more light and a better flow for traffic since it will be a home and not small offices as it was built to have in 1916.

The next project for the building is new windows, which will make the view of the lake from the kitchen window even better.

Anyone interested in the upstairs residential apartment or considering the commercial space on the main level should send inquiries to OldBarberShop@hotmail.com.

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