BY GABE LICHT
DELANO, MN When Dale and Lynn Graunke first toured 127 Bridge Ave. in 2012, Lynn was excited about the prospect of buying the building, while Dale wasn’t too sure about the idea.
“I said, ‘Why don’t we buy it?’” Lynn said. “I loved it. It reminded me of a building in Denver where my grandma owned a store.”
When they toured it a second time, the roles were reversed.
“I said, ‘This is too much work,’” Lynn recalled. “Dale said, ‘I think we can do it.’ We totally flip-flopped. We also thought it’d be a two-year project. Here we are, six years later, still working on it.”
While work continues on a ground-level event space, the upstairs of the building the Graunkes dubbed “The Jerome” opened with several office spaces in July 2017.
Now, 11 businesses call The Jerome home: AgriTrading; Bauman Insurance & Financial; beMndful; Citizens Investment Services; INSTIGATOR; Labelogix USA; Lenker Consulting; Milavetz, Gallop & Milavetz; Northwest Asset Management; Simply Benefits, LLC; and, as of Tuesday, the Delano Herald Journal.
After nearly 10 years at 701 Babcock Blvd. Ste. 110, the Delano Herald Journal office has relocated to suite 216, right at the top of the front stairs of The Jerome.
“Delano NAPA and the Vieaus have been great hosts and landlords for almost 10 years,” Herald Journal Publishing CEO Chris Schultz said. “Their space next to NAPA with Highway 12 visibility will be the right fit for another local business. But, we’re excited to move into The Jerome and be in downtown Delano.”
A variety of changes drove the decision to relocate.
“With massive changes to our business, and how we need to operate, The Jerome was the right fit for us,” Schultz said. “The proximity to city hall and post office is great for our staff, and the choice in size and cost of office suites provided the options we needed.”
Upgrades to the building, while maintaining its classic look and feel, did not go unnoticed by Schultz.
“Dale and Lynn have done a great job with the setup, and we really feel the community in The Jerome and downtown environment will be the right place for us to serve our readers and customers for years to come,” he said.
Individuals with concerns about the DHJ’s location on the second level may contact staff, who will work to provide accommodations.
There will also be a drop-box located behind the building.
The history of The Jerome
According to a Jan. 5, 1905, edition of the Delano Eagle, Olof Peterson and Louis and Henry Bock had begun planning for the construction of the building.
Plans being drafted by Swan Erickson called for a solid, brick structure with a 100-foot front, a 90-foot depth, a full basement, a plate front, two stories above ground, a heating plant for the entire building, and other modern conveniences.
The cost of the building was expected to be between $12,000 and $15,000.
Peterson planned to occupy a room measuring 25-feet-by-90-feet for his business, with another room of the same size on the west end, and a 50 foot-by-90 foot department store in the middle, as well as two other 50-foot-by-90-foot rooms.
Excavation for the building began in earnest March 30, 1905, with the first brick laid June 8, 1905.
Before the building was even erected, the Dramatic Club booked the building for a production of “The Deserter” in the space hailed by the Eagle as “the biggest stage outside of the cities.”
In October, the Bocks hosted an opening dance, with music by Noreen’s Orchestra.
The building went on to be called the “Big Brick Block Hall,” according to the Eagle.
According to the Graunkes, many businesses occupied the building, including the Rainbow Inn, Jack’s Food Guild, Ditty Plumbing, a mortuary, and a café.
Most notably, the building housed the Coast to Coast Hardware store beginning in 1957.
Restoring The Jerome
As a general contractor, Dale has done the vast majority of the work himself.
And, there has been a significant amount of work.
At the time of the purchase, the upstairs was made up of six apartments. Upon further examination, the Graunkes determined the space had previously been used as offices, and they decided it should become offices again.
“We wanted to keep it open to the public,” Lynn said. “Offices allowed us to do that. The vision was to keep it open for Delano.”
“And help downtown,” Dale added.
The first task they did was outdoors, as they spent a day removing the True Value Hardware sign that adorned the front of the building.
One of the classic features of the interior of the building is the trim and hardwood, which had more than 100 years of smoke, grease, and grime built up on it.
“I wish I would’ve kept track of how much steel wool we used on it,” Lynn said.
In total, there is 4,800 feet of shoe base trim in the building.
“Luckily, when we started, it was a cold winter, the framing crew didn’t want to work outside, so they pulled the trim,” Dale said.
Lynn gave each room an address, which they still have today, and the trim was marked to identify which pieces went where.
“You have to put the puzzle back together,” Dale said. “That was the ultimate reward.”
In addition to the work done on the trim, it took 75 gallons of paint just to apply one coat.
Overall, many aspects of the building had to be redone, including the roof.
While restoring the building, the Graunkes found two different, dated signatures by Leo Hunzman, one from July 1905, and one from Aug. 14, 1905.
Not only did the Graunkes give the building a new look, but they also gave it a new name.
“Since we bought it from Jerome (Andres), we named it The Jerome,” Lynn said. “Part of that is because there’s a hotel in Aspen, CO called the Jerome. It’s a beautiful, historic building, and this building is just beautiful, so we named it The Jerome.”