While some deteriorating buildings have blemished downtown Mitchell over the years, Dave Heisinger is giving Main Street a much-needed shot of aesthetic beauty.
When Heisinger bought the Dr. Lucky’s building a little over three years ago, he was well aware there would be plenty of upkeep. Rather than waiting for the building to slowly corrode and address repairs as needed, Heisinger took it upon himself to remodel portions of the interior and exterior.
Among the upgrades, Heisinger’s recent renovation project to install new windows along the entire building provided a noticeable difference that has caught the attention of city officials and local customers.
“It takes a lot of work to upkeep an old downtown building, but it is an interesting process,” Heisinger said. “If I didn’t get new windows fairly soon, the building would have started to deteriorate.”
Considering the recent issues that several aging Main Street buildings have caused for the city of Mitchell, Mayor Bob Everson said the upgrades to Dr. Lucky’s Bar is an example old buildings can be preserved in an appealing form. After a couple century-old downtown buildings -- 301 N. Main St. and the former Palace City Pawn Shop at 115, 117 N. Main St. -- corroded over the years, prompting the city of Mitchell to bulldoze both structures, Everson pointed to the upgrades to Dr. Lucky’s as an important step in the right direction for Main Street.
“The building looks great, and you can really see how much work he has put into it lately,” Everson said of Dr. Lucky’s upgrades. “It adds a nice aesthetic appeal to downtown Mitchell, which is what we love to see. Especially after the rough year we had with some of the buildings on Main.”
Built in 1936, the Dr. Lucky’s building has aged quite well compared to other Main Street buildings, in large part due to the extensive work Heisinger, his family and friends have put into it. Although the new window installations make up only a portion of the renovations Heisinger has completed, he said it was vital for the structural integrity of the building.
Ben Kalovsky, owner of The Window Shop, has replaced and installed windows on a myriad of Main Street buildings over the years. Kalovsky said window problems are among the nuisance issues that can lead to more severe structural damage if unaddressed for prolonged periods of time.
“If you don’t maintain your windows, the leaking starts and then gets into the sub structure, which causes mold and deterioration,” Kalovsky said.
The unique features of many historic buildings on Main Street usually require The Window Shop to produce custom-made windows to meet the historical society standards. Although each old downtown building has different architecture, Kalovsky said large windows are common among many old downtown buildings.
“Replacing windows on an old historic building can be complex with some of the standards that have to be met. You almost have to have a window shop that can customize if you are going to replace ones on a historic downtown building,” Kalovsky said.
Installing new windows is far from the only upgrade Heisinger has made to the building since purchasing the bar. What was once an abandoned portion of the building is now a music stage and gaming area. After learning about the unique history of the remodeled music and gaming room, which used to be the home of an old cinema known as the Time Theater dating back to late 1930, Heisinger found a way to preserve some of the room’s history by leaving the classic theater lights along the walls.
Investing in building repairs attracts business
Janice Christensen, former owner of The Crafty Fox on Main Street, knows the struggles that come with maintaining a historic building. Christensen was issued an order to correct by the city of Mitchell just over a year ago, which centered around fixing the nuisance conditions, mainly the windows, to meet the city’s building codes. As Christensen shopped around for quotes in an attempt to repair the windows, she said bids for replacing the top floor windows alone hovered around $200,000, with the exception of a $115,000 bid that was offered by the city, which ultimately played a role in Christensen selling the building to the city.
Heisinger opted not to disclose the cost of his window replacements, but broadly speaking, he estimates all the renovations he's made would have cost upward of $250,000 if he relied solely on contractors and construction companies. Through a team effort between his friends and family, Heisinger has revamped the bar while keeping costs reasonably low.
Heisinger said investing in new windows was an upgrade that has already significantly lowered the building’s heating and cooling costs. According to Kalovsky, replacing windows in a building the size of Dr. Lucky’s typically reduces heating and cooling costs by roughly 15% to 30%.
More importantly, Dr. Lucky’s has experienced an uptick in business since the improvements and additions, Heisinger said. By investing into his downtown property, Heisinger hopes Main Street can continue seeing more beautification, and in turn, spur more business growth.
“I hope we can get Main Street to head in the right direction and give customers more reason to see what there is to offer between all of us businesses,” Heisinger said. "We've got a lot done over the past three years, that's for sure."