Archive for Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Couple purchase hardware store building

Bichelmeyers not sure about long-term use, considering antique store

April 19, 2006

A Tonganoxie couple plans to put a second welcome mat on Fourth Street.

Matt and Vicki Bichelmeyer, owners of Bichelmeyer's Steakhouse, last week bought John Lenahan's hardware store building, 515 E. Fourth St.

"I see life in that downtown area and I can feel it because we're bringing in 800 to 1,000 people a week from out of town," Matt Bichelmeyer said of his steakhouse customers.

The Bichelmeyers haven't settled on a long-term use for the century-old building. Matt said it's likely they'll look into selling antiques there, at first.

Although it's possible the 3,000-square-foot building later could be converted into office space, Bichelmeyer said he and his wife would prefer to create something that would draw people downtown.

He noted that Annie's Country Jubilee brings visitors to town on Saturday nights.

"We've got an opera and Bichelmeyer's Steakhouse -- in between there put something where people walk up and down the street and enjoy themselves with antiques and flea markets and those kind of things," Bichelmeyer said. "That's why we beautified the downtown area -- to draw people here."

In 2000, the city completed a major downtown renovation project. Workers installed new sidewalks and old-fashioned lamp posts. Flowering trees were planted alongside Fourth Street.

The Bichelmeyers, who already owned one of the downtown's historic buildings, say they appreciate the fact that Lenahan wanted his collection of historic photos to stay with the building.

Bichelmeyer noted the property's contract specifies that John Lenahan's collection of local historic photos, as well as a safe that used to be in the Zoellner Mercantile store, are included in the purchase.

And, Bichelmeyer said, Lenahan's chair -- a chair he's been known to take a mid-afternoon snooze in -- goes with the building.

Lenahan announced several weeks ago his plan to close the store. Since then, with prices reduced by at least 20 percent, he has been busy making sales.

"I'm gonna sell it," Lenahan said Monday of the remaining inventory. "Sell it or give it away. Everything is discounted."

Lenahan said he has until September to empty the building. And it's likely after that, Lenahan will want to revisit the store -- and take a seat in his old chair.

"Vicki said I can come back and sit and review old memories," Lenahan said.

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