Renovation work has been set in motion on the Brick & Mortar store in Lake Geneva’s Maple Park Historic District.
Demolition work began Oct. 30 on the interior walls of the store located at 832 Geneva St.
Owner Thomas George said all the interior walls will be removed, and a large fireplace will become the centerpiece of the retail home furnishings store.
“Basically when we’re done, there will be no interior walls,” George said. “It will flow all the way through.”
The building renovations are being planned by the construction and design firm Nikao Group of Hoffman Estates, Illinois.
“It’s going to be an open floor plan,” Nikao spokesman James Clendening said. “You will be able to see all the way up to the ceiling. It’s going to be beautiful.”
George said in the coming weeks he plans to have the exterior porches demolished. The porches on the Cook Street and Geneva Street side will be torn down for outdoor seating for coffee and snacks.
There also will be ground-level entrances to make the store more handicapped-accessible.
“We hope it draws in the local residents for their morning cup of coffee when they’re walking their dog,” George said.
The rear porch of the building will be renovated to include a display area for outdoor furniture, which also will include a ground-level entrance.
“It will be like living on your porch with whatever outdoor furniture there is,” George said.
George last year proposed to demolish the building and replace it with a new two-story structure. After encountering opposition to razing the building, George tried relocating the building, and then finally proposed to renovate.
The city council in August unanimously approved his plans for renovating the historic building.
Ken Etten, chairman of the Lake Geneva Historic Preservation Commission, said he was happy to see the retail store getting a makeover in its current location.
“We’re pleased that he came up with a plan to save the building,” Etten said.
Edward Holzman, another Nikao Group representative, said he was excited about working on a project that will help restore an older building.
“I hate when people tear down old buildings and put in new stuff,” Holzman said.
George and his wife, Kathy, purchased the Geneva Street building in 2005 and converted it into the Brick & Mortar home store. The couple eventually established a second Brick & Mortar store at 222 Center St.
Some of the interior work that is planned for the older building includes tearing down the current staircase and constructing a wider staircase that will make it easier for customers and employees to access the second floor.
“The staircase was absolutely not up to code, and we didn’t want one of our clients or guests to get hurt,” George said.
The lower floor will continue to operate as a furniture store, and the upper floor will serve as a showcase and display area.
The Brick & Mortar store was closed last month to prepare for the renovations and will remain closed throughout the entire course of the project.
George said officials conducted a special sale before the store’s closing and moved some of the items and holiday decorations into their other Lake Geneva stores.
George said he hopes to have the renovations completed and the store re-opened by next May.
“It really depends on what work can be done and the kind of weather we run into,” he said. “It is winter in Wisconsin already, so we already know that’s going to come into play. But we’ll see.”