Some Indiana businesses used shutdown's downtime to remodel

With social distancing relaxing and businesses opening back up, people are going to see some changes.

Posted: Jun 22, 2020 8:52 AM

LOGANSPORT, Ind. (AP) — With social distancing relaxing and businesses opening back up, people are going to see some changes.

During the time they were shut down or limited in operations, some businesses used the opportunity to remodel.

Possibly the most extensive improvements in Cass County were made at Shooters Bar and Grill, 1034 17th St., in the front bar.

“We gutted everything down to the cement block building,” said owner Julia Lowe, who did the upgrades with her husband Jeff Lowe, who owns Lowe Construction.

Shooters shut down March 17 and reopened June 1 (a week later than planned because they had to finish the work).

Lowe had planned to work on the place, but “When they shut us down, we decided we were going to do it right,” she said.

They removed two layers of paneling, the plaster wall and other layers. They also had to replace portions of rotted floor, and the put in large picture windows. The walls are now covered in a much lighter wood.

“(It) makes it seem roomier,” she said. “It seems when people come in, they’re happier, too. Everybody can’t believe it. It doesn’t even look like the same bar,” she said.

They also replaced all of the electrical work and plumbing and completely remodeled the bathrooms.

“It’s been a lot of work,” she said. “We still aren’t done.”

Lowe is also looking at redoing the back bar.

“It looks a little drab compared to the front right now,” she said.

At the State Theatre, two sizable projects are nearly complete. During the shutdown, the entire interior of the concession stand was rewired, new plumbing was added and new walls and cabinets were constructed.

“We’ve been fortunate to have been awarded some grant money to allow us to do this work during the shutdown,” said Kevin Burkett, CEO and president of the nonprofit State Theatre Preservation Society (STPS). “The change is pretty dramatic. Everything is so clean and polished. We even added video monitors for a digital menu display and to show previews of upcoming shows.”

Burkett is an unpaid board member with the STPS and is also the editor of the Pharos-Tribune.

The second project at the theatre was the creation of an art gallery that features large canvas prints of photographs taken by Rich Voorhees. “We were thrilled to work with the Cass County Arts Alliance, who funded the project,” Burkett said. “It was long overdue for Rich to have been honored with a public gallery of his work.”

A deep cleaning of all 485 theatre seats was also done. And all four circa 1940 chandeliers in the lobby were completely dismantled, cleaned and restored. “The three inner-lobby chandeliers each have about 40 pieces of glass, brass and stainless steel,” Burkett said. “So it was a meticulous process.”

Gina Dingo Curl, owner of Bruno’s Pizza at 1800 E. Market St., said “It just seemed like a smart time to do it. When people couldn’t come in, we had time to do things we wouldn’t have space for.”

Although they never closed, for a month they couldn’t have people inside and relied on curbside and delivery.

They already had to put in a Plexiglas screen between the customers and employees, but they repainted, replaced tiles in the drop ceiling and put in an industrial floor covering. They also finished the outdoor dining, which was already planned for warmer weather. It includes a space for dogs, including water and a small house.

She worried that the business wouldn’t be as good after putting in the work but took the chance.

“That’s what we thought — let’s go for broke here. Let’s have faith in people, faith in God, faith in the area,” she said.

Amelio’s on the River, 431 S. 5th St., tried to remain open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday with curbside service. That wasn’t financially feasible, especially with the construction work being done along Melbourne Avenue, owner Paul Ulerick said.

So during the 10 weeks the restaurant wasn’t open, they did work.

The most publicly noticeable improvements were on the outside deck in back. It was cleaned, stained and relighted, and because the hood and fan system in the kitchen was replaced, it’s now quieter.

“The deck has been popular with the weather we’ve had and with people who want to be in the open with air circulating,” he said.

There’s new refrigeration and another fryer, which should improve the food and service for customers, and the carpets were also cleaned.

Ulerick had no plans for improvements before COVID-19, just a list of things they had to get done.

“It was a list of things you kind of had to do when business is closed, and there’s only so much you can do on Sunday,” he said.

The light above the door is also finally working after they went through the second floor wiring.

“I’ve been going to Amelio’s for about 40 years, and I don’t remember it working,” he said.

At Black Dog Coffee and Legacy Outfitters, 116 S. 6th St., owner Scott Johnson was in the midst of improvements and repairs, working on a wine and beer bar inside and a business incubator on the second floor.

Johnson decided to be one of the first to close down because, with his older clientele and well-attended events, he didn’t want to become a source of COVID-19 infection. But the curbside and carryout services they added will continue because they’re good for people with small kids, as well as those at risk for infections.

Being closed for more than two months, “We worked as hard as we could,” Johnson said.

“We weren’t able to get quite as much done upstairs as we hoped.” He and his crews were able to get the spiral staircase in the back of the upstairs, providing a necessary emergency exit, and the area is functional but needs decorative work. He expects it to open July 1.

There is also now a patio in the back where they can hold musical performances on warm nights.

The wine and beer bar was completed into “a well-lighted place,” as Hemingway wrote, and ceiling fans are in and the floor and carpeting is finished.

Black Dog also received its liquor license in early June, so he can now talk to local breweries and wineries about selling their products.

The crews repainted floors and did cleaning and maintenance for the businesses “that we always found hard to do with a full (place),” he said.

A potential Air BNB area in the upstairs near the business incubator is still a long way off. Without cash flow during the shutdown, “it set us back,” he said.

Marilu’s Family Restaurant at 400 S. Cicott St., were also in the midst of improvements that were finished as restrictions were letting up.

At the end of last year, owners Marilu Montalvo and Jorge Martinez had already begun work on the addition that more than doubles the American and Mexican restaurant’s size. The addition also includes a small bar area as the restaurant has added alcohol to its offerings.

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Source: Pharos-Tribune

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