Laura Lent has some good memories of the former hardware store in Sidney that has stood vacant for the better part of a decade.
A collapsed roof, crumbling walls, trash strewn everywhere and animals taking up residence – Lent saw the full extent of the damage once she bought the condemned building in order to save it from demolition. She and her dad, Harold, have spent countless hours since July restoring the 134-year-old building, with plans to reopen it in May as a shop offering crafts, coffee and ice cream.
“I was impressed by the history. I remember shopping here as a kid with my dad, and I’ve been watching it fall apart for years. It’s been falling apart in my own yard,” said Laura, who grew up in Sidney and now lives next to the building.
She recalled when the building used to house a telescope observatory on the roof and show movies and play music for the town – she found the old vacuum tube speaker from those days in the upstairs apartment.
“When I heard the town was going to buy it and tear it down, I didn’t want that to happen. I always thought it was the coolest building. So I talked to my dad, and we decided let’s go for it.”
Laura, a cabinet maker, and her dad, also a woodworker, did more than half of the cleanup by hand. It involved entirely removing the collapsed roof from the attached garage and clearing out the inside, then rebuilding a fallen wall, putting up drywall, rewiring the electricity and installing lights and ceiling fans. She also repainted the front bright yellow to complement the red brick face.
Remaining work includes installing the insulation, replacing the cracked windows and installing a front awning, as well as putting together what she’ll need for a cafe, such as tables, chairs and a sink. She’s also restoring the upstairs in order to live in it.
The goal is to have the front look the way it did 101 years ago.
“I’m trying not to rush it. I’m doing it piece by piece. I look at it, see if I like the colors, look at it some more,” she said.
She said she decided on the combined shop because it matches her and her dad’s skills and interests, and because she wants to offer an entertainment venue to the town. She’s tossed around ideas for everything from a farmer’s market to open mic night.
“I’m not much of a drinker, so I didn’t want to make it a bar,” Laura remarked.
She also hasn’t settled on a name for the new shop yet, but hopes the place catches the eye of anyone driving through town.
“I think it’s got mad potential,” she said. “My hands will be full for a while. I’ll probably be working on it the rest of my life.”
(Story By The Times Union)