The old firehall building in downtown Cranbrook has been sold to two local entrepreneurs who are hoping to transform it into a taphouse and restaurant to be open by next spring.
Jesse Roberts and Fred Williams purchased the building and have been hard at work for the last two weeks to start the journey of renovations and upgrades necessary to bring the structure up to proper code.
The two developed the idea for a gastro pub — a high end pub restaurant with local and regional microbrews — and had looked at a few other buildings before the old fire hall became available.
“We wanted to create a business and a restaurant and an atmosphere where we would feel comfortable just going out for dinner and drinks,” said Roberts. “We find too often that we’re driving to Kimberley to get that atmosphere, so we started shopping around. We started looking into several buildings in town; this was unavailable when we first started looking and when this one became available, it is just the best building in town for what we want to do.
“It’s a massive project, but we want to be able to take it back to it’s roots and help develop the Kootenay culture and Kootenay culinary scene in Cranbrook and so we see these big roll-up doors pushed up and lobby washing out onto a nice patio that’s on the east side here and just have microbrew beers.”
Roberts is the franchisee owner of Arbys in Cranbrook and Williams is a local builder who has owned multiple businesses and has a history of construction experience.
The two are forecasting roughly six to eight months of construction and renovations that are expected to cost approximately $1 million. Tentatively christened the Fire Hall Kitchen and Tap, both Roberts and Williams are hoping to be open for business next spring.
“It’s just a perfect fit for the idea we have of bringing a gastro-pub to Cranbrook,” said Williams. “We love the heritage nature of it and the location of it next to the park and it’s a building that should stay in Cranbrook and without someone putting a large investment into it, it will go away.”
While it is a large investment to bring the building up to code, both Roberts and Williams say the end result will be worth it.
“I think that the building is probably a liability to anybody who doesn’t have our vision or a vision where you really get to maximize the historical significance of the building,” said Roberts. “It is a massive investment, but we really do see the potential there. We’re making the investment gladly because of the building, because of the location, because of the history, but that’s possibly one of the reasons why the building didn’t sell for a while, because you needed to have a vision that was so in line with what was already here.”
The fire hall was originally constructed in 1929 and housed firefighting equipment and services for the city, before moving to a new building in 2011 on 2nd St. South. Originally listed at $349,000, the city eventually dropped the price to $250,000 following an official appraisal of the property.
The property sold for $195,000.
Cranbrook mayor Lee Pratt says he is happy that the building is off the city books and is excited to see what Roberts and Williams will do with it.
“I think it’s great,” Pratt said. “I’ve seen the conceptual drawings and that and it’s going to be really nice. This block needs something and this is going to fit really well with it and add the [Rotary] park to it and it’s going to revitalize the downtown area.
“…It’s going to be a good fit for downtown. It fits well into the city council’s vision of revitalizing the downtown area, so this is another block that will have some action on it.”
Roberts has a family connection with the building, as his father used to live out of the upper floor while driving an ambulance truck. While there will be significant renovations to the interior, Roberts is also hoping to reach out to local families who have a connection with the fire hall or history with firefighting service to showcase their legacies.
“We would love to have a feature wall where we have pictures and family heirlooms on the wall with plaques about the length of service and the individual’s name,” Roberts said. “We love the idea of educating the public on Cranbrook’s history and just making this building — which has always been beautiful from the exterior, but really showing the public the interior as well and where we come from.”