It once sat empty, neglected and in danger of being demolished after it was condemned by the city.
“I can honestly say it was one of the ugliest buildings I’ve ever seen,” said developer Palmer Gillis who embarked with his son Brad on a $2 million redevelopment of the former Feldman’s furniture store building now named Riverview Commons.
Now five-and-a-half years after the Gillises entered into a contract to buy the West Market Street property, it is getting ready to reopen as the latest addition to downtown Salisbury’s ongoing revitalization efforts.
Recent news that Acorn Market, a popular lunch spot, planned to relocate to the ground floor of the renovated building from its current space on East Main Street behind the Country House created a lot of local buzz about what was going on there.
“We’re blown away,” owner Chris Braughler said of the response to a Feb. 17 Facebook post about the upcoming move that had more than 700 likes and was shared 251 times.
The restaurant will begin serving breakfast at the new location in addition to lunch and will expand its menu, she said. It also will be able to seat 85 people compared to about 35 at the current restaurant.
Braughler said she plans to expand catering and to rent out the space for private catered evening events.
Acorn Market will use about three-quarters of the first floor space. Angello’s Unique Gifts, currently on the Downtown Plaza, will move into the remaining space next to it. Both are set to open in early summer, Gillis said.
Upstairs, Morgan Stanley will occupy a third floor space that is nearly completed. Carpenters were busy this week hanging doors and doing other finish work in the space.
Later this year, the Gillis-Gilkerson offices will relocate to the second floor of Riverview Commons from the Gallery Building, which the firm formerly owned and renovated before donating it to the Salisbury University Foundation in August.
The road to completion was a long one. First, the Gillises demolished newer additions, reducing its size from 60,000 square feet to 15,000, and leaving only the original structure that was built around 1888 as B.L. Gillis & Sons, a wholesale grocer and one of Palmer and Brad Gillis’ family members.
Gillis said what was left were “the worst pieces,” but they also had the most historical significance.
Next, the roof had to be replaced and the walls and floor joists shored up. All windows were replaced and new openings were created to let in more light. An addition that houses an elevator and stairs was added to the north side.
“We’ve upgraded to the latest standards,”Gillis said. The demolition of the more modern parts created exterior spaces on both sides and the back that have been turned into a parking area on one side and an outdoor seating area for Acorn Market on the other.
The removal of the additions also uncovered the remnants of old advertising that was once painted on the sides of the 19th century structure. Gillis said he plans to waterproof the brick walls, but otherwise leave the old signs intact.
“It’s kind of rough, but that’s the beauty of it,” he said.
Out back is a walkway along the river that links to the city’s Riverwalk. Gillis said he plans to turn it over to the city once the project is completed.
Braughler said she can’t wait to open Acorn Market in the building.
“We’re so grateful to be bringing things back to the way they used to be downtown,” she said.
Originally published by The Daily Times – written by Liz Holland