MEDINA — For real estate developer Charles Marshall, the Medina Farmers Exchange project has become
highly personal. He has dropped all of his other endeavors into the lap of his 36-year-old son, Emerson, and taken over the task of renovating the Farmers Exchange first built in 1904. He said he’s on site every day at 6:30 a.m.
“I’m having a ball,” said the CEO of Beacon Marshall Companies, based in Akron.
He said he took over the project “because of my experience in renovation.”
Some of the other superintendents in the company have experience building new buildings all over the country.
“Renovating is a completely different mindset,” Marshall said Tuesday in a conversation about the progression of the highly anticipated project. “Anyone can build a new building. We’re keeping the history.”
Marshall said none of his staff has seen him do something like this before. He said the experience has taken him back to his roots in the construction business in Charleston, South Carolina.
The Farmers Exchange is rich in history.
The 40,000-square-foot building burned to the ground in 1905 and 1935, which led to it eventually being rebuilt in concrete to make it resistant to fire, the first structure in Medina built in such a way.
The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in February 2018. It has sat vacant since September 2016.
“This building talks to me,” Marshall said.
Then and now
Anyone who had seen the Farmers Exchange building two years ago when it was condemned by the city of Medina would be astonished at what’s now going on at 320 S. Court St. Marshall said the project is expected to be completed in October.
The $5.5 million renovation will be aided by $545,000 in Ohio Historic Preservation tax credits from the Ohio Development Services Agency, Marshall previously said.
Marshall purchased the building in August 2018 for $250,000, according to the Medina County Auditor’s Office.
Now, he is working through a renovation project that will honor the historical character of the old building including a restoration of the red-and-white checkerboard Purina Chow sign on top of the building.
During its heyday, the Farmers Exchange provided a centralized location for farmers to trade, purchase farm-related supplies and sell their agricultural products. The addition of a railroad spur further expanded the company’s business to other states. It also had a mill that would grind the farmers’ wheat into flour.
Marshall’s project will be a return to those roots in many ways with modern twists geared toward residential and commercial interests thriving together.
The first floor will feature an butcher shop and marketplace, run by Kayleigh Keller of T.L. Keller Meats in Litchfield. It also will have a restaurant named Carnivore, which will be run by Jon and Patty Stahl owners of P.J. Marley’s Restaurant & Pub, and a coffee/pastry shop.
There will be other commercial outlets in the basement — dubbed the garden level — including plans for a brewhouse and space for hot yoga.
Marshall said he has gone out of his way to preserve the building’s rustic look. Original brick is being left in parts of the building, along with some corrosion.
“I’m clear coating everything so the rust shows,” he said. “I told the workers not to patch the floor too well.”
Wowed by progress
Medina Mayor Dennis Hanwell recently toured the building and said the project awed him.
“I was very impressed with the progress done thus far on the floors, partitioning off the apartments, and the overall plans for the building,” he said.
Some of the doors in the building are at least 75 years old and are equipped with a pulley system that automatically closes in the event of a fire. Marshall said the city’s building inspector asked him to disengage the system, but said he could keep the pulleys on the doors.
Marshall said nearly every day something about the building blows him away. While cleaning out the building, workers found a 6,500-gallon vat of molasses. Much of it had turned to sludge. Marshall said it was quite a chore emptying the building of it.
Also, the roof started to cave in during renovation, and 3-foot steel beams were installed to keep the structure intact. The roof had leaked for 15 years, Marshall said.
The developer said about half of the contractors for the project are local firms, including Medina Glass, Chippewa Roofing, Medina Signs, Swingle Plumbing and Steingass Mechanical Contracting Inc. (sprinkler system).
There were about 40 people working Tuesday.
Marshall said there continues to be quite a bit of buzz about the butcher shop.
“Everyone is talking about it,” he said.
Keller, who turned 31 today, is a 2006 graduate of Buckeye High School and a 2010 graduate of Ohio State University. She is currently operations director at T.L. Keller Meats, and works for her parents.
This will be her chance to branch out on her own in a roughly 620-square-foot space. She said a butcher shop has been needed in Medina for some time.
“I’ve been getting so much positive encouragement as that building has come back to life,” Keller said. “That building started for the agricultural businesses in Medina County and we’re going to maintain those roots. We have new construction inside an old building. We’ve had to change the structure and layout to bring life to that historical building.”
The meat counters are expected to be the first thing people will see when they step into the first floor of the building. She said there will be six showcases of meat, in addition to a dry-aging meat cabinet. She will have an expanded sausage section, including some flavors unique to the market.
She said there will be a “cool learning curve” running the new business.
“I’ve been working on it day and night,” said Keller, who will get married in June.
She expects to have a staff of three employees, besides herself, at the butcher shop.
The meat will still be processed at the Litchfield location and be transported to Medina.
“I’m so excited,” Keller said. “As a family, we have such a love for what we are doing. It will help so many of the farms get established. It will be another outlet for us to buy more from local (meat) producers, as well as from our own farm.”
She said the Keller family has been raising cows and producing meat for five generations.
One would think on first blush that the150-seat restaurant would be competing for customers with P.J, Marley’s nearby on the Square.
Jon Stahl said that shouldn’t be the case.
“It’s a totally different concept than P.J. Marley’s,” he said.
“We’re all about craft burgers (at P.J. Marley’s).At Carnivore, it’s more rustic farm-to-fork. We’re going to focus on local products and local food. We’re very passionate about it.”
It will feature many Ohio-produced beers.
“There are so many great ones out there,” Jon Stahl said. “We’ll feature as many as we can.”
Patty and Jon Stahl, as well as Keller, make up one of four groups of investors. Marshall is another, along with two who wished to remain anonymous.
“The Farmers Exchange was the hub of the community,” Jon Stahl said. “When it was set up, it connected the farms to the city.
“We’re very excited.”
Marketplace, coffee shop
The coffee shop has yet to be named.
Both Keller and the Stahls will run it. It will feature local coffee and baked goods, along with breakfast items.
“We don’t have a name for it yet,” Jon Stahl said.
There will be several vendors of food, chocolate, wood products and jewelry on the first floor that make up the marketplace.
“(It will feature) anything manufactured in Medina,” Jon Stahl said.
“We want to get in there. We’re excited about the entire project as a whole. We’ll be accepting applications soon for the market side.
“It’s a great building. I’m very excited to be part of this project. The city has been great to work with so far.”
The 3-foot docks on the outside of the building have been torn out and replaced with 10-foot docks.
Diners will be able to eat and drink on a patio outside the restaurant and coffee shop. Keller said questions or inquiries can be sent to email@example.com.
The new structure will house 16 one- and two-bedroom apartments — eight on each of the second and third floors. Each apartment will be between 892 and 1,398 square feet.
The apartments won’t be leased until the building is complete.
One-bedroom apartments are set to go for $1,250 a month and two-bedroom units will be $1,800.
Each apartment will have separate gas and electric, which won’t be included in the rent.
There will be a trash chute from the apartments to the basement
SVN Summit Commercial Real Estate Group LLC is leasing the apartments. It already has 14 names on a list of interested clients, Marshall said. He expects to have about 30 or 35 names by the time the apartments are complete.
Anchoring South Town
Main Street Medina announced in October plans to enlarge its revitalization district to what is expected to be called South Town, an area outlined by South Broadway Street, Lafayette Road/Street, South Huntington Street and West Smith Road.
The Farmers Exchange could serve as the center of the district.
Hanwell said he is excited about the project in the community.
“This will be an outstanding addition to our community and will continue to respect the strong history of our city and county in the area of agriculture,” he said. “I am very thankful that the investors have chosen this project in our community and look forward to working with them to bring their vision to fruition.”
Marshall said more is in story for the storied building.
In the basement of the building could be a brewhouse where they could have live entertainment. Marshall said bands can play down there and people wouldn’t be able to hear it on the second and third floors.
The plan is to pump new life and entertainment options in the area off the square.