Old five and dime becoming public market, commercial kitchen; two floors of apartments above

 Spencer Thompson photo: Project manager Scottie Lancaster cuts down some of the old lumber from the Ben Franklin building in downtown Brookings as its being transformed into the Ben Franklin Public Market, commercial kitchen and apartmemts.

BROOKINGS – Not much of the original building at 420 Main Ave. in Brookings is left, but its bare bones are providing a framework for the beginning of a new downtown business.

Brookings Built Green is working to resurrect the building that years ago housed a Ben Franklin five and dime store, all in order to establish a business venture called the Ben Franklin Public Market. But there’s still a lot of work to do.

“We’re starting from the ground up,” said Scottie Lancaster, the project manager for the building. “The engineering was a little faulty, so we ripped off the roof and got down to two original walls.”

After getting the building stripped down to where they needed it, Lancaster and the rest of the Brookings Built Green crew have started working to make a new storefront on the ground floor, all while adding two more floors for apartments, as well as a commercial kitchen available for rent.

The apartments above the market will be high-end, up-to-date units with a Scandinavian minimalist style, which will include wood floors, large windows and quartz countertops, said Dusten Hendrickson, founder of Brookings Built Green.

There will be 18 studio apartments and two two-bedroom apartments. The units will range from 400 square feet to 800 square feet, some of which will include balconies. Pricing is expected to start at $695 a month for the studio apartments and about $1,200 for the two-bedroom units.

Despite most of it being rebuilt, the building has retained some of its original features in a few different ways. One example can be found in the shelving spaces for the marketplace, which are being made from the lumber that made up the original roof.

At the core of this project is the Ben Franklin Public Market, a business where local vendors can rent spaces in the storefront to sell products ranging from earrings to birthday cards to scarves. Anna Rempe, the office manager of Brookings Built Green, said this marketplace will provide vendors a place to sell their products and market themselves while saving a lot of time.

“For a lot of vendors, this is a hobby for them and not necessarily a full-time business,” Rempe said. “This gives vendors an opportunity to get their products out to people.”

As of now, the market is going to have a staff member there when the business is open who will handle transactions, meaning vendors won’t have to be present at the market to sell their products, Rempe said. The market will then charge for the booths rented by the vendor and take a percentage of the sales made.

Hendrickson said he came up with the idea for the market while traveling to different cities and then deciding he wanted to bring unique concepts like a public market back to Brookings.

“Brookings is one of the best cities for antique shopping,” Hendrickson said. “We took the antique business model and updated it to fit the boutique model.”

According to the website benfranklinpublicmarket.com, the vendor spaces available for renting will be modular and accommodate areas from 16 square feet up to 400 square feet. Part of what Rempe thinks will make the market a “perfect” place for vendors is the promotional benefits they’ll receive.

“We’re hoping to provide marketing opportunities for the vendors,” Rempe said. “Using social media, we can highlight our vendors and get them out there.”

Rempe said the market has quite a few vendors interested in renting spaces, some of whom make jewelry, cards and even homemade wool products.

Ashley Biggar, the director for Downtown Brookings, said she thinks this market will be a great addition to Brookings.

“It’s really going to help stimulate our thriving downtown community,” Biggar said. “It’s going to provide more opportunities for businesses to come in, either through the market or the kitchen.”

Hendrickson said the commercial kitchen will provide plenty of opportunities for businesses and the chefs who use it, including selling the food directly to those in the market and possibly using produce from local sources like the farmers market.

Brookings Built Green hopes to have the market and kitchen open by mid-November in time for the Christmas season, while the apartments are anticipated to be open sometime next spring. That will complete the restoration and updates to the building.

“There’s energy here,” Hendrickson said. “No one can compete with the big stores, so you have to give an experience.”

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