Kickstarting the Mill
About five years ago, a friend of Jeremy Weber’s bought the old mill building and gave him a guided tour. Weber has been in love with the building ever since.
Located next to the dam and across from Sinclair Lewis Park on the corner of Main and 1st Street, the old mill building used to run as a flour mill, but has since been turned into apartments with minimal retail space on the main floor. Weber hopes to change all that and restore the building to its original state while adding modern attractions.
“It is a passion of mine to bring this building back to life,” he said.
Jeremy and his wife, Sara, lease part of the building for their gift shop and screen printing business Taste of Heaven. He has served as a maintenance supervisor for the building and for the past five years has discovered the building’s unique features, such as original brick wall, original steel gussets and large original wood planks of flooring.
“It’s all part of the character this building is hiding,” he said.
He hopes he can bring that character to the surface while developing another downtown attraction to help bring traffic to Main Street.
History of the Mill
A fire destroyed the Central Minnesota Roller Mill on July 28, 1892, but within days was rebuilt by T.D. Davidson, whose plan was to build a more solid and permanent structure. Using local suppliers, he rebuilt the mill, using 300,000 bricks from Pangburn Brickyard on Sauk Lake. A new engine was delivered in November 1893 and just 16 months after the fire the mill was rebuilt and ready for operation.
After operating as a flour mill, the building changed owners a few times and eventually became vacant for a 10- to 15-year stretch. The building was then purchased by Voss Plumbing who turned it into an appliance store. The upper levels were turned into apartments and the top level was living quarters for the Voss Family.
The building changed owners again and many modern additions were added, including a house to the north, a canning area, a sauna and a walk-in cooler. But the building eventually became nothing more than an old apartment building.
Weber sees the mill building as 10,000 square feet of possibility. His hope is to find the original character of the building that is hiding behind false ceilings and sheet rocked walls and bring it to the surface, allowing for the people of Sauk Centre to get back in touch with a bit of its history.
A member of the Sauk Centre Historical Society, Weber is a self-proclaimed lover of everything old and unique.
“We want this to be a historic attraction for the city of Sauk Centre,” he said. “By adding another piece of accessible history to this town we continue to push forward to become relevant in the tourism industry.”
The Webers hope to purchase the building, valued at $312,000, on a contract, and then get to work on restoring and renovating it. But first they must come up with a down payment and are looking to raise $40,000 through an on-line fundraising campaign similar to the one recently spearheaded by Redhead Creamery.
Redhead Creamery used Kickstarter, an on-line funding source where people can donate to specific projects, to help obtain start up costs for their creamery. The Webers hope to have similar success in getting the mill project going.
“We want to make this a very large public campaign,” said Weber.
They launched the project last week, calling it “Kickstarting the Mill.” By using the on-line resource, they hope to reach a broad audience. With each pledge comes a reward, ranging from a “virtual hug” for a $5 donation to one’s name permanently etched into history on a granite brick to be displayed on the main level for a pledge of over $5,000.
They have 65 days to reach their goal. If they are able to secure the funds, they will move onto the next step, which would be to purchase the property and begin paying down the note while making modest improvements.
“By getting out from under the debt we greatly improve our chances of the mill becoming a success,” said Weber.
The apartments will provide a revenue stream to help them pay down that debt. Once the debt is paid down, they hope to kick the project into high gear and add more focused improvements, which could include retail spots such as a sandwich and coffee shop and an Italian restaurant among other features.
“Then the fun starts,” said Weber. “We will do a floor-by-floor renovation.”
He estimates the project to cost roughly $1.5 million from start to finish.
“The point of the project is to add to Sauk Centre,” he said. “We don’t want to compete with other businesses, we want to try and help bring people to town so everybody benefits.”
They are looking for feedback from both residents and business owners and encourage people to visit their website, www.kickstartingthemill.com or check them out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/themillofsaukcentre. Campaign pledges can be made at www.gofundme.com/kickstartingthemill. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Webers maintain they are not interested in purchasing the property to be landlords, but to bring a piece of important Sauk Centre history back to life.
“For years we have taken what Sauk Centre and Minnesota has given us,” he said. “With changed hearts we believe this project can give back and even help Sauk Centre thrive as a community and bring happiness to all who come to our little town.”