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Archive for Tuesday, December 5, 2000

McPherson downtown goes retro

December 5, 2000

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— Entrepreneurs are hoping the looks of the past will be the key to their future business success.

The changes are coming to downtown McPherson, where the metal storefronts installed in the 1970s were to be stripped to let the buildings' 1880s facades shine through.

If this first project is successful, McPherson's Main Street organization hopes other businesses will follow suit.

Keith and Evelyn Birkhead are the developers who will create three businesses out of the Morris and Sons Clothiers building. The couple is looking to place an expanded sewing shop and tea room in the anchor building. The other storefronts will house a Christian supply store and a health-food market.

"We just think the look and feel of these buildings gives them a worthwhile character," Birkhead said. "To McPherson, it gives something exciting to look forward to."

Part of that excitement is determining the history of the buildings. They were part of the town's original downtown in the 1890s. Fire destroyed much of the Birkhead property several years later.

As restoration began in August, a mixture of old brick, charred brick, timber and new building materials emerged.

Business owners welcome the old look.

"This can provide a very unique shopping experience, both for eating and in the stores," said Bob Eickbush, who operates a deli south of the Birkheads. "The nostalgia around the original design of downtown is important. The history of these buildings needs to be explored."

Eickbush, design head for Main Street program, was one of the first to grab the nostalgia theme at his deli

"I think a lot of this ties back to the restoration of the McPherson Opera House," said Michelle Guericke, who heads the Main Street program.

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