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YES VACANCY II: Ask Matt ... about aging shells

Q. I have noticed a lot of vacant buildings around the county such as Bon Worth on Francis Road have been vacant for some time. What is going on with these?

  My crack team of property sleuths hit the streets to come up with 10 mostly empty former commercial or industrial buildings. Here is our report.

  6. Kelsey’s Restaurant on Spartanburg Highway has been shuttered for over 10 years. “We’ve had offers to buy but we’re still looking for the ideal lease tenant,” said co-owner Ken Gordon whose company bought the building from Bob Quattlebaum in late 2019. “It’s been a tough few years given the disjointed labor market,” said Gordon, who added that it would take $1.3 million to up-fit the restaurant. Gordon, owner of the Norm’s Minit Mart chain, said replacing Kelsey’s with a strip of smaller shops is a possibility. “Kelsey’s was a great place and there still is a need for a good hometown restaurant,” he said.

  7. The Village Green Antique Mall, a landmark on Main Street for more than 36 years, was one of the pioneers in Main Street’s transition from dime stores, hardware shops and department stores to antique shops and specialty retail. Myra Wood Jansen bought the former J.C. Penney store in 1984 and finally closed it two years ago. “It’s still listed for $1,950,000,” said Spartanburg Realtor Bill McDaniel, who has fielded two solid offers but no sale. “One wanted it for an art gallery and the other had retail sales in mind,” said McDaniel, adding that also leasing is an option. “It’s the economy and fear of the unknown,” said McDaniel, who believes the market will turn. “I’m a trained optimist.”

  8. The former Entegra Bank building at 1617 Spartanburg Highway has been vacant since Entegra merged with First Citizens Bank in 2020. Building owner Jeff Justus will lease the building for around $6,000 a month. “Nobody is building banks these days,” said Justus who just opened his “head-turning” Mountain Express carwash just across the street. “A bank could open there in two weeks,” he said. “The building has the vault, desks, teller counter — everything.” But Justus thinks it might have better luck with a different tenant. This column recently reported how Laurel Park’s Wells Fargo bank was repurposed as a pet hospital and the flagship Entegra Bank on Main Street now bears a law office sign. That Colonial-style building was sold by Tom Green, a commercial broker with NAI Beverly Hanks. Green shared that he has a buyer for the now vacant State Employees Credit Union building on Washington Street. He said his client intends to convert the bank building into a suite of offices.

  9. The Sumo’s Japanese Steakhouse building at 1730 Asheville Highway, once home to a Hardee’s, has been vacant since it suffered a predawn fire in August of 2018. According to Hendersonville fire reports, Sumo’s manager, Joey Nguyen, reported that graffiti found on the building was not there the day before the fire. Due to the suspicious circumstances, the SBI was brought in to assist and the cause was hence deemed arson. Three months after the fire the official investigation closed but it can reopen with new leads. We were unable to contact the owners of the property.

  10. The Coats North America building at 1710 Brevard Road has been an industrial thread mill since the 1950s. The tall brick and metal structure occupies 10 acres of prime real estate across from the Laurel Park Shopping Center. Coates closed the plant last November. The building has over 90,000 square feet but although it is zoned industrial it is unlikely to remain so. “It’s better off as commercial,” said Tim Ertzberger, a broker with Weichert Realtors whose office directly faces the plant. “Medical use brings the highest return but there’s a lot of that already here.” Ertzberger noted that the Coats property adjoins the Ecusta Trail which he deemed a plus. The property lies just outside the Laurel Park town limits but Coats pays the Town $8,000 a year in lieu of taxes. Coats has yet to put the property on the market but it is not unusual to do an environmental assessment of the land after closing an old plant.


New wine in old bottles

  Our research found some positive activity regarding other old buildings that are currently vacant. A Charlotte company acquired the old World of Clothing building on Sugarloaf Road a year ago and is turning it into a self-storage facility.

  The Hedrick-Rhodes VFW Post 5206 home on North Main Street was bought by Henderson County in 2021 and is being renovated for veterans services and as a multi-use community building. The project has a $4.3 million budget and a completion target date of June 2024.

  The former Presto Framing Arts building on Whitted Street in Hendersonville was acquired by local investors in 2021 and will see new life as Lennox Station. Plans include a microbrewery, food market and bike shop. The site adjoins the Ecusta Trail.

  Ward’s warehouse, a family-owned auto parts storage facility at 1005 Spartanburg Highway next door to Hajoca Plumbing Supply, was on the market two years ago. Owner Brodie Foster said he may now have a buyer for the seldom used building.

  The former Etowah Esso gas station on U.S. 64 at Brickyard Road that was more recently a produce stand and tire shop was purchased last year. The new owners would not reveal their plans but the 68-year old building will likely be removed.

Continental, the former caliper brake manufacturer in Fletcher that once employed 650 people at Broadpointe Industrial Park, finally closed its doors in December of 2022. With 7½ acres under roof, the building is one of the largest in the county. The owner is working with Clark Capital, a real estate investment firm that operates out of Wisconsin, to subdivide the building and lease sections for industrial use.

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