GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS
Angie Bicknese and Brayonna Berry are the recipients of the 2017 Chatfield Historic Preservation Award. Bicknese, at left, holds the Chatfield Historic Preservation Award for their restoration of the Jonathan’s building in downtown Chatfield. Berry holds the pair’s jar of nails pulled from the floor during the restoration.
GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS Angie Bicknese and Brayonna Berry are the recipients of the 2017 Chatfield Historic Preservation Award. Bicknese, at left, holds the Chatfield Historic Preservation Award for their restoration of the Jonathan’s building in downtown Chatfield. Berry holds the pair’s jar of nails pulled from the floor during the restoration.
Angie Bicknese and Brayonna Berry nailed it.

“We knew we wanted to land somewhere along Main Street, and when we saw this building, we knew it had so much potential but just needed to be brought back to its original beauty, so with the help of our imaginative husbands, we did a few walk-throughs and knew that this was going to be the shell of Bick ‘n’ Berry,” stated Bicknese. “Little did we know how truly beautiful this historical building truly was…it wasn’t really until we started exposing the beautiful brick and original floors that we were so lucky to have been able to purchase this building.”

Bicknese and Berry are proprietors of the women’s clothing store Bick ‘n’ Berry Boutique in downtown Chatfield, recipient of the 2017 Chatfield Historic Preservation Award.

Berry observed that they were drawn to the building for its unrestored façade. “The beauty of it was that it was all already there, just hiding beneath layers and layers of time and history,” she said.

Bicknese cited she was impressed by its windows and ceiling. “Honestly, the big sidewalk-to-ceiling windows that were being covered up were the biggest draw to us, and that the original ceiling was rustic corrugated tin,” she said. “The original layout was quite wide open, which also drew us in because it meant less work making an open space of the store.”

They took possession of the structure in June 2016, sandblasting old paint from the façade and putting their demolition gloves on.

The Bick ‘n’ Berry demolition and construction crew consisted of Brayonna and her husband, Mitch, Angie and her husband, Brian, and a squad of handy friends.

Bicknese recounted, “We took possession in June 2016, and started, I think, that evening, and opened the doors in November 2016. Honestly, I’m not certain we had concrete plans going into the renovation. The vision just all started coming together as we progressed throughout the summer.”

Bicknese admitted that she and Berry didn’t expect so many items to be saved from the original building. Those included the old original signs, booths, meat locker door and stairs, which are the current shoe display.

Berry elaborated, “We have always had the mindset of creating something. We just didn’t know exactly how it was going to turn out. We were not sure the condition of the brick or the flooring, so we kind of left that up to the building itself and seeing how it unfolded as we worked on it.”

The “unfolding” took some serious commitment to scraping up layers and layers of flooring.

Bicknese stated, “The floors were the hardest, hands down. We were able to see a small, maybe four-inch square of what the original floors looked like, so we knew we had to get them exposed, but it tested us.”

She and her fellow renovators went in one Saturday last summer to start tearing up the subfloors and spent all day on one little corner.

“By the end of the day, I think we all went home a bit defeated and thought we would have to give up on exposing the floors because it just wasn’t going to be possible,” she recalled. “It’s amazing what a night’s sleep will do, because by Sunday, we reconvened and started unscrewing, one by one, the thousands of screws within the subfloors, hence why we have a sacred jar in the building downtown with all the nails that Brayonna and I took out. We would get the nails out, and the guys would come behind us with crowbars to get the subflooring up.”

The ladies say the jar is one of their most prized possessions. “It was rewarding,” Bicknese said. “The brick and the floors, because this was where most of the blood, sweat and tears were poured into.”

Berry reflected, “I wish we would have kept track of how many hours it took to get all of the screws out of the floor.”

The Berry and Bicknese troupe discovered some curious and historic things while in mid-renovation.

Bicknese remarked, “We discovered how difficult the floors would be to expose, and like I mentioned before, that there were so many remaining artifacts that were still in great shape to be able to display in the store now.”

Berry was pleased to find that the previous owners had left their mark on the former meat market and grocery. “When we removed the plaster from the walls and exposed the brick, we found some bricks that were engraved with initials, which was cool to see.”

Berry particularly enjoys that she and Bicknese got to meet people who stopped by to tell them about how the vintage structure served Chatfield in years past.

“We didn’t know it at the time of purchasing the building, but throughout the renovation process, people began sharing with us their stories and memories of the building, and that helped bring in some creative ideas,” Berry said. “We didn’t realize that this building held such a history until we started delving into it. It is fun to see people within our community come in and share stories about how they remember the building. We tried to preserve and restore as much as we could, between the freezer door, grocery sliding board shelf, original wood steps, signs and décor. I believe that creates a story of its own.”

Berry pointed out that their elbow grease resulted in a renovation that suits their evolved vision for Bick ‘n’ Berry Boutique’s home.

“The renovation makes sense for our store for many reasons. It is definitely a bucket list kind of project…something that we can say we accomplished and had fun while we did it,” she said. “The renovation of the building fits exactly to what we wanted the style of the building to be – original and memorable. We want our style to bring memories to the people, and for people to have a fun, unique and inviting space to shop and hang out.”

She shared that the renovation process was fun and enjoyable in numerous ways. “It was fun to see the transformation of the building and bringing it back to its original look. It was fun to see the exposed brick for the first time and to see the original hardwood floors. The building has held a lot of memories for people over the years, if only the walls could talk…we are sure they would have some good stories.”

Bicknese registered, “It was fun looking back at progress made. After each day, we would clean up for the day and peer into the store and just smile at the small accomplishments each day. Even now, going back and looking at ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures brings us so much joy and pride.” 

Their Main Street neighbors and Bick ‘n’ Berry customers have shared their appreciation for the long-awaited restoration.

Bicknese said, “I would say the majority of the comments have been that the building is beautiful and the attention to detail in terms of décor is what is most eye-catching. Many people that remember what the building used to be when it was Sisson’s or Jonathan’s also come in to share stories about the building, which we love and appreciate.”

There might still be projects to do, but that’s a matter for next week, month or year. Berry commented, “We are always throwing around ideas to each other of what we would like to do or projects that someday we will complete. For now, the building is exactly how we want it, and for that we are grateful. The exciting thing is you just never know about us and what we might have planned up our sleeves. We like to keep people guessing, and we have many exciting things to come.”

The shop’s owners took advantage of a façade improvement grant offered to downtown business owners through Chatfield’s Economic Development Authority (EDA) to help refresh their new property.

Bicknese explained, “We were not able to access the whole façade grant, but the amount of grant that was allocated to us was used to repair the outside of the building, freshen it up with paint and replace the center window.”

Filling an empty storefront is very important to the community, according to Bicknese. “It is hugely important. The more we can grow local businesses in Chatfield and bring people to town, the better we feel it is for the whole community. We are greatly appreciative of the grant.”

Bicknese called being chosen for the historic preservation award “humbling” and is pleased to be able to display the plaque in the store. “Brayonna texted us and mentioned that we were going to be presented the award, and I think the first emotion that came to mind was pride and a few proud tears,” Bicknese said. “It just truly has been a team effort. And for the community and members of the board to recognize it makes us feel so incredibly grateful. It is restored to its original beauty. We don’t want to take too much credit because truly, the building was so beautiful…it just needed some TLC…the windows really are the most eye-catching to the people that pass through town.”

Now that the last nail has been pulled from the floor, the windows polished and the clothing displays hung up, the pair has a hard time deciding what their favorite feature of the building might be.

Bicknese admitted, “That is a tough one. I truly love how everything has come together, but if I were to pick one thing, I would have to say the exposed brick walls…it just adds so much character to the overall feel of the store.”

Berry agreed, “To pick a favorite feature is difficult. We designed our storefront to be original and one that we love. I would have to say my favorite part of the building is that it is original. It is not something that can be re-fabricated or recreated. It’s unique, and that is what makes it so special.”

Both Bicknese and Berry would like to thank their customers for being supportive and for having a part in this adventure.

“It has been a journey and an exciting learning adventure, a fun project from beginning to finish,” Berry concluded. “We are excited to see what the future holds for us.”