The weathered building on the west side of Scottsburg's downtown square has seen a lot of traffic in its day.
Part of it housed Ritter's Shoe Store for years. The store farthest north was the original home of the Scottsburg Building and Loan Association and once boasted a sign to that effect with “J. Gilbert Martin,” its founder, beneath it.
Jeeves and Company, a very popular restaurant considered a valuable “anchor” business for downtown Scottsburg, and The Shoppes at Jeeves were the last occupants of the brick building that spans three structures.
Now, two sections of the building, the central portion and its neighbor to the north, are owned by the City of Scottsburg.
All five members of the Scottsburg City Council inspected the facility at a special meeting held on Tuesday evening, October 25. The meeting began before the sun set because electrical power there has been shut off. Still, flashlights were needed in some areas to see exactly what the city was getting.
A low-interest Revolving Loan Fund loan was approved by the Council in early 2015 to the previous owner, Justin Westmoreland of Westmoreland Farms, and that's the reason why the city has accepted the building. That acceptance erases all but $75,000 of a loan provided to Westmoreland when he conceived of a plan to move his popular breakfast and lunch cafe from the north side of the square over to the Jeeves site and expand into evening dining and a gift shop.
The Shoppes at Jeeves closed abruptly just after Christmas last year, and the building has stood empty since then.
After a walk-through tour led by realtor Chris Wakeman, who with wife Ruby had created the highly successful Jeeves restaurant, the Council, Mayor Bill Graham, Clerk-Treasurer Jan Hardy, city engineer Bill Saegesser, city attorney Kerry Thompson and a few hangers-on met in the center building. Attractive light fixtures still hung from its tin ceiling, though the floor had buckled in places from moisture damage.
It was there, in the middle of the old dining room, where the group discussed its options. “I doubt we'll be able to recover much else,” related Mayor Graham. “This isn't what we envisioned, but this is what we have.”
The floor can be repaired, and a moisture build-up problem below can be corrected, the Mayor told Councilmen. A northeast corner will have to be shored up and some plaster repaired. And it definitely needs a good cleaning. Still, the structure could offer a promise of better things to come for the downtown area, Mayor Graham said.
All of the Council has been informed of a possible deal with New Hope Services Inc. New Hope, which has been present in Scott County for generations, is looking to expand more into senior housing. It may be possible that the city will sell the two sections of the old Jeeves to New Hope, which is apparently proposing to refurbish the building into upstairs apartments for seniors and commercial space downstairs facing the courtyard. The Wakemans still own the section to the south and are also amenable to the prospect of selling it to New Hope.
All of those ideas are tied into a $10 million grant application which New Hope plans to submit in early November. The non-profit organization won't know if it has received the grant until February 27.
“And, if New Hope doesn't get the grant, we'll market it ourselves,” said the Mayor.
Councilman John Konkler offered the motion to accept the deed for the building from Westmoreland. The action was seconded by Councilman Chuck Rose and approved 5-0.
Konkler also motioned to allow New Hope Services an option to purchase the structure for $125,000. That motion was seconded by Council President Bill Hoagland. Again, the action passed unanimously.
Wakeman said an estimate on how much it will cost to get the entire building in good shape will be prepared in November.