Walnut Street building sold for retail use

October 5, 2010

A two-story industrial building that sits along the Indianapolis Cultural Trail at 517 E. Walnut St. is being purchased and converted into a furniture store.

The former Ray & Schumaker Tool Corp. building has been on the market for four years. When the price dropped earlier this year from $850,000 to $699,000, it attracted the attention of an Eli Lilly and Co. neuroscientist and his family who had been looking for a historic building suitable for retail use.

Chris Felder and his wife and daughter struck a deal in May to buy the building and expect to close on the purchase of the 8,500-square-foot, brick structure next week.

Felder’s daughter, Lauren Hope Felder, said renovation of the building will begin immediately after the closing. The furniture store, Chatham Home, will open in late January or early February of next year.

“We had our eye on a place in Carmel, but it was too expensive,” said Felder, 28. She said the Carmel building didn’t offer the visibility of the Walnut Street building, which is just off the busy 700 block of Massachusetts Avenue in the Chatham Arch historic district.

She said her family has been interested in the building for two or three years. The price reduction and the construction of the Cultural Trail across Walnut Street from the building persuaded them to pursue it. Felder said the purchase price is more than $600,000. “The trail did influence our decision,” she said.

Bob Schumaker, whose family has operated a tool and die business in the 110-year-old building since 1929, said he turned down higher offers for the property from buyers who wanted to convert the building into a bar. He said the use of the building for a furniture store would be more respectful of homeowners across the street.

Felder said the store her family plans to open will carry an eclectic mix of furniture at a variety of price points. She said a cousin who owns three furniture stores on the East Coast was her inspiration and will consult and do some buying for the store.

For Felder, the store is an opportunity to put to use both her college degree in interior design and recent experience in building rehabilitation.

She studied interior design at Indiana University-Bloomington and got her first taste of the real world rehabbing the 1970s-era Bloomington condo she lived in while she was in school.

Jobs in her field were hard to find when she graduated in 2006. To keep her design skills fresh and learn about construction, she and her mother, Faith Felder, bought a historic home on Ruckle Street just north of downtown in 2007.

They gutted the 2,000-square-foot house and did much of the work themselves, including wiring and finish plumbing, to prepare it for renters. They hired out the drywall, HVAC and some of the plumbing.

Next, they bought and finished a new 2,500-square-foot house across the street. They bought it and a three-car garage/apartment building on the property from a bank that had repossessed it. Felder lives in the apartment, which was also finished by her and her mother. The house is rented to tenants.

Felder said the previous renovations were all practice for the project she and her mother are about to start. They’ve secured the services of an architect and a contractor, but the goal is to do most of the work on the Walnut Street building themselves.

The building’s hardwood floors, which are thick with industrial grime, will be refinished. Some equipment, including an 8,000-pound die press, will remain as decorative elements. Two store-front windows will be enlarged to return them to their original size, and the brick exterior will be repainted.

The structure’s reincarnation as a retail store represents a return to its original use. According to an inventory of buildings in the neighborhood published by the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission, 517 East Walnut was built by the owner of the Brown Shoe Store Co. and soon sold to the founder of White Furniture Stores. It housed a furniture store, a printer of religious books and a plumbing supply business before becoming a tool and die shop.

Chris Felder said Chatham Home will take out a Small Business Administration loan to help finance the startup. Recent federal legislation replenished a pool of SBA money that is available to borrowers at reduced fees.

David Kiernan of Home Run Realty is representing the Felders in the purchase of the building. Lori Hoffman of Coldwell Banker Kaiser is representing Schumaker.


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