MITCHELL – A local couple prepare to usher in a new era in one of the most unique buildings in downtown Mitchell.
For more than four decades, the building at 615 N. Main St. has stood out among downtown properties for its medieval castle-like architectural style. But Christie and Jeremy Gunkel are bringing a new look and activity to the building this summer which they hope will become a Main Street staple.
After three successful years running 2nd and Lawler Co. at the corner of Second Avenue and Lawler Street, the Gunkels plan to move their toy and candy store to the Main Street building and add a full menu of options. restoration at the new location.
“It was a dream of mine to expand the store, and I think we’re going to thrive on Main Street,” Gunkel said of the downtown location. “I’m really excited about this change.”
With the move comes a new name. As they did with 2nd and Lawler and Co., the Gunkels will name the business Main Street Mercantile after its Main Street address.
While the wide variety of unique toys, old-fashioned candy, and caramel corn that helped 2nd and Lawler Co. become a popular local store will remain a focus of the business, the Gunkels will add a slew of new food items and options.
“We’ll be doing breakfast, lunch and steak dinner specials which I’m thinking of doing one night a week. It will be real cafe food like hot beef sandwiches,” Gunkel said. “I was looking to do a small menu, but after discussing with my husband and sister what items we wanted to gift, there was no way to make a small menu.”
The 8,993 square foot building provides the Gunkels with significantly more space than their previous location. And the couple plans to use it all.
In addition to their toy and candy section, the Gunkels plan to add a cafe, kitchen, party room, and mini beer and wine bar.
Since opening 2nd and Lawler Co. in 2019, the company has expanded its footprint and food options over the past two years by adding soups and sandwiches. In the new Main Street building, the Gunkels will undertake their biggest expansion yet. From offering a full menu of food options for breakfast, lunch and dinner to serving beer and wine, Christie said Main Street Mercantile will have “something for everything.” the world”.
“We’ve already expanded three times in the past two and a half years, but we’re going to triple our size this time around,” she said.
The new building and expansion plans will give Christie’s sister the opportunity to do what she loves: baking. Christie said her sister would prepare baked goods outside the store and provide a steady hand in the kitchen.
To fit in with the store’s retro theme, Christie said her sister will bake pies that customers can buy by the slice like in the “good old days”.
Building changes to accommodate a “home environment”
Since the building was constructed in 1981, the castle-like property has housed several businesses, including the Enchanted Doll Museum and the Valtiroty Shiloh Tabernacle.
While previous businesses have retained the building’s medieval-style exterior, the Gunkels are set to welcome a new look that Christie says will create a “more family-friendly environment”. Eventually, the pair plan to demolish the grand brick castle towers that have adorned the building’s facade for more than four decades and color the exterior rocks a darker shade to fit the theme of the new store.
“Some people were upset that we were getting rid of the look of the castle, but to make this store more open and family-friendly, we need to make the changes we have planned,” she said of the plans for renovation.
For more than a decade, Otinel Iancu, a California resident who summered in Mitchell, ran his religious-themed shop in the downtown building called Valtiroty Shiloh’s Tabernacle. But he said the Downtown Business Improvement District (BID) tax imposed in 2018 started to make it difficult for the business to make a profit, prompting him to put the property up for sale in 2020.
After sitting on the market for two years without an official listing price, Iancu explained in a bizarre classified ad in the Mitchell Republic that read, “Your bid will determine if we have a deal now or if we have to wait another 10-15 years,” the building eventually attracted a buyer in the Gunkels, who purchased the property for $270,000 in early April.
While Christie noted that her husband, Jeremy, was a bit hesitant about the purchase price they negotiated with Iancu, she said being located directly across from Mitchell’s biggest tourist attraction which draws around 300,000 visitors each year helped the couple make the leap into buying the property.
“With the number of people coming here for the Corn Palace, why wouldn’t we want this for this price,” Christie said.
The Gunkels have spent much of their time over the past month gutting the interior of the building to begin the transformation into the Main Street Mercantile.
Remodeling the interior of the property was a difficult process that led to strange new discoveries like an underground mote, Christie said. But the Gunkels are moving to potentially open their store in June, in time for the height of the tourist season.
Although some local residents have encouraged the Gunkels to retain the castle-like appearance of the building, Christie said she is confident the transformation will be welcomed by locals and tourists alike.
Another change made by the Gunkels to the building’s exterior is the removal of the mottled religious-themed mural on the back of the building. Christie said the store will also use the outdoor space at the back of the building for a dining patio
With Mitchell’s biggest tourist attraction located directly across from their Main Street building, Christie said they will install large windows along the building’s facade and remove black rebar cladding to provide tourists a view of the corn murals.
“The front windows were so small you couldn’t really see the Corn Palace. We will put four huge windows here so people can see the attraction that brings a lot of tourists here,” Christie said.
As the Gunkels continue to dedicate time and effort to sprucing up the unique building, Christie said the move to Main Street will be one that will last a long time.
“We’re not going anywhere after this,” said Christie, as she took a break from a full morning of painting.