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It has housed hardware, cafés and art: what are buyers planning next for Kentville’s historic Calkin Building?

A group of local private investors plans to restore the Calkin Building in hopes of bringing more businesses into Kentville. – Ashley Thompson
A group of local private investors plans to restore the Calkin Building in hopes of bringing more businesses into Kentville. - Ashley Thompson

Built by Charles Macdonald, building at the corner of Webster and Cornwallis is set for restoration

KENTVILLE, N.S. —

A small group of private investors plans to breathe new life into a cornerstone building in the Town of Kentville.

Murray Turner, one of the new owners, said the group recently acquired the Calkin Building for $200,000.

“It’s a large building and it needs a makeover. We come from a construction background, so we thought that we could give it a makeover.”

The ground floor of what is now more commonly known as the Calkin Building was a bustling retail space on July 7, 1948. – Harold Bailey photo – Comeau Family Collection - Contributed
The ground floor of what is now more commonly known as the Calkin Building was a bustling retail space on July 7, 1948. – Harold Bailey photo – Comeau Family Collection - Contributed

Turner said there has already been a lot of interest in what they’re doing. The local buyers are confident renters will be found for all four units in the structure offering more than 6,000 square feet of space, including options for retail ventures and office rentals.

“We have a list of people that want them, so we’re very fortunate that way. We’re just trying to find what we feel would be the best fit for the town,” he said.

“…We just want steady business here in Kentville.”

The aptly-named historic structure was originally home to T.P. Calkin’s hardware at a time when the Calkin family name was synonymous with business development in Kentville. Some area residents or frequent visitors from days gone by might remember the three-level building housing a sporting goods business or clothing retailer.

Kentville historian Louis Comeau said Charles Macdonald, developer of the famed concrete house in Centreville, built what is now known as the Calkin Building. Comeau said the building was originally called Kentville Hardware Store.

This shot snapped by Harold Bailey on July 7, 1948 offers an inside look at the second-floor office space in the Calkin Building. – Comeau Family Collection - Contributed
This shot snapped by Harold Bailey on July 7, 1948 offers an inside look at the second-floor office space in the Calkin Building. – Comeau Family Collection - Contributed

“The town's sidewalks were installed by Charlie Macdonald in 1914, two years after he had built the present building in 1912,” said Comeau.

“They also had a Sports Shop in the basement that was only accessible through the ground-level part of the store.”

What is commonly referred to today as the Calkin Building was originally named the Kentville Hardware Store. This photo shows the brick building in pristine condition in 1919. – Percy Trefry photo – Comeau Family Collection - Contributed
What is commonly referred to today as the Calkin Building was originally named the Kentville Hardware Store. This photo shows the brick building in pristine condition in 1919. – Percy Trefry photo – Comeau Family Collection - Contributed

The street-level corner unit has primarily been occupied by cafés in recent years. Café Central was based there for 14 years prior to the business closing in 2015.

The building was gifted to the Town of Kentville in 2016 by the estate of the late Doug MacDonald, a well-known local businessman. It has housed a number of tenants since that time, including Hills Grills, Bake Me Happy Café, Lilypond Vintage and The Tides Contemporary Art Gallery. The art gallery is still there today.

"The Calkin Building is a cornerstone in Kentville and has been a vital part of downtown business for many years,” said Kentville’s mayor, Sandra Snow, in a recent news release announcing the sale.

“It is exciting that a new generation of local entrepreneurs will continue this legacy, putting their stamp on downtown Kentville and finding success in all their pursuits."

Mayor Sandra Snow stands by the entrance of Kentville’s historic Calkin Building shortly after it was gifted to the Town of Kentville in 2016. The town recently sold the building. – File photo
Mayor Sandra Snow stands by the entrance of Kentville’s historic Calkin Building shortly after it was gifted to the Town of Kentville in 2016. The town recently sold the building. – File photo

The town’s news release said the property had been listed for 566 days.

Turner admits he’s not someone anyone would ever describe as easily excitable, but he’s feeling good about the future prospects for the Calkin Building.

“We just want to restore it, make it appealing to drive by it, and we want to get businesses back in Kentville,” he said.

“That’s our goal.”

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