Traditions, top, and Jack's Fine Foods, bottom, are among two of five of the area's historic landmarks to be recognized by Clay County Preservation Association.
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Clay County's Preservation Association will be presenting awards to five of the area's historic landmarks Monday at 7 p.m. at Traditions in downtown Brazil.
This celebration is open to the public and those attending will be invited to indulge in cake, coffee and tea. Indiana's Southwest Historic Landmarks Foundation representatives will be on hand to congratulate this year's winners.
According to Evelyn Brown of the Preservation Association, members nominated a total of 16 locations for the historical awards at their annual meeting in February. They then toured each of the places and voted to determine the five most historically valuable among them "based on standards set by the Historic Landmarks Association." Those that made the final cut include Traditions, Jack's Fine Foods, the Brazil Public Library, the Chafariz Dos Contos fountain at Forest Park and Scott and Ann Tillman's home.
Traditions, 105 E. National Ave., where the Preservation awards banquet will be, has been the project of Rick and Kathy Bell for about a year now, after they purchased it from his parents, Herman and Betty Bell, who owned it for about 30 years. Built in 1895 as a theater, it was an antique mall for about 20 years before the older couple retired and began using it for auctions. Rick discussed possible uses for the place with the auctioneer, who suggested it might make a good community center.
That idea sounded feasible to the Bells so they began finding "any family and friends we could con into helping us," said Rick. They basically lived in the building for about six months and worked on it seven days a week. Even when the family had Sunday dinners, they were there. The children often rode bikes around inside while the adults worked, but it seemed the more they accomplished, the more they found that still needed done.
The most obvious necessity was to clean, which took quite a bit of time. They were lucky enough to do all the rest of the work without hiring anyone. Rick believes they would not have ever been able to afford fixing it up if they had to pay anyone. A friend helped with the heating and air conditioning. Another friend cut them a deal on some 12-foot sheets of glass that they used on the front of the display case inside.
The items in the display case are elements of the original store front. In 1952, the then-owner remodeled and leaned everything up against a wall and covered it with a false wall. The building had then been two buildings. Upon discovering the display case contents, the Bells pressure-washed them. Then they happened to uncover an ornamental tin ceiling. A lowered plaster ceiling had covered that for many years, and even Rick's parents had not been aware of its existence. The tin was in pretty good shape, but still needed a lot of work.
Traditions was open for business by last August when they had their first party. The Rotary Club had a couple's dinner and dance. Now Traditions has at least one party about every weekend and are starting to schedule more events throughout the week. They allow those who book the place to decorate as much or as little as they please. The Bells usually try to provide as much as they can to save their customers such added expenses. They are handicap-accessible and also have seating in the balcony and a dressing room in the back.
The Bells are still remodeling. They plan to open up a room behind the display case for larger parties and turn an old elevator car into a bar area. Currently, Yesterday's Pub handles most of their liquor needs. Rick says that since they both have other jobs, the work there is getting hard to keep up with, but they both enjoy the people. "We're working with people at their best--when they're celebrating."
Right down the block, at Jack's Fine Foods, 117 E. National Ave., Chris Styleburg has been "just trying to keep things up." He is only the third owner of the establishment, which was first built in 1924. Then it was called Grass & Jones and was the among the elite in meat shops. Pictures from that time, when it was owned by Ike Winsted, reveal that almost everything in the building is still the same, from the store front to the meat case to the same horns on the same tile wall.
In the back, some things have had to be covered up due to state regulations that did not previously exist. Although there is a dropped ceiling, the tin one is still there. The rails into the cooler where they keep hanging meat is still there, but the door from that cooler to the counter is no longer accessible due to the possibility of cross-contamination. The scales used in 1924 are not used anymore, but they are still kept in the back and, according to Chris, are still "as accurate as any digital scales."
He has owned the shop for about 5 1/2 years now and says that "if you maintain the upkeep, then its not too bad," in terms of expenses. He first began working for the previous owner, Jack Withers, when he was 13 and they "still do it the old way." They are doing good business, despite the larger companies, because they are willing to "go that extra step for people." They will even carry customers groceries out to the car for them.
Chris is also proud of the fact that their meat is always fresh, never frozen, which is the "big difference" in meat. They will also special order meat such as tongue, lamb, veal or anything anybody wants. And they make most of their own salads. They do catering and custom processing, as well as basic retail. Eventually, he hopes to get the old smokehouse in the back up and running. There is a place downstairs to throw wood. When it is burnt, smoke rises up through a steel grade on the floor and cooks the meat.