SHERIDAN — One of Sheridan’s big selling points is its small-town feel, but that doesn’t mean urban living isn’t an option.
The real estate above Main Street provides an unmatchable living situation for tenants who want to keep pace with hometown happenings.
In days gone by, it was common to find shopkeepers and their families living above their businesses. Today, the status of the various-sized apartments ranges from the traditional mom and pop shop living space to luxury-sized, upscale accommodations.
Shannon Kuzara and her husband, Steve, live above the family’s store, Streetwear Clothing and Baby Too. Steve Kuzara said they had a home on Illinois Street, but decided to sell it in order to buy the building the store is in today.
“We thought we would buy the shop and get a place to live at the same time,” he said. “Then, when we got our feet back under us, we would go out and buy a house.”
However, the couple’s plan to leave their Main Street loft slipped away as they became accustomed to the convenience of downtown living.
Shannon Kuzara said the space required a total renovation, as it was situated in the historic district and had been unoccupied for some time.
“It was ugly and over 100 years old,” she said. “The roof was leaking and it had this icky wallpaper,” she recalled.
The Kuzaras stripped the interior down to bare walls and floors and ultimately ended up converting the four bedroom, one bathroom space into three bedrooms and two baths. Along the way, they found evidence of the building’s rich history.
“You could tell there was a hair salon there,” she said. “We found a bunch of hair and hairpins when the baseboards were removed.”
Steve Kuzara shared that even before the hair salon, the place had likely been a bar and brothel. He heard from a previous tenant there was a dumbwaiter where a little girl had gotten stuck, and it wasn’t until he began a remodel project that he found the area where some of the wall had been removed, perhaps collaborating with the story.
The Kuzaras gave the building a new identity bit by bit — from new plumbing and wiring to fresh paint.
More than twenty years after moving in, Shannon Kuzara said she has grown attached to the place where she raised five boys.
“This was their front yard and back yard,” she said. “They had the movie theater and the Y and the library.”
“We put a lot of sweat and equity into it.”
Connie and Sam Street moved to Sheridan more than a decade ago looking for a retirement home, and chose to set down roots in the middle of a brand new community.
“We came up here in 2000 to see Sheridan from Denver,” Connie Street said. “We wanted to leave Denver because it was getting too big. Within one week, we had bought the building.”
The Streets made their home in what was previously the New York Store, the largest department store in Sheridan that was established in 1895 and operated for just under 100 years. Today, the downstairs of the New York Store has become the Red Velvet Bakery and Twisted Hearts clothing store. Up above, the store’s old double-way staircase serves as a grand entrance to the couple’s residence.
The Streets live in a wide-open, newly-renovated loft apartment that boasts triple the floorspace of most other downtown lofts. The couple had incorporated their own artistic flair into the design of the space to include a customized kitchen and painting room. While an impressive space could have been made anywhere, Connie Street maintains the real charm is not just within, but around her living space.
“When we moved up here, we didn’t know anyone — cold turkey,” she said. “When we got here, we were meeting people like crazy.”
“Probably the best thing we ever did was buy on Main Street and do this. Otherwise, if we had had a house, we probably would have been more lonely.”
In addition to rarely having to drive, the Streets enjoy the social benefits of living within the bustle of downtown affairs.
“We can look at Main Street and watch everything and still feel like we’re a part of something,” she said. “We don’t feel isolated living here. We feel very much a part of the community.”
The wood floors of the Street’s expansive loft apartment are now buffed and shining, but still boast telltale marks of the building’s previous life as a department store. Track marks from where racks stood are still visible.
The rustic touches of the Main Street loft have been featured by the Home and Garden Television channel and the Public Broadcasting Service.
Robby and John Smith, owners of Sheridan Stationary, fixed up the space above their stores, but chose to rent out the space instead of move in.
While the space had once been used by a business college, it had been vacant since 1954. When the Smiths decided to make the place livable, they had decades’ worth of neglect to undo.
“Over the years, water had come through the roof and it was a big mess up there,” Robby Smith said. “It had to be totally gutted.”
Today, the living space above the bookstore is a 2,000 square foot apartment with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a big back deck.
“We thought it would be a good use of space,” she said. “And also, because we’re associated with the Downtown Sheridan Association, which is part of the National Main Street Program, we had talked about the potential for second-story development.”
Smith explained sometimes upper spaces of shops can’t be used for business due to accessibility issues, but real estate is often a safe bet, given the desirability of downtown living.
“We have had four different renters since 2007,” she said, noting that since the space was opened, it has not stood vacant for very long between tenants.
Property Manager at ERA Carroll Realty, Karol Hodges, said she’s not surprised and that urban spaces are in high demand from property shoppers.
“Quite a few people ask about rentals downtown,” she said. “They want to be in the hub.”
Living in “the hub” often carries with it concerns about privacy and noise, especially during community festivities including Third Thursday Street Festivals or and Rodeo Week. While the buildings seem to do a good job of isolating the noise and providing secure entry for tenants, any additional activity is viewed as a perk of living close to the action.
“People ask us about the noise from Main Street,” Steve Kuchara said. “We really don’t hear anything. As far as rodeo weekend, we’re wide open rodeo weekend anyway. We partake in that event and we’re awake until 4 or 5 in the morning.”
“Rodeo week is supposed to be fun,” Street said. “We don’t mind.”
Hodges said the living spaces above Main Street encompass a wide spectrum of potential living situations, from one bedroom apartments to upscale lofts.
While most of the community visits Main Street at least occasionally, those who call its second story home have unrivaled access to the unique lifestyle of Main Street living.