Bob Haas, right, and his general contractor Paul Caron, owner of Caron Custom Homes of Decatur, review renovation plans for the downtown building at 144 S. Front St., which Haas plans to develop. This is the third downtown property the semi-retired Dowagiac resident has purchased in as many years. (Photo courtesy Vickie Phillipson, DDA and Chamber of Commerce program director)
Bob Haas, right, and his general contractor Paul Caron, owner of Caron Custom Homes of Decatur, review renovation plans for the downtown building at 144 S. Front St., which Haas plans to develop. This is the third downtown property the semi-retired Dowagiac resident has purchased in as many years. (Photo courtesy Vickie Phillipson, DDA and Chamber of Commerce program director)

Archived Story

Bob Haas buys bakery building

Published 8:57am Wednesday, December 23, 2009

With its storefront windows, like saddened eyes, peering out onto Front Street, the vacant downtown building that is fondly remembered by this community as “the old bakery,” will be seeing much brighter days ahead, thanks to the continuing investment of a Dowagiac retiree.

Bob Haas this week purchased the three-story building at 144 S. Front St. from Devin McDaniel, who had also owned and operated the business Rumpel’s Hooterville Bakery at that location until it closed several years ago.

Tuesday’s announcement was made by Vickie Phillipson, program director for the Dowagiac Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and Greater Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with Haas, who is semi-retired and part owner of Haas Systems, which he founded in 1980.

“This is the third downtown property Haas has purchased in the same amount of years,” Phillipson said.  “In December of 2007 he purchased from William Livingston the building at 148 S. Front St., housing Edward Jones. A year later, he purchased the adjacent building at 146 S. Front, housing Signal Travel and Tours, from Michele Boyd of Niles.”

“Since then, as an on-going participant of the city’s downtown rental rehabilitation program, Haas renovated the second floor of 148 S. Front into two two-bedroom apartments, both of which are leased,” Phillipson said.

“His contractor is presently completing the finishing touches on the three new apartments within the Signal Travel building, which include two two-bedroom apartments on the second floor and the third floor’s three-bedroom and two-bath suite, featuring a fireplace and skylights.”

Phillipson said with the Dec. 22 closing having been scheduled for several weeks, Haas and his contractor positioned themselves ready to begin immediate work on what for years was a common staircase between the Signal Travel building and the old bakery.
While the staircase had been shared for decades, ownership was held by McDaniel.
This winter contractors will renovate and widen the staircase leading to the upper levels and the hallway.

Should the city receive funding for another cycle of downtown rental rehabilitation monies, Haas plans to then develop three new apartments in the newly-acquired building.

“Once we’ve renovated the main floor of the old bakery, I’d like it to house an early-morning coffee shop and lunchtime restaurant,” Haas said.

What he envisions is an eatery similar to the popular former Scotty’s Sub Shoppe of the 1980s and early 90s.

Whether he leases out the site to a tenant, or opens the business, himself, is yet to be decided.

In the meantime, Haas anxiously awaited the closing and the opportunity to peel back a small portion of the yellow façade to see what lies beneath and its condition.

Phillipson said earlier this construction season, Haas received a $3,500 façade incentive payment from the Dowagiac DDA for the full exterior renovation of the corner building that houses Edward Jones in the Front Street storefront and Shirley’s Flower Arrangements within the Commercial Street storefront.

With his first two apartments leased, three nearing final completion and three more on the drawing board, Haas said he has nine applications in hand and does not foresee a problem leasing the new residential units.

Earlier this year, Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) approved additional funds for the city, bringing the full amount of rental rehab monies for this funding cycle to $329,200.

Locally, the program is overseen by Marilyn Smith of Smith Housing.

MSHDA funding since led to the creation of five new apartments and the complete rehab of two existing units.

The final project of the current funding cycle is the new apartment Jerry Ostrowski is presently constructing.

Phillipson is quick to credit Smith with successfully bridging discussions between the former owner of the bakery building and Haas, which resulted in this week’s eventual sale of the property.

“This marks the fourth major announcement for our central business district since October,” Phillipson said. “In late August we began to see the initial signs of a recovering local economy, as the tide began to shift and new business prospects began to surface. Today, we’re reaping the benefits of a strengthened economy and its renewed sense of optimism.”

In early November, Dowagiac native Dawn Schlipp of Eau Claire opened her new retail shop, which she calls “Oh My” that features new, refurbished and reupholstered home furnishings.

In early December, Dowagiac residents Brian and Jennifer Jenkins relocated their home-based computer sales and service store, JenkinsPC, to the downtown.

Also in December, the Apostolic Lighthouse entered into a verbal lease agreement on Ostrowski’s storefront, where the church on M-62 West plans to open Hope’s Door Thrift Shop in January.

Angela Walker, a member of the church, will reportedly serve as manager of the thrift shop.

Monies raised from the store will be earmarked by the church to fund a transitional home for women, which the Apostolic Church would like to open.

The home would serve women who are attempting to put their lives back on track, such as those exiting abusive relationships, maybe coming out of drug or alcohol rehab or making the transition back into society from incarceration.

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