Reaching for the ‘Star’: Buchanan manufacturer to return ‘Star Building’ to former glory – Horizons 2023

Published 6:20 am Friday, March 10, 2023

A local business owner will be “taking the lead” on developing one of Niles’ historic buildings.

Jen Tabor, owner of independent craft design manufacturer Souldier, recently purchased the building on the 200 block of Fourth Street for the future site of its headquarters and other business endeavors.

“I grew up in the area and I hung out in Niles when I was in high school,” she said. “This is kind of like a homecoming for me. After the last 20, 30 years of traveling and having been everywhere, I really want to bring a piece of all those places that I’ve been back and bring that magic to the place where I live.”

Built in 1926, the 35,291 square-foot building is currently home to Leader Publications, Off Main Street Salon and Shelf Life Community Bookstore, with each planning to continue leasing space in the building. The building was formerly owned by Leader Publications.

Leader Publications is the publisher of The Niles Daily Star, Dowagiac Daily News, Edwardsburg Argus and Cassopolis Vigilant along with Michiana Life magazine, The Leader and related digital products. 

Founded in 2005 in Chicago and currently based in Buchanan, Souldier produces custom goods including fretted instrument straps, dog and cat collars, saddle straps, purses and more using primarily upcycled materials. Souldier has reached an international audience, with recording artists like Chris Stapleton, Taylor Swift, Tom Petty and Panic! At The Disco sporting the brand.

The Star Building

Tabor respects the history of the building and plans to honor that history with her plans for the space. The building will be named and referred to as “The Star Building,” just as it was years ago. 

“We’re happy to celebrate the history of this place,” she said. “It really gives us something to kind of hold on and make sure that it doesn’t fall into disrepair and become just a thing of the past. “All of the pieces of this building, we can celebrate and kind of reignite and bring attention back to where the Niles started.” 

Tabor plans to use the available space in the building to house a guitar store, reopen the former Pickwick Club on the second floor and create a mid-size event and concert venue.

“When the Leader building became available, we started to talk to the owners because we were looking to continue to expand the business in terms of having a comprehensive music company where we can have a guitar store and sell our stuff, open up a restaurant here and have a venue where people can come see music,” Tabor said. “This location allows us to add all the aspects of the music industry into our brand in one location.”

Tabor has fond memories of visiting Niles as a youth and attending the Midnight Sun, a teen dance club at the time. Now youth-focused herself, Tabor plans on providing programming for youth, teens and families at the Star Building.

“The young people need somewhere to go,” she said. “If it weren’t for that (Midnight Sun) there are so many friendships that I wouldn’t have that I still have today and I want to give that opportunity to other kids. When the venue does open, we’re definitely having some teen activities so that we can transfer those relationships and that opportunity for connection on to the next generation.”

Tabor is looking forward to further engaging Southwest Michigan by establishing business roots in Niles.

“I love working-class, blue-collar towns,” she said. “There’s a lot of heart and a lot of passion for the things that we do. Southwest Michigan has done a great job of really celebrating the music community and we’re just adding more resources to what exists here. I think that we can add on to everything that’s going on and it’ll be a symbiotic relationship between us and the mission of our local neighborhoods.”