Former bank building seeing new era in Wapella

Gordon Woods / Journal — The former Farmers & Merchants Bank building is getting a new lease on life as a local family moves forward on renovations. A group gathered on Saturday for a ribbon cutting ceremony.

A piece of Wapella history has been saved. And now, the owners of the former Farmers & Merchants Bank building hope it also can contribute to the local economy.

WAPELLA — A piece of Wapella history has been saved.  And now, the owners of the former Farmers & Merchants Bank building hope it also can contribute to the local economy.

“We’re wanting to start our Small Business Saturday event,” said Lindsay Donovan, one of the building’s new owners.  “We’re going to start those next Saturday (May 7).”

The Donovans bought the former bank building in spring 2016.  It once housed the bank, which closed in 1957, as well as a grocery store, hardware store, doctor’s office and a banquet room on the second floor, once the home of the local Catholic church fish-fry  dinners.  Donovan said she believed the post office also once operated out of the building.

“At the time we bought the building, there was a hole in the back, the village was wanting to condemn it, and our family just couldn’t bear that,” Donovan said.

They knew it would be a long and difficult job bringing the building back to a useful purpose, but they decided to go ahead.

“The floor was gone,” Donovan said, standing in what is now a renovated storefront.  “It had just caved in.  But, our vision was always to bring it back to some type of commerce.”

The storefront, now named Willow Branch Heirlooms, the largest space on the first floor, is so far the largest portion of the building to be renovated.

“We still haven’t started upstairs yet,” Donovan said.

• See the complete story in the Friday, May 6 print edition of the Clinton Journal or now in the Journal E-Edition for subscribers.

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