When Steve Rollins and Larry Kolb set out to improve the 100 block of East Dunklin Street, they had envisioned the street as it appears today. A small, close-knit community featuring retail and residential. Lit neon signs and old-fashioned downtown lighting add character and charm to the historic neighborhood, reigniting the downtown atmosphere.
"I am easily as excited now as I was four or five years ago," Rollins noted. "It has been a long haul, but we're right where we want to be."
Both real estate agents saw the hidden potential along the heavily traveled portion of Jefferson City's Old Munichburg district, and wanted to help bring that potential to light. Approximately five years ago, the pair bought 14 units in three separate purchases, a mix of retail space and second floor residential.
"We just saw the neighborhood values plummeting, that's really what stimulated this," said Rollins, the owner of Coleman Appliance.
Originally, the duo planned to make some minor cosmetic changes to the buildings, but quickly realized the greatest impact could be had by doing a complete overhaul, and working to historically resurrect the southside community.
Kolb said the more they thought about it, they decided it would be best to work with the neighbors and redo the entire block.
The developers went back to the archives, marking out their tasks accordingly.
"We basically kept the shell of the buildings," Kolb related.
Salvaging hardwood floors, and adding big new storefront windows brought back the charm of the original structure.
Working with the city using the street's Tax Increment Financing (TIF) as well as grants through National Register of Historic Places, East Dunklin received new lighting and new sidewalks that are ADA accessible. Kolb said the outside curb appeal has made the block more attractive, bringing in new business owners.
Rollins agreed, saying the curb appeal has turned the block into a walk-around neighborhood.
After taking on more than originally planned, Rollins said, "In retrospect, we're really glad we did."
Since construction ended nearly two years ago, several new businesses have found their place in the 100 block.
The area is now home to Three-story Coffee, Shep's Southside, Old Town Tattoo, Perfect Fit Boutique, Edge Wise Skate and Dance, and International Foods.
"The biggest thing that drew me is that it is a historic district," Jamie Shepherd, coowner of Shep's Southside.
Jamie and her husband, Scott, like the central location and liked the idea of being a part of resurrecting the old town area. Much like the surrounding businesses, the restaurant has generated a wide array of customers.
Opening last June, Shep's is glad to be a part of the 100 block neighborhood. They get their flowers from Busch's Florist, and plan to start serving coffee from Three Story Coffee just a few doors down.
Three Story Coffee owner Tony Anderson has only been a part of the block since right before Christmas, but said the community atmosphere is just what he was looking for.
"I wanted a location that had a presence, where people would learn who and where we are," he said.
Anderson has noticed the foot traffic picking up as the weather gets warmer, and has new people coming in daily asking about his product.
"We looked at other places, and really liked the work done here, and the neighborhood, and I like ice cream," Anderson joked of the prime location within walking distance to Central Dairy.
Previously existing businesses such as Southside Barber Shop, Ecco Lounge, Central Dairy, Busch's Florist and Coleman Appliance are also benefiting from the street's transformation.
"We were really looking for that eclectic blend." Rollins said of the diverse neighborhood.
Mason's Place was refurbished after being closed for three years and reopened just five weeks ago. The old Welcome Inn is currently undergoing its own transformation and will be reopened in the near future.
The residential area has also been revitalized. The five apartments owned by Rollins and Kolb have been full of young business professionals since they became available. With just one more vacant property owned by the developers, Rollins said the storefront is a premium spot.
"The overall goal was to bring that property back to life," Kolb explained. "The vision we had has really happened. We're both very proud of that."
Other aspects of East Dunklin have contributed to the southside's aesthetic transformation. The Old Munichburg corner was completed in 2010 with the stone wall, new landscaping, lighting, and engraved pavers and bricks. The engraved rock sent from Munichberg, Germany, also sits at this corner. A 48-foot wall mural will be unveiled in the coming months as well, continuing an old-world charm.