FOR THE RECORD (July 15, 1997): Mall not for sale: The antique mall operating inside the historic Schade Brewery building is not for sale and continues to operate. A Doug Clark column Sunday said the antique mall was for sale.
Flush with confidence and cash from their booming carpet business, two well-intentioned entrepreneurs went searching for another fish to fry.
Louis and Gailya Bonzon didn’t have far to look. Looming right across the street from their store was a true Spokane landmark - the historic Schade Brewery building at 528 E. Trent.
It didn’t take much imagination to see the mammoth 1903 structure - with its tall brick tower and round windows - as another Pike Street Market waiting to happen.
An expert at restoring fine old homes, Gailya envisioned returning the decades-neglected structure to its original luster. She saw a city centerpiece, crammed with shops and exploding with business.
So thinking with their hearts instead of their heads, the Bonzons bought the property in 1991 and got busy.
Six years later their grand notion has put them in financial ruin.
The Schade antique mall and public market has been up for sale for a year with no buyer in sight. It faces foreclosure this summer, although the Bonzons say the bank will keep the market going until a buyer is found. The Bonzons may come up with some last-minute bankruptcy plan to keep their dream limping along.
Desperately searching for a well-heeled savior, Gailya this week mailed a plea for help to Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates and other potential investors. On Monday the Bonzons plan to meet with tenants to explain the dire nature of their situation.
“We should have walked away much sooner, but how can you let 50 people down?” says Gailya.
“It’s not like we’re landlords, it’s like we’re a big family.
“We just keep thinking we can’t quit until that miracle happens.”
It will take one whale of a miracle to yank the Bonzons out of this money pit.
Like an insatiable vampire, the old brewery has sucked the Bonzons dry. Everything they had and more has been bled into the restoration, still a million or two shy of completion.
Gone is the carpet store, forced into bankruptcy last March. Gone are their five apartment buildings, sold to feed the beast.
The Bonzons say they put their vintage Browne’s Addition home up for sale. No offers came in, they say, and the bank will most likely take possession.
Unexpected costs, complying with building codes, aggravating delays in getting the Schade hooked up to the city sewer system. … The couple figures they’ve sunk $800,000-plus into this nightmare.
Despite all they’ve done, the massive Schade roof remains a broken disaster. Water pours in with every rain, but correcting the problem will cost $300,000.
The upstairs concrete floors are thick with guano, courtesy of the dozens of freeloading pigeons who roost among the broad rafters.
The Schade’s upper levels offer huge unfinished rooms with magnificent window views. But the space is worthless without an elevator system - an other $300,000 item.
The Bonzons’ vision can be seen on the main floor. There are 53 colorful booths selling antiques, collectibles, crafts and food. An outdoor stand sells produce. All but five shops, says Gailya, are owned by women and minorities.
“It would be a shame to lose this,” says Debbie Roffler, an original tenant, her eyes filling.
“All the heart and soul that everyone has put into this. I don’t know what to even say.”
Attracting shoppers has been a bugaboo from the start of the Bonzons’ public market. Despite occasional live music and special events, the place is often empty. A Schade advertising flier shows a photograph of the building and the caption: “How many times have you driven by and wondered what was inside?”
Location is a major problem. The Schade brewery, for all its potential, is stuck in a downtown area relatively new to renewal.
The Riverpoint Higher Education Park across the street is helping turn a once-seedy neighborhood into a lush, attractive place. Louis believes in five or six years a restored Schade marketplace would be worth $5 million to $6 million.
The Bonzons unfortunately are out of time. And money.
“But we have to keep believing it’s going to be OK,” Gailya says. “Maybe it won’t, but we can’t give up. That miracle may be just around the corner.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
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