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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Former Cassano’s being transformed into Open Doors family shelter expected to open in summer

Joe Ader, left, of Open Doors and Steve Allen of Family Promise are pictured at  Cassano’s in Spokane on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018. Their plans to convert the iconic business into a 24/7 shelter for homeless families are making progress and should be complete in the summer 2019. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Renovations are underway to convert the former Cassano’s Grocery Building into a new facility for the Open Doors Emergency Family Shelter, which is anticipated to open this summer.

Open Doors Emergency Family Shelter – operated by Family Promise of Spokane, a nonprofit organization that provides assistance to homeless families – purchased the building at 2002 E. Mission Ave. for $1.2 million in March.

Family Promise funded the purchase through a Community Development Block Grant and organization funds.

“This will be a space for families experiencing homelessness for decades to come,” said Joe Ader, director of Open Doors. “We should be able to support the need, not just for Spokane, but the county, so having a permanent home for that will be fantastic.”

Open Doors Emergency Family Shelter was operating over capacity for most of 2018 at its Perry District site and is turning away families due to limited space.

The board of directors for Family Promise began a property search last year and settled on the Cassano’s Grocery site, which will allow Open Doors to increase its capacity from 50 to 80 people per night.

Ader said Open Doors primarily serves families with children, so being in a neighborhood appealed to the organization.

Family Promise is renovating the more than 12,800-square-foot building into a day shelter on the main floor, which will contain a welcome area, counseling offices and a nursery.

The basement of the building will be converted into a permanent night shelter for families that will also contain a laundry facility and locker room.

The basement used to house a minimall with a jewelry store and beauty salon, which closed in the 1950s. It has since been used for storage.

“When we came and toured (the building,) there’s still old storefronts down there,” Ader said. “That was intriguing, but the basement is 6,000 square feet with 14-foot ceilings, which is a very big space that’s been unused for half a century and we just saw a lot of potential to bring it back to use for what we need it for.”

Tenants in eight apartments on the building’s top floor will remain, Ader said.

Cassano’s Grocery originally opened in 1922 on East Sprague Avenue and became a Spokane institution for its cured meats and cheeses, housemade marinara, and imported pasta and wine. Owner Carl Naccarato moved the store to Mission Avenue in 2009.

Naccarato cut back operations in 2017 to focus on operating a lunch counter and closed the store in 2018.

Naccarato wasn’t immediately available for comment.

Ader said Naccarato plans to reopen Cassano’s Grocery on Sprague Avenue and is pleased with the idea to convert the former store into a family shelter.

“He’s been thrilled with us moving in,” Ader said. “He’s been a great support to us.”