Explore Makes Major Investment in Community; Buys Clarion’s Haskell Building
(PHOTO – L to R: Lisa Auerbeck, Aly Delp, Tyler Ochs, Caleb Gilliland, Joanne Bauer, Jake Bauer, Brent Saylor, Chris Rossetti, Ron Wilshire, and Dave Cyphert. Photos by Dave Cyphert of ProPoint Media Photography.)
Jake Bauer, president of Explore Your Town, Inc., the parent company of exploreClarion.com, exploreVenango.com, exploreJeffersonpa.com, D9Sports.com, and CookForest.com, today confirmed the purchase of the building on the corner of Main Street and Fifth Avenue from Cornerstone Development.
Bauer sees it as a big investment in the community, with major renovations planned for the landmark building.
“We’re putting an additional $300,000.00 to $400,000.00 into the restoration of this building, whereas its fate might have eventually been a parking lot, and that would not have been good for the community,” said Bauer.
The building’s history stretches back to 1870’s, and over the years, it has housed Arnold’s Big Store, Haskell’s Furniture, and County Probation. Traffic count studies have labeled the corner of Main Street and Fifth Avenue as the busiest corner in Clarion County and the location is ideal for any business looking for high visibility.
The start of Cornerstone Development was a direct result of Clarion County Commissioners in the 1990’s requesting proposals for office space and some of the bidders offered new buildings, but Cornerstone was selected, and both floors of the former store were converted and rented as office space.
Bauer said the second floor will remain office space; however, major changes are planned for the first floor.
“Our plans are to gut the entire first floor,” said Bauer. “It will be a large, open space used to host various Explore events and possibly used for other purposes down the road.”
“When renovations are complete, you’ll be able to see the original tin ceilings and exposed interior brick walls,” said Bauer. “The original wooden pillars will also remain.”
The changes won’t happen overnight.
“One of the issues with the building is a bowed exterior brick wall on the eastern side of the building,” said Bauer. “We’ll be addressing that soon along with a minor foundation issue in the basement.”
Bauer estimates his staff will be able to move into the building within six months. Explore’s current office in Shippenville will likely be converted into an apartment.
Incorporated in 2012, Explore has grown and needs additional space.
“The move-in date will be dependent upon how quickly renovations are completed,” Bauer continued. “We’ve contracted an Erie-based restoration firm to do the tuckpointing and other brick work. We’ll likely use a local company for the interior renovations.”
Other planned renovations include replacing the roof and windows, new carpet, new trim, and a fresh coat of paint on both the exterior and interior.
“All of the staff will be on the second floor, and with over 10,000 square feet, this building gives us plenty of room to grow,” said Bauer.
Joanne Bauer, vice president of Explore, echoed the same sentiments.
“We plan to expand our staff as we continue to grow,” said Bauer. “Our new location not only gives us room to grow, but it gives us visibility that we’ve never had before.”
The open area of the first floor will be used to host political forums and events that are live-stream broadcast such as the popular annual Battle of the Burgers event.
Jake Bauer said there are also plans for multiple audio and video studios in the building.
“We plan to modernize the building in terms of technology,” said Bauer. “Our newsroom on the second floor will have multiple video displays and state-of-the-art computer equipment that will help give us a leg up on the competition.”
“In the past couple of years anytime that we’ve needed a big space for something we’re scrambling trying to find a spot for things like our political forums. The new location will give us space to host our own events and room to grow for the future.”
It’s a hefty investment for a young company, but Bauer thinks it is worth the investment and the building also has some good bones.
“I can’t think of a better location for our headquarters than Main Street, Clarion,” said Bauer. “As an anchor building of Main Street, the location is second to none, and the sky is the limit.”
“This is more than just a new building for us. This is an opportunity to help save a piece of Clarion’s history and, at the same time, make some history of our own.”
Reflective of the changing times, Explore Your Town, Inc., will be the only media company located in Clarion Borough.
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