The scene inside Castle Building and Remodeling’s soon-to-open showroom next to Scott-Ja-Mama's at the corner of Diamond Lake Road and Nicollet is a little chaotic. But like a half-finished statue emerging from a block of marble, the contours of a beautiful space are appearing out of a cloud of sawdust.
That beautiful space just might also be a good sign for the local economy and for local schools.
"This is going to be a workspace for our designers," said owner Loren Schirber. "But we also want to get people in here and show what we can do."
First, Schirber's craftsmen substantially rebuilt the facade of the former Sewtropolis building. Right in front of the front door, the cabinets of a mock kitchen have been bolted in place, and are awaiting their custom countertops from a company called Dakota Surfaces. Schirber said he's really excited about those—the company lets its clients pick different sizes and colors of glass that it mixes with a special cement, and then pours into a custom mold to fit the kitchen design. The result, he said, is similar to terrazzo or Cambria countertops, but with a lot more creative freedom and less waste.
To the right of the front door, through an archway salvaged from an apartment above a 1920's St. Paul hardware store, the metallic, blue-grey tiles on a fireplace at the end of conference room shimmer in the light flooding in through the new facade's huge windows.
Like the archway's rebuilt glass cabinets and new porthole windows on either side of the fireplace, the tiles are all handmade by local artists, Schirber said. It's an approach, he said, that Castle likes to take in some of its projects, whether they're new construction or restoration and renovation. To create the windows—modeled on the archway's stained glass-like doors—and restore the doors themselves, Castle worked with St. Paul artist Josie Geiger, for a total cost of $850.
"A lot of our clients are really surprised that it's not that expensive for what's basically art," Schirber said.
Schirber said opening a new showroom/office in Southwest Minneapolis was a natural step after doing between 10 and 15 jobs in Minneapolis last year.
"As a project goes on, there's less driving back and forth, and our project managers can develop expertise on a particular city's building codes," he said. "For our clients, too, it's comforting to work with someone local, so if something does go wrong, you know where to find us."
When Castle opened its Snelling Avenue office in St Paul several years ago, business jumped dramatically for exactly that reason, Schirber said.
Overall, he said, the dramatic growth in business that Castle has seen in recent years bodes well for Southwest Minneapolis, he thinks.
"Partly because of the Southwest and South Minneapolis schools people are staying in the neighborhood and spending money to fix up their homes," Schirber said. "Most of our jobs now are young families."
In years past, these families usually moved to nearby suburbs like Edina and St Louis Park to get their kids into those school districts, instead of spending the same cash on remodling their houses. If the same trend that drew Schirber and his company to Windom continues, the investments the Minneapolis Public Schools are making in new school buildings and new programs around the city could continue to pay off in the years to come.