Store owners have repurposed everything from brothels to old fountain drug stores into jewelry stores. But Mark Snyder, owner of Snyder Jewelers in Weymouth, Mass., is perhaps one of the few retailers in the country to convert an old fire house into a jewelry store.
In the 40 years Snyder has been in the family business, he has moved three times. This move is charmed in many ways for Snyder. For a number of years he has had an eye on the old fire house, sensing its inherent potential to be the next Snyder Jewelers.
The old firehouse is just 200 to 300 yards from his store’s former location, which made the move physically easy for Snyder, his staff and their customers. The upper level is a rental space that helps offset fixed monthly expenses. And, a large hospital within walking distance to the store brings in a lot of foot traffic, which makes up about 25 percent of his sales.
But, the dream-deal-of-a-lifetime almost didn’t happen for Snyder. In 2006, the previous owner of the building was asking too much money for the building. At that time Snyder couldn’t justify the expense. A few years later the housing market crash sent property values south, bringing the price of the building closer to the store owner’s doable budget.
“Upon examining the structure, it was determined that the ground floor offered us plenty of space for the store while the upper level could be rented out,” says Snyder. “I bought the building as an investment based on the advice my accountant.”
Built in 1937, the old firehouse is a sturdy structure with concrete floors, walls and ceilings. The building has 4,800 square feet of space with 2,400 square feet of available space. An even split of 1,200 square feet for the store and 1,200 square feet for the upstairs rental space gave Snyder and his staff an additional 810 square feet over his old store of 390 square feet. “The area we’re in is getting busier and busier,” says Snyder. “We needed the extra space to grow the business.”
Store owner Mark Snyder with his Snyder Jewelers fire hat.
Given the history of the building and its place in the community, Snyder worked with architects and building contractors to maintain the integrity of the building’s exterior. Keeping the arch work intact was the key to keeping the structure looking like a firehouse. What were once large overhead bay doors for fire trucks is now the store’s main entrance flanked by two large bay windows. But replacing the old square windows the building’s previous owner had installed with energy efficient, higher quality plate glass windows ended up being one of Snyder’s biggest expenditures in the renovation.
In honor of the firefighters, Snyder opted to keep the old giant flagpole out front. Today a large new US flag is flown daily. And, to increase the store’s curb appeal, some serious landscaping needed to be done.
A big first job was putting in new sidewalks with stone pavers. Red bricks run across the front of the store with larger tan bricks in straight and arching patterns framing two large sections of land. Fresh sod was put down. Cyprus mulch and flowers nicely offset the lush green of the grass. And, gray and white granite steps and matching posts at the front sidewalk takes the landscaping from good curb appeal to a regal feel.
To complete the exterior renovations, a two-sided, v-shaped sign with the store’s name on it lets people coming and going know that old Station 5 is now a jewelry store. Although the exterior of the structure stills looks like the old firehouse, Snyder had to do some major renovations to make the inside look like a jewelry store.
For starters, the old drop-ceiling had to be taken out. The exposed ceiling revealed a waffle-like pattern in the concrete ceiling, an architectural feature for some structures built in the 1930’s. The bare concrete was cleaned up, prepped and painted with the new interior color.
But that was just the appetizer in a buffet of interior changes that needed to happen. A new, more customer-friendly bathroom had to be put in. Additional sub-floor supports needed to be installed to reinforce the floors for a new repair room and an office for Snyder. “For the first time I have an office,” says Snyder. “And it’s bigger than my old store’s showroom.”
A fire bell and the original firehouse brass sliding pole.
Wiring the old structure was another large project. Additional outlets were needed, new lighting required exacting wiring work, and a state-of-the-art security system also had special wiring specifications. To make the store LAN- and Internet-ready, coaxial cables had to be run throughout the interior space. These were just a few of the many projects that had to be completed to pick up where the previous owner, who purchased the building in the 1990’s, left off.
With all the new features to the building, Snyder couldn’t resist bringing back some old firehouse charm. The firefighter’s old brass sliding pole (that was removed by the previous owner) was cut down to size to fit from floor to ceiling in the new showroom. Several antique firehouse items such as old fire extinguishers were purchased on eBay to round out the store’s décor. Original photographs of the firehouse and the firefighters are framed and hung on the store’s walls. And, the employees even gave Snyder a firefighter’s hat with the store’s name on it last year.
An antique fire extinguisher makes a perfect corner lamp.
The firefighters who left Station 5 many years ago for a larger, more modern firehouse were invited to the store’s opening party. “Many of the men commented that they really liked the new look and were pleased that we had some firehouse antiques and Station 5 memorabilia in the store,” says Snyder.
With the seal of approval from the former tenants, it was time to bring in new customers. In the first two months after the new store’s opening, Snyder gained roughly 250 new customers and added 15 to 20 additional customers each week in the months after the store opening. In a town of 55,000 people where a number of guild stores closed in the last five years, Snyder takes this as a good omen for the future.