HAYS — For Stacey and Jarrod Jones, one of the best parts of restoring the old 1930s gas station at 13th and Main streets into their combined husband-and-wife dentist and eye-doctor offices has been the stories they hear.
“It’s really nostalgic to people when they come in,” said Stacey, who is the optometrist at eyeSMILE Vision and Dental. “They have a sense of pride to know this building has been restored.”
It means more to some of their patients in certain eras, people who grew up in Hays, who are about in their 70s now, said Stacey.
“Some of them had paper routes and the paper was close by, I understand, and they would stop by here after school to play a game of pinball and get a Coke before they’d go on their paper route,” she said. “So we hear those stories a lot.”
Before the couple bought the property more than a year ago and opened it in January, the 90-year-old building had been used partly as an apartment, and partly as storage for All Seasons Plumbing, Heating & AC, the building’s owner.
The renovation in 2018 by Commercial Builders, 2717 Canal Blvd., brought out the old and added some new.
Built in 1930, the mission-style building was originally Nep’s Super Service Station, a gas station owned by Jep Jacobs, whose father was Hays builder Tony Jacobs. It later became Jep’s Service B.F. Goodrich, as well as Rome Home Appliances retail store, and a Shell gasoline station.
The building was in pretty rough shape inside when they got it, said Jarrod, the dentist at eyeSMILE.
The building is registered as a contributing building to downtown’s signature Chestnut Street Historic District, which is on the national and state registers of historic places, said Brett Ottley, design-build manager for Commercial Builders.
Ottley was instrumental in helping the Joneses manage the construction through the rules and regulations governing historic sites, which are set by the National Park Service. In Kansas, those are enforced by the Kansas Historical Society.
Original walls couldn’t be torn down, but holes could be punched for doors, windows and hallway entrances.
One of the most obvious remnants of the old building with its high ceilings is a long red-brick wall in the patient lounge, which at one time was the exterior of the building. Covered by plaster, it was uncovered during sandblasting.
“All of a sudden this red brick wall was there, and it was beautiful,” Ottley said.
An original terrazzo floor in the reception area also still remains, as do two garage doors on the front that were part of the station’s garage bays.
“We tried to meld both old and new together so it presented nicely,” Ottley said.
Other surprises included two fireplaces that were discovered, one of which they were able to keep.
Looking back at the process and its challenges, Stacey admits, “There were times we wondered if we’d made the right decision.”
But the regret was short-lived.
“It ended up costing us about what it would have cost to build new,” said Jarrod, “but your new building wouldn’t have the character that this one has, and that’s why we liked it. We like to invest in the community, you gotta give back to the community.”