Two downtown businesses have relocated to the building that formerly housed Larry’s Rexall Pharmacy, but those are not the only changes planned for the building at 102 E. Elm.
For months, the building underwent renovations in preparation for the relocation of Almost Blonde, a hair salon and boutique, and Martha’s on the Square, which sells women’s clothing, in the first-floor space.
On March 12, the El Dorado Historic District Commission conditionally approved a Certificate of Appropriateness request for work on the storefront, including windows, doors, signage and brick repair.
Buddy McAdams, co-owner of the building, also requested permission to create an entrance on the west side of the building that will lead to the upper floors, which will be used for executive office space.
COAs are required from the historic district commission for most exterior projects that are planned within the commercial historic district.
The EHDC reviews COA applications to ensure the proposed work falls within the design standards and guidelines as part of an effort to protect the historical and architectural integrity of the district.
The historic name of the building is the Empire Building and in addition to Larry’s Rexall, the building was once home to West Brothers Department Store.
The building was constructed circa 1903 and was one of the earliest sites of the Union County Courthouse, as denoted by a plaque that was posted on the west side of the building in 1925 by the Daughters of the American Revolution, Robert Rosamund Chapter.
Members of the EHDC noted that the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a non-contributing structure within the city’s commercial historic district, meaning that it has been significantly altered from its original appearance.
McAdams told commissioners that the bricks on the front of the building pose a safety hazard.
He explained water has seeped behind the bricks, damaged the masonry and loosened the bricks, causing them to fall from the building.
“They’re really in poor, poor shape. There’s already a nice hole in the awning that’s up there now. It came from a brick that fell through it and it’s close to the front door,” McAdams said, adding that a brick mason has taken a look at the building.
“That is a public safety issue. The masonry needs to be taken care of ASAP,” said Commissioner Ken Bridges.
Bridges asked if there has been any water infiltration and damage inside the building and McAdams said, “Some.”
Commissioners then said they would put McAdams in touch with the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program for technical assistance and information about possible tax credits that could help with the brickwork.
“That’s what we’re here for, to help,” said Commissioner Diane Murfee.
“Can you wait?” asked Commissioner Teresa Golliher.
“I can wait a little longer but I don’t need to punch it down the road too far,” McAdams said.
McAdams said a new door is needed for the front entrance to meet fire codes.
“The El Dorado Fire Department [said] that only one of the doors opened out. Historically, they had a door that went in and one that went out,” he said. “It will be the same color, that chrome metal.”
McAdams said there will be one front-door entrance through which customers may access both businesses. Almost Blonde has set up shop on the west side of the first floor and Martha’s, which is expected to open next month, will operate on the east side.
Additionally, McAdams proposed new windows for the storefront, saying the windows will be double-pane and tempered.
“We’re cutting them down for safety and energy efficiency,” he told the EHDC.
He said Almost Blonde is considering a white logo for the front window.
Commissioners approved the new doors, windows and side entrance.
They advised McAdams to seek guidance from state historic preservation officials about the brickwork and to return to the commission with a conceptual design for the proposed logo.