Stretching out the life of the old Elks Hall
Christine Waterman was looking to expand her growing pilates business, but was hesitant to take a look at a space in the old Elks Hall.
She had considered moving her fitness studio to the historic building on the corner of Seymour Street and Fourth Avenue four years earlier, but it wasn’t in great condition.
The space didn’t exactly exude the right image for people who were trying to get healthy.
However, in July, Waterman, who was still on the hunt for a new space, was urged by the landlord to give the downtown building another try.
What she saw blew her away.
“I knew from the first time I saw it, this was going to be the space,” she told KTW.
Gone were the low dingy ceilings, the boards over the windows and the overall 1970s motif from a generation ago.
They were replaced by loft-style ceilings and arches, a fresh coat of paint and bright sunlight.
On Aug. 1, The Pilates Tree opened in a 2,700 square-foot room on the bottom floor of the old Elks Hall.
Since the relocation, Waterman said she has received nothing but positive feedback from her clients.
“They just don’t expect this. It’s [the building] been vacant for so long,” she said.
Waterman isn’t the only one excited about the building, known in more recent times for its past main tenant, Cactus Jack’s Saloon, whose sign still hangs on the front facade of the hall.
Kathleen Raven had been looking for a studio for her fledgling pottery business.
She also looked at several spaces downtown, but none were adequate.
Besides needing a quieter spot away from heavy foot traffic to give her some peace to do her work, Raven also required a sink and room for a kiln to bake her art.
It just so happened the hall’s old kitchen in the back of the building turned out to be the perfect spot.
Raven Underground Potter Studio moved in at the same time as The Pilates Tree.
“Since I’ve moved in, I really like it a lot,” Raven said, noting the space still gives her an opportunity to attract walk-in customers.
The studio celebrated its grand opening over the weekend.
Three businesses — the pilates and pottery operations have Ana Banana’s Custom Cakes and More as a neighbour — now occupy the bottom floor of the old hall and there is room for one more.
Upstairs, the hall still has eight rental units.
Besides a new space to expand their respective livelihoods, Waterman and Raven say the building offers a “community” feeling, rather than being simply office space.
“We really wanted to make it like a community space, like more of a destination than a business building,” Waterman said.
That was exactly the intention of Brad Alberts when his company, Integrated Urban Equities Corp., bought the 83-year-old building from the Kamloops Elks five years ago.
Following the renovations, Alberts said, he’s been working to find the right identity for the building, being very selective in picking tenants rather than putting up the space for anyone to rent.
“I think that’s important if you’re trying to generate a sense of community and general vibe,” Alberts said.
One aspect the owner is reluctant to discuss are plans for the space vacated by Cactus Jacks when it moved to Fifth Avenue in 2009.
Alberts confirmed there are plans in the works for the 9,000-square-foot main-floor space, but details still need to be worked out.
The former hall dates back to the roaring 1920s and was home to Elks Lodge #44 for years.
It was used as a meeting place for the charitable society and an entertainment venue back in the day.
Alberts pointed out the old hall was once a hub of the community — and he hopes the spirit will return.
“It’s been a few years since the building had a positive energy,” he said.
As new businesses and people fill the old hall, its history isn’t completely lost.
Tucked away beside Waterman’s desk in The Pilates Tree studio is an old walk-in safe.
Back in the day, it probably would have held the riches of the people who stayed at the lodge.
But, Waterman said, she intends to turn the space into a lounge as a place to hangout.
That hangout space may come in handy.
“This is home for as long as I’m doing my business,” Waterman said.