Meet the Walsmans
It all started when…
Kristy: We live in the neighborhood, and I can actually see The Neidhammer from our living room. I was always attracted to the building. I would always look at it and walk the kids by here, dreaming about all the different ways it could be used. I didn’t really have a vision for it, I just knew it needed to be used for something.
Then, around 2013, Joel got contracted to do the electrical. He came home one night and said, "Yeah, it's as cool as you think it is. It needs a ton of work, but it's as cool as you thought it would be."
Joel: I told them, "If you ever want to sell that super cool building, just let me know," not ever thinking it was a reality.
Kristy: There was somebody that was going to start a bike shop, a coffee shop, and apartments on the second and third floor. It was in the works, a done deal. And then the process was taking so long that he ended up finding somewhere else to do it.
Joel: At one point, on a Sunday afternoon, the entire roof blew off this building when it was hit by a straight-line wind. The wind collapsed two other buildings and our entire roof was lifted off the building and blew down the street! This was before we owned it. Nobody got hurt, but Washington was closed down.
So during the harsh winter of 2013, there was tons of snow inside, debris everywhere, and so much devastation. There was a 400 foot hole from the basement up to the sky! At that point, the company who owned the building decided that they were not going to move forward with renovating the building.
Kristy: They called up one night and said, "Would you guys be interested in buying that building?" And we were!
Joel: A week later, we said yes without plans or a budget. And then another week later we started an LLC, a bank account and closed on the property. Six months later, we ended up buying the building next door for Jefferson Electric.
Kristy: All along when I saw this building I thought it would be cool to do communal living and a coffee shop. Neither of us are coffee connoisseurs but the coffee shop idea was about bringing the community together in the neighborhood. I would love to have a place nearby that I could meet up with my friends. Then Ash and Elm approached us about sharing the space and we’re so glad we did, it’s been really good.
Joel: A friend of ours and also an investor in the building mentioned it becoming a wedding venue. We had about 1000 man hours invested in just damage control on the building at this point. The apartments didn’t really work out due to how the spaces were shaped, so we converted the idea based on our friend Max suggesting the co-working space and the wedding venue idea. Kristy actually wanted to turn the third floor into our house and make it into a penthouse!
Kristy: We had renovated a couple of houses, but that was the most we had done in this kind of venture.
Joel: Kristy has a background in big dreams! We were so overwhelmed at this point, it was nothing short of blood, sweat, and tears.
Kristy: We always said we’re glad we didn’t give up at the same time because we would not be here today. He would say, “I’m done,” and I would encourage him, and then when I would say “I’m so done,” Joel would say “no no no!” We never gave up at the same time.
Joel: About two weeks prior to our grand opening, our friend Joy came to us to ask about events and if we were hiring. We hadn’t even thought about it since we were worrying about everything else, so she suggested we have a grand opening. We said YES, please do something! We had no vision beyond the first finish line, so she pulled it all together for us.
Kristy: At this point, the coffee shop was up and running. It opened in June of 2016 while construction was still going on upstairs. At the grand opening of the event venue, we had a table out with a lot of flyers saying we were an event venue available for weddings, baby showers, anniversaries, etc. And that’s how it all began, with one event manager. Then we realized quickly after that, we need more people and a staff! We’ve grown to a staff of about 20 people.
Joel: The coffee shop is a place for community, the co-work space is a place for business, and the theater is a place for culture. So we get to affect and influence three significant aspects of people’s lives in a real way. That’s tremendously valuable to us.
I will say also we’re part of the church and about 60% of our church lives in this neighborhood, and we’re intentional about that. We want to be close to the people we serve. A huge part of this has been to bring glory and honor to Jesus Christ in everything we do. We came across so many roadblocks…we didn’t have any money to start with, and then we were out of money; we couldn't meet regulations and code so we had to beg for mercy; we were up against a wall and had to get to that point of taking a total stop, taking a breath, and then moving forward again.