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County plans to use basement of antique mall building for permanent record storage

Cary Ashby • Aug 18, 2017 at 10:00 AM

The Northern Ohio Antique Mall has a front-door sign declaring it is closing Aug. 31.

Earlier, the business at 22 E. Main St. had announced it was going out of business. Mary Anne Claus, who runs the shop, had said she was “looking at another storefront down the street” which she had been eyeing for a while and planned to sign a lease. 

“This is a thriving business and when we said we were closing, many of our customers were very, very upset,” Claus said.

The antique mall is in a building owned by Huron County. In 2015, when the Northern Ohio Antique Mall was run by rural Monroeville resident Tom Jarrett and celebrating its third anniversary, there were 40 vendors and occupied 11,000 square feet. 

“In 2004, the county purchased the building in a sheriff’s sale. That was the very end of my term,” said Huron County Commissioner Terry Boose, referring to his first time as a commissioner.

“I remember what the deal was that … if it went very cheaply, it made sense for us to buy the building to complete the block,” Boose added. “We had no specific intention when we bought the building. The price was right.”

The remainder of the block houses the offices for the county auditor, prosecutor, recorder, treasurer and adult probation. 

The commissioners plan to use the basement of the antique mall for permanent record storage and have added a sprinkler system in case of a fire.

“Right now we are fixing up the basement. It’s never had any water in the 14 years we’ve owned the building,” Boose said. “We have records everywhere. What we’re trying to do is an organized record retention.”

Commissioner Joe Hintz said the county has checked the humidity in the basement and even with dehumidifiers, “it’s well within (the) standard” to store records.

“The previous tenant, Tom Jarrett, utilized the basement. This next tenant did not, so that opened it up for us to a find a use for it,” Hintz added.

Claus has said the building is costly and wasn’t receiving the proper maintenance. She also said she was moving the antique mall not for business-related reasons, but due to issues with the building.

“I kind of call the county commissioners slum lords,” Claus said.

In May, Claus approached the commissioners about her lease being up June 30.

“She wanted to execute her early out-clause,” said Huron County Assistant Prosecutor Randy Strickler, who serves as the commissioners’ legal counsel.

Boose said Claus “asked us if we couldn’t extend that a few months to give her time to either sell her business or sell part of what was inside.” Claus and the commissioners agreed on September and Boose said Claus could take her time.

“In the meantime in the last couple months we had a couple issues. The water bill skyrocketed. We had the city of Norwalk go in and look; they couldn’t find anything,” Boose said.

“There was no visible signs of a leak,” Hintz added. “She felt she had it narrowed down to the toilet in the women’s bathroom, so we what we did was we completely rebuilt the toilet. We couldn’t see anything (leaking), but we were trying to appease (her).”

Boose clarified that the county rebuilt both toilets.

“She’s still not happy with that, as I understand. She still thinks there’s a problem,” he said.

The commissioners were asked what the county’s plan is for the space where the antique mall is.

“We are open to anybody (who) who would like to come find us to see if they want to rent it. If somebody wants to buy the building and the price is right — who knows,” Boose said.

“We’re not going to give the building away, but if somebody makes the right offer, we can always entertain selling it,” he added. “Right now the plan is to rent it.”

Hintz addressed the two air-conditioning units, which have been an issue.

“One unit went bad. We tried to find parts for it, but we found out that’s not feasible. You’re going to have to replace the unit,” he said.

The county will need to use a crane to replace the bad unit. The commissioners suggested Claus use one of the air conditioners during the evening to cool off the building.

“Apparently she didn’t want to do that. She was concerned about the electricity (bill),” Hintz said. “If you’re running two units during the day versus one unit twice as long, there’s no more consumption of electricity.”

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