A soon coming retail space with newly poured concrete off Fourth Avenue is just one of many changes at the old Don Smith’s property. Submitted photo.
Progress on renovations at the old Don Smith’s building on Fourth and Broadway

Family shares journey since buying building in the fall of 2020

To All Whom it Concerns, We believe Don Smiths holds a special place in our communities’ hearts. Constructed after the Great Fire of 1906 as a replacement for the old company store, the bricks that were laid are as strong now as they were over one hundred years ago. While driving down main street in the turmoil of 2020 the Sytsevich family passed the Don Smith building that had been laying dormant for over seven years. We noticed a sign for the auction and began our journey renovating the building as soon as we won the bid. We were overwhelmed with excitement and quickly saw that if we invested in the building it would play a vital role in shaping our community in a new and exciting way. We knew that because we would receive many inquiries over the months spent managing the building. Some people passing along the sidewalk would stop and ask us, “What are your plans for the building?” We would simply say that the building is being renovated and give a few details. I also felt that it gave the community some hope. Many people have told us their experience in the past shopping at the Don Smith’s store in their heyday. They would almost always give us praise and mention that they are happy seeing the building being used once more.

The building has been a physical and financial challenge for our family. We are the type of people that love to work with our hands and use all resources in renewing the building and have done so for nearly three years. One of the challenges we faced was finding red clay brick needed to repair some of the exterior walls. We eventually found the brick we needed in Medford. Most of our work is done on the weekend when Sergey is not trucking. We popped our two young children in their car seats and drove to Medford. We loaded the bricks by hand. Our kids even helped carry a few bricks. It took four trips driving two trucks to load everything we needed up because we have no trailer to pick up supplies. We knew that this brick was essential to repairing the exterior walls so we were grateful that it was located nearby.

Another very crucial goal of ours was to fill in an area of the building that was void of any floor at all. In fact, the beams and supports for the floor were torn out and all that was left was a hole the size of an Olympic size swimming pool. The hole was deep and had an unexplainably unusual smell. Of all the items that we felt needed repair, the “pit” as we so lovingly dubbed it had to be filled. It was almost comical when we would order dirt to fill in the pit. We had no idea that it would take twenty-six truck loads of dirt to fill in the large hole, but every spare minute for nearly a year we were ordering dirt. Some of the challenges associated with filling the pit was demolishing a large freezer attached to the front of the building and drilling of the thick concrete and steel deck that existed along the perimeter. We also purchased a skid steer for moving, leveling and compacting the dirt. Sergey would sometimes put one of the kids on his lap while driving the skid steer. Playing king of the hill was a favorite game to play from time to time and coming home covered in dirt was a norm. We were reluctant to finish and after compounding and leveling all the dirt we were able to have over 4,000 square feet of concrete floor laid. I also believe that preparing that space empowered us to work even harder on our next challenge.

We really needed to get outside our comfort zones. We had a huge 36,000 square foot building. We thought to ourselves many times, “What is next?” “What should we do?” so we gave renting out the space a try. Advertising was foreign to us, but we put it out there. Meanwhile, we decided to hire an architect to draw up some plans for a storage area. Luckily, our architect is an expert in his field. He drew up the plan and we got on it as soon as we could. We were not all lucky in our adventures though. We have had some items stolen while the building was under construction. One of the windows had been broken. We have also made a deal with a local painting company that might have just run off with our money. All in all, we take things with a grain of salt. We are nearly completed with the storage area portion of the building. I have a relative constructing a metal exit staircase for the rear exit door. I have installed new LED lighting all though out the storage area. The walls have been constructed and roll up doors hung. The drywall was installed, sanded and painted. The electrical still needs work, but we recently got internet and that made it possible to have security cameras. In fact, we decided to have the whole building wired to have internet access because we are confident that the building will be open and available to the public soon. Our goal is to open the storage area in 2023. We know that there is a big need for residents to have storage that is easily accessible to them here in Stanley. Our storage units are very spacious and secure.

We haven’t stopped planning for the future. There has been interest in another part of the Don Smith building that has been in disrepair for as long as I know. We have taken that 1500 square foot area that once was a grain bin and shaped it into a rental space. All the existing wood flooring was removed board by board, and the structure was completely opened up. We installed a large beam to support the roof after another concrete floor was laid. The windows have been ordered for the new area that is to become a retail shop. Wood frames for the windows have been completed just last week. Unfortunately, the project as slowed down due to our semitruck that broke down and has been in the repair shop over a week. We have been looking for new ways to keep funding the project even resorting to selling equipment we no longer need. I just know that if the residents of Stanley knew how much effort we put into the building that they would help us to keep restoring the Don Smith’s building. I am giving it all up to God. He knows what is in my heart and what is best. As for the building it has a bright future ahead.

Our future plans for the building might have only been a dream in the beginning, but it will soon become a reality. I am writing with happy tears that we are closer than ever to give the community a beautiful venue in which they can share with others the most memorable events in their lives. We have yet to start on the most rewarding project of all. Inside the building is another 10,000 square foot area of beautiful rustic hardwood flooring. The ceilings are immense and large columns line the middle of a very large space that we feel would be a great gathering place for large groups of people. Weddings, birthdays, baby showers, family reunions, and more could all be celebrated in sophisticated style. We would love to give people a beautiful timeless venue to celebrate and be with their special loved ones. I will have a special feeling of pride when we do open the new venue. It would feel so good to have been a part of someone’s special day.

We have not forgotten the windows on the second story. The empty windows tell the story that there has been no use for the building for far too long. We would love to have new windows and received a quote to purchase them, but the bill was quite substantial. In order to fit the brick window frame that would be a custom order for twenty-five windows. Eventually, we will fulfill all the repairs for the building. We enjoy planning and preparing the space despite the setbacks. We look forward to what our building will do for the community, and who’s lives we will be touching. I also believe that if you give kindness; kindness will be returned. We are asking if anyone is willing or able to donate to us to visit our Sytech 4th Avenue Facebook page and donate to our go fund me campaign. #sytech4thavenue #donsmithproject With Love, The Sytsevich Family

One of two hallways in a storage unit area at the old Don Smith’s. Submitted photo.

The Sytsevich family in early 2022. Submitted photo.

January 4, 2023