Published on 6/9/2005
By Ben Ganje – Star Gazette Managing Editor
Dan Lynch hopes his renovation of two downtown buildings – which is one of the most ambitious in recent downtown history – will boost his beauty school business. Others hope his project, which is one of the most ambitious in recent memory, help revitalize the area. His $1.5 million project will move Hastings Beauty School, which he bought two years ago, about 50 feet east into the ground level of the Fitch and Gardner House buildings. It’s that 50 feet that Lynch said will send his business into the 21st century by creating a state-of-the-art school that will attract new students from around the southeast metro area. “My difficulty is that I’m in the beauty business and I have a facility that is not up to what we deem as industry standards,” he said. “Now, we’ll have a business that exceeds industry standards.”
The move was necessary because Lynch couldn’t buy the building he was in and couldn’t secure a long-term lease. He’s happy with the current course of events, though, he said. “I think the Gardner is the queen of the block down here,” he said. As long as he’s at it, Lynch is trying to enhance some of the historic character of the building, while creating a modern space that will attract new students and clients.
The pillars that epitomize the building, in dire need of refurbishing, will be replaced with pillars that the Hastings Historic Preservation Committee approved for a previous owner. The tin ceiling, too, will be restored and a featured part of the school’s reception area. Attention to historic detail is a good sign in a new building owner, according to Hastings Housing and Redevelopment Director John Grossman. “It looks like Dan Lynch is an owner who plans to be there for awhile and that’s good for the building,” Grossman said. “It’s good he’s interested in the building. “The porch and the pillars and the paint all need redoing. He has plans to do that.” Even those not attune to historic rehabilitation will notice the difference in the exterior of the Gardner House when Lynch is finished, however.
The pillars, now white, will be painted a deep, dark green, to reflect a likely color from 1885, when it was built. “That period was a time when deep, dark rich colors were used on commercial property,” Grossman said. Other downtown business owners are pleased with the renovations, as well. “I just think it’s terribly exciting,” said Laurel Cox, owner of Professor Java’s, a downtown coffee shop. “Dan’s going to bring that business into the current century, someplace that’s fun,” she said. Lynch said he wouldn’t be able to modernize his school without a good working relationship with Hastings’ city staff. He has mapped out an aggressive schedule – the project complete by July 1 and the school moved by July 5. Both he and a Crew Commercial representative, his general contractor, said that Grossman and building official Tom Bakken have been very helpful.
“I’m feeling nothing but support from the city,” Lynch said. Cosmetology is not new to downtown, Hastings Beauty School has operated out in the Mertz building since 1981, but the beauty business is new to the Gardner House. When it was built in 1885, the Gardner House was not a beauty school, it was a hotel. For much of its life span the building housed tenants. During that time, however, bankruptcies and turnover were common. Renovations are nothing new, either. During its first 15 years, the Gardner House – named after Hastings’ pioneering miller, Stephen Gardner – underwent several remodels. Lynch hopes his is different. His businesses success, he said, is linked to its location in Hastings. The school serves the southeast metro and many of the small towns in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
“Hastings is probably the best for us,” he said. “It gives the students a tremendous opportunity.” Lynch will continue to operate 11 apartments on the upper levels of both buildings. He plans to gradually upgrade those, as well. There are some, including the former owners, who wanted a hotel in the Gardner House, to reflect its original purpose. Lynch, for his part, is interested in creating a successful business in downtown Hastings. Right now, he’s in the beauty business, he said. Grossman said Lynch’s financial commitment to renovation in the area is the largest in recent memory and a good indication of stability. Cox said it’s nice to see someone taking care of the Gardner House. “He’s going to finish it,” she said. “Finally.”