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Preserving history

The brick arches at Lifestyles Furnishings are being restored

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Aaron Tighe, manager of Lifestyles Furnishings, left, stands alongside Dave Madsen, owner of the business. The building, located at 611 Central Ave., has undergone extensive renovations in recent months.

The revitalization of historic downtown buildings in Fort Dodge has continued along Central Avenue, near City Square Park.

Lifestyles Furnishings, owned by Dave Madsen and managed by Aaron Tighe, has undergone extensive renovations to its arched facade on the north side of the structure, and now has a redesigned storefront on the west side.

The renovations of the spacious furniture store is an example of efforts by business owners, city officials, and Main Street Fort Dodge to maintain historic integrity, while creating a modern look for some of Fort Dodge’s aging structures.

The store, located at 611 Central Ave., has been owned by Madsen since 2000.

While upgrading the building in 2018, Madsen and Tighe made a surprising discovery.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Dave Madsen, owner of Lifestyles Furnishings, right, and Aaron Tighe, manager of the furniture store, admire the recently updated brick arches of the building.

Underneath the facade on the north side and covered in old paint, was brick, original to the building, according to Madsen.

“We were going to redo the front of this in more of a contemporary style and once we exposed the arches and the city saw it, they wouldn’t let us to much more than take it back to its historical look,” Madsen said. “It turned out beautiful and we are really glad we did.”

Maggie Murray, the senior Fort Dodge city planner, believes the brick dates to the late 1800s.

She said the city has some photos from the early 1900s that show the brick arches.

“This was fun to see from a historic preservation standpoint,” Murray said. “It looks very close to what it did then.”

The brick was exposed in September of 2018.

Madsen said had previously noticed some of the brick when work was done to the ceiling.

“But it was all filled in with insulation and boards, so we didn’t really realize it was there until we tore the front off,” Madsen said. “Jerry Diamond didn’t know it was here either and he owned the building before me.”

Main Street Fort Dodge was already working with Madsen on rehabilitating the west side of his building, but plans for the structure changed when the bricks emerged, according to Kris Patrick, the Main Street Fort Dodge director.

Patrick and Madsen used the services Tim Reinders, a Main Street design specialist at Iowa Economic Development Authority.

Reinders used old photos to help come up with a design for the north side of the building.

“We are really lucky that Main Street Iowa has the free design services,” Patrick said.

She said it’s not the first time Fort Dodge has benefited.

“We have used those 24 times in the last 18 months,” Patrick said Wednesday. “Twelve building designs that have been returned to us. We have 9 other designs being done as we speak and are hoping to get those designs back from Main Street Iowa in the next few weeks. Being able to have their knowledge of historic preservation standards is valuable. It shows the unique character of what we have in Fort Dodge, while bringing some modern aspects with different windows or more energy efficiency.”

She added, “We are wanting to make the downtown a destination. We know that when a building looks attractive, it’s much easier to have someone come in and lease that space.”

Forgivable Facade Loans were used in the restoration of the brick arch, Patrick said.

Tighe said he is pleased to see the trend of downtown improvements.

“We hear enough complaints about the downtown district about people not maintaining their buildings or brick falling off of buildings and we wanted to invest in the downtown and promote a better future for our business and maybe jumpstart other businesses who want to improve the look of their building.”

He added. “Edward Jones has a nice look to the their building — several others around the square. It’s really starting to take shape.”

Tighe, who has been part of the Lifestyles team for more than five years, said it’s a good feeling to be part of the transformation.

“While some businesses are quick to be down on the downtown region, we have wanted to put our foot down and say there is good potential here,” Tighe said.

Madsen, a former route salesman for Pepsi, started in the furniture business almost 30 years ago from the basement of his Fort Dodge home on Loomis Avenue.

“At that time it was Oak Hill Furniture,” he said. “We ran it 12 years before the oak went out of favor. We then changed to David’s Home Furnishings.”

Then three years ago, Madsen changed the name of the business to its current name — Lifestyles Furnishings.

The building has about 20,000 square feet of space for showroom space, Madsen said.

Lifestyles Furnishings sells living room, dining room, bedroom, and office furniture.

“We do quite a bit in Amish furniture,” Madsen said. “Amish furniture has a stigma about it that it’s old and country, but Amish has a lot of cool, contemporary pieces as well.”

The store also has a wide mattress inventory, Tighe said.

Madsen said most of the store’s upholstery comes from southern states like Tennessee and Mississippi.

He said a majority of the bedding product comes from the Midwest.

“We are about 80 percent domestic versus 20 percent import,” Madsen said. “Thinking about tariffs, that makes the domestic stuff cheaper.”

Madsen said the Lifestyles Furnishings offers moving services.

“We started a moving business about two years ago,” Madsen said. “It has been growing pretty rapidly. Since we are good at what we do, people call us for moving too. We already have the equipment and people.”

The store employs about five people, including Madsen and Tighe.

Madsen said he’s looking forward to the reconstruction of his building coming to a close.

“We kind of had a mess in here for 10 months,” he said. “People weren’t sure what was going on. Within the next month we should be done.”