Business gives old house new life

John Eikenberry, left to right, talks with Tony Bornhorst and Tom Burns during a Sidney/Shelby County Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours event at Eikenberry Retirement Planning recently. Eikenberry hosted it to give chamber members the chance to see his new offices.

SIDNEY — When John Eikenberry, president and CEO of Eikenberry Retirement Planning, realized he need more office space than he had, he asked one of his clients, a realtor, to help find a new location.

“He came to me and said, ‘I have a place you should look at,’” Eikenberry said recently.

The place was not at all what he had expected it would be. The historic brick house on the corner of Russell Road and St. Marys Avenue wasn’t zoned for business. It had been a stately private home until five years ago, when it was put up for sale.

“It was in very good shape,” Eikenberry said. “The owners had kept up the landscaping.”

Eikenberry had opened his business in offices at 204 S. Ohio Avenue with 725 square feet of space. In 2000, he moved operations to 827 St. Marys Ave., where there were 1,700 square feet of space.

The house at 1441 St. Marys Ave. would give him 3,027 square feet in which to expand the firm.

Current associates Nick Boeckman, associate financial adviser; Sharon Eikenberry, part-time bookkeeper; Heidi Meyer, administrative assistant and social media manager, and Marsha Jones, administrative assistant-insurance, may be joined by another adviser within the next year or two.

But there were other reasons the property was attractive to Eikenberry.

“Everybody in Sidney and Shelby County knows this house. When you say, ‘brick house on corner of St Marys and Russell Road,’ they know this property. And it’s highly visible,” he said.

Once he had zoning approval, he turned to general contractor Tom Westerheide to make the house, which was constructed in the 1890s, into a 21st-century office.

“We had to figure out the layout and flow that we wanted in our office,” Eikenberry said. “We wanted to maintain the integrity of the property as it was.”

While most of the staff offices would be upstairs, the staff should meet clients downstairs, it was decided. A sun room and parlor became conference rooms. Eikenberry chose a front room for his office. Right off the entryway with its staircase and carved banister, the room was accessed through a wide arch.

“What are we going to do with this arch?” he wondered. A friend suggested installing a glass wall there. It necessitated framing from the top down. They walled up another door that had led to the back of the house.

The main entry to the office complex is now near the back of the house, on the south side of the building. A parking area and wheelchair ramp were were added. Off the reception area, contractors expanded a small bathroom to make it ADA compliant.

Everyone agreed that beautiful, original, wide-plank, hardwood floors should not be changed.

Eikenberry’s wife, Sharon, and Marge Schell handled the interior decoration.

“They spent over 1,000 hours figuring out color schemes,” Eikenberry said. Sharon, the director of the Sidney Dance Company, and Schell, who had costumed some 50 productions with her, approached the project as they would have a stage set.

“We wanted to keep the architecture of the house, but bring it up to date,” Sharon said. “That was a challenge. For instance, if you went to get regular curtains, they would cover up all this beautiful woodwork.”

Schell designed blinds to fit inside the window frames and handmade drapes to hang inside the frames, as well. The two searched for area rugs that would expose the wood floors and tie the historic feel of the house to its modern furnishings. The perfect carpet for a conference room is a gray with muted purple and gold swirls. Pumpkin-colored chairs top it.

Sharon and Schell worked to have colors blend from one area to the next.

“If you’re sitting in the media room and looking at the hallway, you don’t want to see something jarring,” Sharon said. “I wanted the (hallway) to blend into (John’s) office. So the gray in the hallway goes into this room and (the conference room).”

Besides the structural and decorative work that had to be done, the house had to be brought into the 21st century in terms of technology. WiFi for computers, lines for telephones, updated electrical wiring and new lighting fixtures were installed.

“We have a much improved security system, much improved confidentiality. That’s extremely important to us,” Eikenberry said.

Also important was the decision to use local contractors, people, he said, he knew would “do it right.”

“We knew there were a lot of possibilities, but we didn’t know what it would really look like,” Eikenberry said. “We’re very proud of it. We want to keep it the highest standard we can on this corner. It’s a very homey office with a lot of character.”

The staff moved in on Dec. 17, but work is ongoing upstairs and outside.

Landscaper Steve Whittenberger, of Garden of Eden, has designed the grounds. Plans call for the addition of a fountain element in the future.

The location has proved beneficial for Eikenberry’s business.

“There has been a lot more awareness of us. We’ve had a lot more people call us who want to talk to us about retirment planning,” he said.

To contact him, call 498-1128.