Charles Bubbers, the owner of the former Bubbers Jewelry store, walked into the recently renovated space where he spent years selling jewelry — leaning next to the shiny black grand piano with tears planted on his cheeks, he proudly took in the transformation. New owners Jay Howard and Clare and Joshua O’Brien restored “his” stone building at 115 East Main Street in Caledonia to its grandeur self.
The new owners undertook the arduous task of renovating the building and creating a welcoming space destined to become The Caledonia Gallery.
Caledonia’s newest retail space opened last fall, and visitors are in for a pleasant surprise.
Expanding on the information shared by Howard, a story in the Fall 2022 issue of The Business Lead, the two-story stone building was built by James J. Belden not long after the Civil War ended in 1865. Belden built the building on Main Street for his tinsmith business. His workbench was in the basement, and the first floor was a hardware store that sold heating and kitchen stoves, tinware, and hardware. The second floor was living quarters. The first floor is once again retail space, and the O’Briens plan to live upstairs.
Augedahl Construction & Cabinetry, Caledonia, is responsible for the restoration. Howard added, “Charles Bubbers is the father-in-law of Chad Augedahl, who owns Augedahl Construction.”
“Augedahls did a meticulous job. There was much more care in their work and restoration. They went the extra mile,” shared Howard. “They had a personal tie, an emotional tie.”
Why Caledonia? It was the infamous rural midwestern wave that sealed the deal for Howard. When visiting Caledonia, he noticed that Caledonians eagerly wave to each other when driving around town.
Why an art gallery? Howard said, “It screamed art gallery when I walked in.”
When you walk in the front door, you will pause and stop to say, “Wow.” Visitors will immediately notice the massive wooden conference table in the center of the main room and the beautiful art lining the limestone walls, thus, creating an environment that is not intimidating. Then this friendly, energetic man emerges in a flannel shirt and blue jeans to welcome visitors and immediately captivates visitors with his stories.
Howard pointed out the bronze cowboy figure that graces the front of the Gallery. The original statue, The Bronco Buster, by American artist Frederic Remington sat in the Oval Office until the Biden Administration. The cast sitting in The Caledonia Gallery has its own unique story. In 1981 President Reagan was asked to do a fundraiser for St. Jude Hospital. Ten statues were purchased and placed in the Oval Office for 24 hours. Reagan signed them on the bottom with a silver pen. Howard purchased one of them at auction.
The addition, at the back of the stone building was removed and replaced, adding another space for hanging artwork. The visitor’s eyes are drawn to the massive chandelier in the center of the room. Other features in the room include the leather furniture, which is rumored to have belonged to John Wayne. Windows located at the top of the walls provide natural lighting, minimizing the effects of the sun on the artwork.
Local artists within a 50-mile radius of Caledonia are represented in the Gallery. Howard proudly added that the Gallery has more original art from females than male artists.
Howard noted that instead of taking a commission off the artist’s price, he added his cut above, ensuring that the artist gets their full price as if they sold it at a show. As a result, the prices at the Gallery are very competitive.
When asked how many people the Gallery employs, the surprising response was, “Every artist is the gallery’s employee.”
Howard added that they are now renting out the Gallery for meetings of at most, 20 people.
Howard did not commit, but the owners are talking about turning the basement into a wine cellar and tasting room. The cellar would make a wonderful place to hold a meeting.
Regarding the sale of jewelry, the Gallery possibly will consign estate jewelry.
The building has come full circle.
Howard thanks the City of Caledonia, Houston County, and the community for their support.
Stop by and visit the Gallery, Tuesday through Saturday, from 1-4 p.m. or by appointment. The Gallery is closed on Sunday and Monday. Howard can be reached at (541) 913-1475 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow The Caledonia Gallery on Facebook and visit their website at caledoniagallery.com.
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