Casual visitors to Minden may suspect they have time-traveled to the 1920s.
On Esmeralda Avenue, scaffolding has popped up outside the C.O.D. Garage. Workers at the Farmers Bank building carefully cart out artifacts from the 95-year-old landmark’s days as a bustling bank.
In Minden today, everything old seems new again.
The bank building is a project of Minden businessman Christopher Bently to restore and convert the venerable Frederic DeLongchamps structure into headquarters for Bently Enterprises.
Down the block, casino owner Scott Tate is turning the old automotive garage into a new casino.
It’s a welcome renaissance for Tumblewind owner Roxanne Stangle, who has worked on Esmeralda Avenue for more than 40 years.
She also is a member of the Minden Town Board.
Stangle and the other Esmeralda entrepreneurs between Fifth and Third streets have been holding their own, navigating the rocky waters of being a small business in a community that has been hit by the recession.
“I am excited about the prospect of extra people down here,” Stangle said. “And I am excited to see these big, beautiful buildings being put to use.”
She has a personal interest in progress at the bank.
“I watched all the stuff being removed from the Farmers building, and I said (to the workers), ‘My mom worked as a teller at that window, and Bev Tietje worked at that one.’”
Bently is committed to restoring the 10,000-square-foot building to its 1920s glory, and using as much of the original features as he can — from the marble flooring to the gold leaf on the 20-foot-plus ceiling in the main entry.
Bently is working with the same architect and design firm he used for the renovation of the 250,000-square-foot U.S. Federal Reserve Building in San Francisco, now known as The Bently Reserve.
“I have a passion for old banks,” he said in a recent interview. “What I love is working with an architect who will take my vision, put it on paper, make it a reality and keep improving it.”
Bently became familiar with the building as a child. His father, Minden inventor Don Bently, purchased the building with principals of the Brooke and Shaw law firm.
He bought it back in March.
“It’s been well-maintained,” he said.
The building was used as a bank from 1918 to 1968.
Bently hopes to complete the renovation by April 2014, and relocate 30 employees of Bently Enterprises.
Conversation drops to almost a reverential whisper as Bently escorts visitors through the building.
“(The architecture) is what drew me to the building to begin with,” he said. “Everything is being removed very carefully and reassembled.”
A pile of lumber was stacked up on the second floor against an exposed brick wall.
“We’re committed to recycling everything from the lumber to the nails,” Bently said. “The wood that can’t be used in the building will be chipped and spread on Bently agriculture holdings.”
He is renovating the building to LEED platinum standards.
LEED stands for “leadership in energy and environmental design,” and reflects his oft-stated commitment to environmental responsibility and resource efficiency.
Building projects earn LEED points for satisfying specific “green” building criteria within categories including sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere materials and resources and indoor environmental quality. An additional category — innovation in design — addresses sustainable building expertise as well as design measures not covered under the five environmental categories.
To earn platinum certification, a project must score a minimum of 80 out of 100 points.
It’s how Bently does all his projects.
He declined to disclose how much he was spending on the project, only to say “whatever it takes.”
The Farmers building is the first in Bently’s plans for Minden. Recently, he announced plans for Nevada Heritage, the restoration and conversion of the old Minden creamery, flour milling building and silos into a craft distillery.
Bently said he is already interviewing “some amazing candidates” for master distiller for the project which is at least two years out.
“It makes me very happy to create some excitement in Minden. This serves that purpose, and it’s fun,” he said.
His office will be tucked in a corner on the second floor of the Farmers Bank.
“I only need room for a desk and my laptop,” he said.
Bently said he is impressed with the official welcome he has received.
“Everyone is so excited, asking ‘What can we do to help?’ That’s not usually the reaction you get from government,” he said.
Stangle said the renovations appeal to her as a business owner, town official and resident of Minden.
“I think it’s wonderful for the town of Minden and the businesses — anything that creates traffic down here. We want to see things repurposed and not torn down.”
She’s looking forward to renewing her acquaintance with Bently.
“When he was a very little boy — and I was working at the Town & Country (Minden’s general store) we had a little children’s area set up, and I would read stories to him while his mother shopped,” Stangle recalled.
Bently believes his father would be pleased with his son’s efforts.
Businessman Don Bently died a year ago at age 87.
“I suppose he would like it,” he said. “I get a lot of my passion for real estate through my dad, and passion for doing things the right way.”