Tenants have mixed feelings about renovation work

Wednesday, December 15, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:19 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 4, 2008

Tenants of the Atkins building have mixed feelings about plans to renovate the old factory. Most are excited about the pending changes, but one company feels it has been wronged.

The Atkins building, formerly the Hamilton-Brown shoe factory, has been used for years as an office and commercial building. Recent tenants include an eclectic mix, from a mandolin manufacturer and a recording studio to a janitorial supply company and a church.

Mike Dulak, owner of Mid-Missouri Mandolin Co., has rented space in the building for nine years. About a year ago, a friend who owned a guitar shop on the West Coast decided to move back to Columbia to set up shop with Dulak. The mandolin maker said that his friend joined him last spring on the top floor of the former factory with Scott Atkins’ blessing but that Atkins told them in July that they had to move.

“He said he’d move us into the basement, which has been storage for the past 30 years,” Dulak said.

After a dead-end search for a new location, Dulak decided to build his own in Rocheport. His shop now is divided among three locations in Columbia and another in Rocheport, a situation that he said stretches a 15-minute job into a four-hour affair.

Dulak said the experience “has been a nightmare beyond expectation.” Moving the mandolin factory has been much harder and more expensive than moving an office. He said that if he had only been informed of the renovation plans, his experience with the Atkins family wouldn’t be ending on bad terms.

“When he told me to go ahead and move the guitar shop, he had to have known what was coming,” Dulak said. “It’s pretty raw for them to tell me to move a guitar shop all the way across the country.”

Atkins declined to respond to Dulak’s comments.

Mid-Missouri Mandolin Co. employee Tom Giacchi said the situation is a shame.

“You couldn’t have really asked for a better place to work,” he said.

MU art students couldn’t agree more. Many had space just down the hall from the mandolin makers to create their artwork. The Atkins family provided the space free to MU. Student Curtis Erlinger said their “stay was wonderful, a true art loft space.”

Jean Brueggenjohann, chairwoman of the MU art department, said the students enjoyed the space while they had it but have since found another place to do their work.

Sydney Baumgartner of Sneezeguard Solutions supports the renovation.

“It’ll modernize us and give us a better workplace environment,” Baumgartner said. “I’m glad to see it happening.”

He said that although they’ll have to rearrange during renovations, the company won’t have to relocate.

Baumgartner cited no problem in his relationship with the Atkins family, saying, “Tom and Scott have been good in keeping us informed.”

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