A century-old structure in Kent’s South End will be renovated and put back to use thanks to the new Hometown Foundation, created by Hometown Bank.
The former Gugolz Brothers South End Market, located at 1001 Franklin Ave., was built in 1923 and operated by William “Bill” and August “Gus” Gugolz with the assistance of their mother, Barbara.
Its most recent owners, John and Susan Morrison, donated the building to the Kent Historical Society, which transferred it to the Hometown Foundation for renovation. Efforts are underway to transform the structure to one more suited for business applications than the residential rental it had become.
When the Hometown Foundation acquired the structure, removing two large pine trees outside and the interior partition walls made to form apartments were the first items of business. Now, as it was before, the structure is all one room, save for a modern restroom.
“We anticipate that whoever is going to buy it and put their business in there can put their own partition walls in it,” said Howard Boyle, chairperson of Hometown Bank’s board of directors and president of Kent’s three-year-old Hometown Foundation.
Kent’s Hometown Bank formed and supports the foundation, but does not control it, Boyle said.
Its mission is to purchase and renovate depressed properties that can be renovated and transformed into community assets. The foundation has nine trustees, three each from the bank, the city of Kent and the community.
Boyle envisions the former grocery store being used as a beauty parlor or barber shop, not as something that would attract massive foot traffic. Though there is parking on the street, the structure will only have two parking spots to call its own, he said.
“It’ll be a quiet use. The building will look very nice, and it will be fully up to code, and it will be a good asset for the [South End] Association,” he said.
Chairperson of the Historic South End Association, lifelong South End resident Doria Daniels also serves on the Hometown Foundation’s board of directors. She, too, is a fan of the foundation’s first project.
“Our purpose is to renovate the building to be a useful part of the Historic South End. It will be fun to watch it as the renovation proceeds. It benefits the neighborhood and the Kent community as an attraction for small business,” Daniels said.
A history lesson
Boyle, who is also one of Kent’s leading historians, said waves of Irish, Italian, Polish and eastern European immigrants flocked to Kent from the mid-1860s to about 1925, all of them seeking the city’s many railroad jobs.
In an Oct. 22, 2006, Portage Pathways article, then-Record-Courier editor Roger Di Paolo noted that, “Most of the immigrant community settled in the city’s South End, which offered affordable housing within walking distance of the railroads. Many settled in enclaves where they could speak their native tongues and maintain the customs of their homeland.”
Feeling decidedly unwelcome in the town’s other neighborhoods, Boyle said immigrants settled in the South End, where they set up a variety of South End businesses. Practically every block had its ethnic grocery store, usually a one-room affair that provided housewives with the items their families knew.
Boyle said most South End grocery stores were carved out of the front one or two rooms of a family’s home, and most only sold dry goods, as there was no electricity for refrigeration.
Gugolz was different. Built as a grocery store, it was opened in 1923 by the Gugolz brothers, whose family had immigrated from Switzerland. Though it was a one-room affair, it boasted a cooler and a large wooden butcher block.
A circa 1923 Kent Tribune newspaper ad touts “Gugolz Bros. South End Market, offering fresh meats, groceries, fruits, etc. Deliveries made on phone orders. Give us a trial. PHONE 56.”
Boyle grew up on South Water Street, just adjacent to the South End. He still remembers accompanying his mother to the neighborhood’s several ethnic grocery stores.
“I always loved going to Gugolz’. They had penny candies, and I got a little bag of candies that were typical of that era,” Boyle recalled.
Gugolz went out of business in the late 1950s or early 1960s, when Gus Gugolz passed on.
After he died, the building became a rental, once being used as an accounting office, Boyle said. Somewhere along the line, the structure was transformed into an apartment.
“My daughter learned to walk in that house,” former resident Mary Heeter said, recalling a small two-bedroom apartment with paneling everywhere and windows that were “up high and rectangular, like 7 x 32 inches.”
Heeter said she knew the building had once housed a business, but was too young to care at the time.
Kent resident Donna Craver-Dean remembers visiting friends who rented the structure in the 1980s.
“We called it The Fort because it looked more like a fort than a residence. Nice to see that it will be restored. It had fallen into disrepair,” she said.