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Good foundation... The building at the southwest corner of Kenmare's downtown square is more than 100 years old, but new owner Andre Wright said the sturcture's solid foundation convinced him to invest in the property. Wright plans to rent the second-story apartments he is now renovating and perhaps re-open a restaurant at street level.
By Caroline Downs
Andre Wright, the new owner of the former Choo-Choo Cafe building on Kenmare’s south side square, isn’t afraid to tackle a big project.
“As long as the foundation is good, everything else is cosmetic,” he said as he stood among the piles of plumbing, electrical, and flooring supplies now filling the cafe.
Wright, originally from Jamaica, is a resident of New Jersey with 16 years spent in the real estate business in that state. “On the side, I did rehab jobs like this for myself,” he said.
He glanced around at the wires and plumbing lines now exposed in the cafe. “I’ve done worse jobs than this,” he added.
Wright started the rehabilitation work during the first week of October. “It’s an old building,” he conceded, “and a big project, but we’re doing it in stages, starting with the three apartments upstairs.”
Basically, he has stripped the apartments and replaced everything. “It’s plumbing, it’s sheetrock, it’s flooring,” he said, then shrugged. “It’s a matter of updating what needs to be updated.”
Along the way, he’s discovered plumbing surprises that have required major repairs, including removing a portion of the concrete floor in the cafe’s kitchen to gain access to the sewer drain, but Wright takes it all in stride. “Being from Jamaica, you have to learn to help yourself,” he said. “You come up to a problem and you have to step back and figure out how to fix it.”