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WAKE FOREST — Since 1897, The Corner has always been, well, on the corner, there where North Avenue meets North Main Street.
J.D. Powers first opened the Victorian-era building as a dry goods store. Over the next century it had lives as a pharmacy, restaurant, fraternity house and bookstore. Most people in Wake Forest today probably know it as The Corner Ice Cream Shop, operated by Kathaleen Chandley and her business partner Ruth for nearly three decades.
The ice cream store closed in 2007 and the building, left in a state of disarray, was sold to Marty and Debbie Ludas. For the last 12 years the downstairs has sat empty.
This weekend, it will reopen as an event venue called The Corner of Wake Forest. A grand opening and Christmas Celebration on Saturday will feature paintings from local artist Billy Farmer.
“We didn’t want to get into the restaurant business,” Marty Ludas said. “We didn’t want to sell coffee. We didn’t want to be an ice cream shop. I really felt like the building had more ambition.”
Ludas said when he bought the building, the glass was literally falling out of the window panes. The Victorian features and antique embellishments had been covered up by decades of modernizing and refurbishing.
Ludas invested heavily to restore the 122-year-old building to is original beauty, taking painstaking steps to use original or period materials to finish the interior, he said. He stripped away five layers of flooring to find the original hardwood floor in good condition and he repaired the windows pane by pane. Ludas now displays wallpaper and furniture that have been in The Corner for almost a century.
An acquaintance, B.H. Powell, donated dark wood paneling salvaged from an old farmhouse near Mebane. That wood now lines the walls around the 3,000-square-foot downstairs rooms, including the halls and bathrooms. The building also has new HVAC systems, electrical wiring and piping hidden behind those panels to make the place safer.
Ludas said he feels a responsibility for preserving the history of the building, which lies in the town’s historic district. He has registered the property with the National Register of Historic Places and with Wake County as a landmark.
“I know people have fond memories of The Corner Ice Cream Shop and I want people to know that they can keep them,” Ludas said. “But it is my goal and my wife’s goal that they will have new and even better memories here in the future. This place is beloved. It is a landmark now but in the hearts of people it is a sacred place, a special place.”
The building’s upstairs has been refurbished for a few years and now holds office space which Ludas rents out to local businesses.
The Corner is available to rent for private events, including weddings, anniversaries and company gatherings. Ludas said he and his wife will sponsor free community events from time to time as well.
A ribbon-cutting for The Corner of Wake Forest will be held today.
Saturday’s event will feature more than 60 original art pieces by Billy Farmer with original works and reprints for sale. The event will also include two lives Christmas programs and refreshments.
It will take place 12-5 p.m. at The Corner, 102 North Ave., Wake Forest.
For more information, contact Marty Ludas at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-671-3024.