Downtown building will become Clagetts' home and office

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Couple to relocate photography studio, live upstairs

By Marty Finley

An Elizabethtown couple has purchased the former Fitz’s Coffee Bistro building in downtown Elizabethtown and intends to renovate it for commercial and residential use.

Bill and Marnie Clagett plan to relocate their home photography studio, Clagett Photography, to the lower level of the building and will live upstairs once it is restored.

Marnie Clagett said they chose to invest in the property next to the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce because they are outgrowing studio space at their Michigan Avenue home.

Marnie said they have a desire to live and work downtown. She has enjoyed downtown living since she held a similar style of residence while attending college in the Chicago area.

Clagett said her family has around 6,500 feet to work with, divided equally between the two floors. One segment of the downstairs will house her studio, which includes an office and client meeting space as well as room to place orders and stage photo shoots. A work space also will be set aside for her husband, she said.

In doing so, they want to recreate the homey qualities their current studio has provided clients over the years.

“We want to keep that (cozy) feeling,” she said. “…It will technically still be our home.”

The Clagetts opened the business roughly four years ago after living in Louisville and California. Both grew up in Elizabethtown and moved closer to home so they could place their two children in a stable school system, she said.

Bill works for a software corporation but assists with the studio. Marnie described him as an “amazing photographer” who aids her with wedding shoots.

Before the space is usable, an extensive renovation is necessary, she said. Built in the late 1800s, the structure is basically gutted now and will need an overhaul inside, Marnie said.

“She’s old and she’s showing it,” she said.

The Clagetts plan to redevelop the exterior façade and restore it to its early 20th century look based on photographs they obtained. Asked about the cost of the restoration, she said they have sought several estimates across a wide scale but are unsure just now how much it will cost.

A builder the couple is working with told them the renovation could be turned around as quickly as four to six months. They hope to start work in a few weeks and she anticipates the studio space will be available before their new home is.

“If we’re in it by Christmas (2014), I’m going to be thrilled,” she said.

The Clagetts will have around 2,000 square feet available for lease downstairs for other small businesses.

“We’re keeping our options open right now,” she said. “Really, we are looking for something that’s a good fit for downtown.”

Their move to restore the property comes at a time of heightened interest in downtown Elizabethtown. The former Rider’s Traditional Clothing Store has leased its space to a handful of small businesses and local businessman Kevin Addington has moved to purchase the former Town & Country clothing store on Public Square, which will become the new home of the Heartland Whole Life Buying Club, a business that offers locally sourced foods.

Additionally, the Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame has pledged its commitment to the former First Presbyterian Church property adjacent to City Hall for development of its museum. The plan is to renovate the church and build a new complex onto it.

Marnie said she is excited to be a part of the revitalization at a time when groups and individuals are taking a gamble.

“People say, ‘oh, nothing is happening,’ but there’s really a lot going on right now,” she said. “It’s really neat to see.”

Mayor Edna Berger has been a vocal supporter of establishing upstairs apartments in downtown after living upstairs in the former Western Auto building for a few years. Berger said attracting downtown residents would provide the foot traffic needed for more businesses to invest in the older, vacant buildings.

‘I just think it’s wonderful to have people working downtown and living there,” she said.

Marty Finley can be reached at 270-505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.