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Preservation Profile: Gambles

Gary Schmitt, owner of Gambles in Wabasha, MN, has won the Heritage Preservation Award for Incremental Investments to his building on Main Street. His father, James Schmitt, and Gary had to make a decision in 2007 when the roof of the hardware store was condemned. "We're gonna fix her!", was the mindset of the father/son team. The property first appears on the 1955 "Wabashaw" abstract. The existing building structure was built in 1913, then sold to Universal Motor Co. in 1921. It was at first a Chevrolet garage, then Ford garage in 1925. Gary estimates in the 1920's the rear of the building received a new stone addition.

In 1953, the Schmitts purchased the hardware store. In 1965, due to crumbling stone on the front facade and an elevated top treatment (which collected heavy snow loads behind it) brought the first restoration project. James replaced the original store front. The new Mid-Century brick facade has become significant over time as an important part of the downtown Historic District. James and Gary even rebuilt original lighting fixtures using 1945-46 ballasts. They remain in the store today, along with the original car pits. Extensive stone repair and window replacement was done in the read after a

garbage truck struck it in the 1990's. In 2007, the roof, which had no interior supports, was rebuilt for the Schmitts by local contractor Jim Roemer. Most recently the steel plate holding up the front brick was deteriorating. This created a safety issue threatening the support of the brick and large plate glass windows on the front facade. Contractor Jeff Roemer (Jim's son) did an ambitious restoration with Gary with the same "We're gonna fix her!" attitude of his late father, James.

Through 2 generations, including decades of downtown building ownership, with thoughtful design and repair the Schmitt family has maintained the integrity of a now Mid-Century gem in the Wabasha Historic District. The Wabasha HPC and City of Wabasha recognized Gary at a recent award ceremony. Gary Schmitt and Gambles received a Minnesota Preservation Award at the 2018 Preservation Alliance of Minnesota Benefit Gala.


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