New business sets up in old Eureka factory

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Posted: Thursday, July 13, 2017 1:05 pm

Long ago, around the turn of the 20th century, a successful canning factory opened in the small town of Eureka. Roger Dickinson bought the cannery in 1898. Dickinson and Company operated it until Libby, McNeill, and Libby Company purchased it in 1929. Back then, the Libby’s canning industry thrived in the small Woodford County town, and over the years, Eureka became the self-proclaimed “Pumpkin Capitol of the World”.

The town lost that title when the factory closed its doors in 1960 and business moved to Libby’s more modern facility in Morton. Year after year, the once bustling factory just a block east of the Woodford County Courthouse became a little more deserted, a little more dilapidated. A couple of businesses set up shop for a time in one of the cannery buildings on Bullock Street, and once in a while, the crumbling edifice would catch the eye of a photographer looking for a rustic backdrop for a perfect picture. Mostly, though, the forgotten structure was nothing more than an eyesore. Until now.

Two years ago, Brandon and Amy Knapp, owners of Knapp Tile & Flooring, Inc., bought the Bullock Street building with the plans of leasing it out to other businesses. The Skirt Outlet recently moved there in March. Then, because they needed some storage space and they have a deep appreciation for old buildings and a pull to the old cannery, the Knapp’s decided to purchase the property at 201 N. Major Street about a year ago. It didn’t take them long to realize the gem they had stumbled upon.

“This place is way too cool for storage,” said Brandon. It was a lot bigger than what they needed for their storage, too, so the couple started brainstorming. “We wanted to do something with this space, but we didn’t know what,” said Amy. “We kept tossing around a bunch of ideas.”

Amy said they had people ask to use it for photo shoots, but it wasn’t until someone came to her wanting to use it for a pop-up wedding, that her idea of a using it as a warehouse wedding reception and event venue really came to life. The Knapp’s now had a plan, and they started putting it into action in mid-April.

First on the list, fixing a building that had fallen into a sad state of disrepair. “It was a shell,” Brandon described. “A rundown shell.”

The couple had to replace a lot of the roof, and do a lot of brickwork. Brandon is the general contractor of the project, but subs out a lot of the labor, such as the dry walling, electrical and plumbing. He calls it his side project and hobby, and since he runs his store a few blocks away on Main Street, he can only put in a few hours at night, and then more on the weekends.

Keeping with the history of the property, the couple decided to simply call it “The Cannery”. In the end, it will be an event center big enough to hold 250 people, complete with a fireplace, a caterer’s kitchen, and a bar area. That’s just phase one. Phase two, which the couple hopes to start next spring, will include a covered patio area in the front and huge deck that will lead to a courtyard in the back. The interior mechanics of the property will be new, but the couple said they don’t want to modernize the look too much.

“We’ll have chandeliers, and the old warehouse lights, but we’re gonna keep this as raw as possible for them (whoever rents the space) to decorate it how they want,” said Amy.

There are also old fixtures, such as original doors, to use as props and photography backdrops. Amy said The Cannery will really target those Pinterest brides who are planning rustic weddings. But, the space is not limited to just weddings and receptions.

“We can do anything here, as far as birthday parties, anniversary parties,” said Brandon. “We’ve had tons of interest in quite a few areas.”

It’s a huge undertaking for the Knapp’s, but so far it’s a labor of love. “We’re a little crazy, a little bit dreamers,” said Amy, as she looked at her husband. “But if it doesn’t work out, we’ll…”

“We’ll live here,” they said in unison, with a laugh. But they probably won’t have to plan on moving in anytime soon.

Since word got out about what the Knapp’s were doing with the old ramshackle building, they have received calls on it every week. So far, they have quite a few bookings. They’re working under a deadline now. The Cannery’s first event, a class reunion, is set for September 16. They hope to have an open house before that.

Possibly the best reaction so far has been from area residents who are thrilled to see progress on such a large piece of Eureka’s history.

“It was unexpected, (you) know, you’re just fixing up an old building, but to see all the excitement, from the locals and the older generation whose parents worked here...we were excited about that,” said Amy.

For more information on The Cannery, or to schedule an event, call 309-222-5111 or email

thecanneryeureka@gmail.com . Also, visit the Facebook page at

https://www.facebook.com/thecanneryeureka/ .

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