Signs of life stirring at old Harbach building

Surrounded by her workmen, Jacqueline Riekena of West Des Moines worked in Perry over the weekend, pouring new footings as her property at 1202 Willis Ave.

After some months of apparent dormancy, construction activity has resumed at the old Harbach building at 1208 Willis Ave. in downtown Perry.

“We plan to be open by March,” said Jacqueline Riekena of West Des Moines, owner of the 11,000-square-foot property that has been undergoing demolition and renovation since November 2016.

Riekena bought the building for $135,000 from Rob Wenger of Perry, who acquired the property in 1995 from the bankruptcy estate of Spurgeon Holding Corp. The site of the original Clements Block and later the Carter Block, the Harbach building has in more recent years been the home of Conklin Jewelers, Woolworth’s variety store and Spurgeon’s clothing store — and most recently the home of El Rey Market.

Riekena’s plan for a new facade for the property was approved by the Perry Historic Preservation Commission in June 2017, and the warmer weather this weekend gave Riekena and her workers a chance to pour foot-wide footers to replace the four-inch-wide footers that supported the plate glass windows along Willis Avenue for many years.

“It’s exciting to be back in Perry,” Riekena said Sunday, “where everyone has been so warm and welcoming to me.” She said she is planning “something that complements the hotel and complements the other businesses. One of the key things in selling this project at any level is we want repeat visitors. We also want something that people are proud of.”


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