A Phoenix landmark will rise from the ashes

Urban renewal money, local donations will help pay for restoration of Ken's Auto site

PHOENIX — A structure known equally for its historical appeal and for the friendly mechanic who has spent the last quarter-century fixing cars there will be restored to a state even better than it was before a Nov. 16 fire.

Ken's Auto, at 101 Main St., caught fire last month when gas from a vehicle being repaired spilled onto a work light.

Learn more about Phoenix urban renewal grants

For information about Phoenix urban renewal grants or the city's new sign grant program, see www.phoenixura.com.

Phoenix Urban Renewal Agency Director Marla Cates said the agency wants to help businesses create signs with historical appeal. A list of guidelines are available online and at the urban renewal office, 157 S. Main St.

For details, call 541-512-8703 or email Cates at mcates@PhoenixURA.com

One of the town's few remaining historical structures, the service station had been approved just days earlier for an urban renewal grant that would restore the former fuel station to its early-1900s glory.

Business owner Ken Peck was uninjured, but the building, made of cement block, was completely gutted by the fire, said Phoenix Urban Renewal Director Marla Cates.

Residents rushed to support Peck, holding a fundraiser that amassed some $1,400 in donations.

"We had approved the grant on a Monday, and the fire was just a few days later," Cates said. "We're very pleased that there were no injuries and that the building can be restored and that the property owners are willing to still move forward."

Joe and Helen Nab, former Ashland shoe-store owners who purchased the old station 26 years ago, decided to preserve the building after learning it was structurally sound despite the massive fire.

"We just really didn't know what to do at first, and I was concerned about how sound the building was after the fire, because it's all cement," said Helen Nab. "We had a company come in and check it out, and they said it was sound. ... It was completely gutted, and it needs a new roof, but they believe they can bring it back, and I think it's important to the city."

Cates said urban renewal grant dollars will help with significant restoration of historic structures such as Ken's, while a new sign program that will provide up to $500 for custom signs will aid with small-scale improvements.

"When you have biz that needs to let customers know how to find them and where they're at, it's always nice to have a well-designed sign," said Cates.

After the building is renovated, Nab said, it likely will be fitted with an old, era-specific Texaco sign.

"My son found out you can still buy the signs," she said.

"We're looking forward to seeing how it turns out when they bring it all back."

Nab said restoration of the building will take about three months once work begins, at which point the couple would welcome Peck, who was not available for comment, back to work.

A message machine at Ken's Auto informs customers about the fire and says he has not yet determined when he will reopen.

"If he hasn't found a place before this is done getting built, we would welcome him back. He was always a very, very good tenant, very prompt on payments and never gave us any trouble," she said.

"The day of the fire, so many customers came and said how sad they were because he's such a neat guy and always does extra things for them at no charge. You don't find people like that anymore."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

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