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Half-Moon Outfitters Has a New Way to Renovate Dry Cleaners

Another of Athens’ barrel-vaulted roofs is about to get its turn in the spotlight.

This summer, outdoor gear retailer Half-Moon Outfitters is planning a move from Five Points to its new home in the former New Way Dry Cleaners building on Prince Avenue. But before that happens, the historic building will get a thorough cleaning and a modern makeover that will enhance its features—including its curved wood ceiling supported by steel trusses—while also bringing it into the 21st Century. This comes on the heels of the renovation of the former Snow Tire building on Hancock Avenue, now home to Creature Comforts Brewery, which exposed its barrel-vaulted roof as well. Both buildings were constructed in the early- to mid-1940s, as was the other Snow Tire building across the street with its own vaulted roof, which now houses Athens Ciné and The National.

The plan for the new Half-Moon location, says owner Beezer Molten, is to clean up the interior of the building—including a creepy fur-coat vault left over from the days of the dry cleaners—remove old paint and update the ductwork to a modern system. The project architect, Lori Bork Newcomer, added that the old system, which included ventilation shafts through the roof, will be replaced with skylights that will help make the building greener and will emphasize the historic wood ceiling.

“We’re really trying to keep it simple by highlighting the building structure itself. That’s what makes it so great,” she says. “This being retail, I think it will really enhance what they’re trying to do, and it will show off the building nicely.”

Molten says he’s been drawn to the building for years, realizing that whenever he would come to his store in Five Points, he would end up eating lunch at The Grit or Taqueria del Sol. The business has been in Five Points since 2008, and Molten says he began noticing the shuttered cleaners building about four years ago.

“I thought, maybe I should pay attention to that building,” he says. “The problems it had are complicated and difficult, but they are fixable. And with the Georgia [Environmental Protection Division], we put together a program that allows the building to be safe and marketable.”

As a former dry cleaners, residual chemicals had to be dealt with before anything could happen to the building. The owners, Molten says, wanted to cooperate, and with the help of a team of environmental engineers, real estate agent Jay Boswell and the EPD, Molten put a plan in place to purchase the building and make it safe for future use. “Otherwise, the building would have just sat there forever,” he says. “But now we’ve got it where it needs to be, and by the time we’re done renovating, it will be completely safe and clean.”

Molten is also working toward making the building as green as possible. Skylights will reduce the need for lighting during the day. Recycling, not trash cans, will be behind the building. Most of its historic windows will be refurbished. rather than replaced with new materials. “We’re pretty serious about sustainable construction and green construction,” says Molten, of his Charleston, SC-based company. “Our distribution center is LEED certified platinum… it’s about the same size, and it has a tiny electric bill every month. We work on incorporating these elements into every store we do.”

Newcomer adds that any changes to the building might be more obvious from the outside. The front parking lot will be repaved and reconfigured mainly for handicapped parking, plus the sidewalks and curbs will be repaired or replaced. The back of the building, on the opposite side from Prince Avenue, will be repaved and will serve as the primary parking lot. Along the Barber Street side of the building, she says, there will be new landscaping, pathways and awnings, plus an enhanced second entrance to the building. The Coca-Cola signs will be removed, only because the family who owned the building wants them back.

When the work is done by late May or early June, the new space will give Half-Moon an additional 2,500 square feet—from 7,500 at the current location to 10,000—and allow for a larger range of product options. “It definitely becomes a more complete Half-Moon,” Molten says. “We really need that much space. Our best-performing stores are more about that size; it just means we have more paddle boards and kayaks, and everything just displays better and spreads out better.”

He says the next few weeks should bring some big changes to the site, but the ceiling is the showpiece of the structure. “It’s this great big, soaring ceiling supported by these trusses, which is just beautiful,” he adds. “It’s getting cleaned really well, and after that happens, it’s going to be apparent what a beautiful building it is.”