Real estate agents Brad and Mary Ann Whittaker didn’t intend to purchase an entire three-story building for their Realty One Group franchise, but they now have big plans for the site in downtown Longview.
“We wanted to lease the space, and the gentleman that owned the space didn’t want to lease it. So we decided to just buy the building instead,” said Mary Ann Whittaker, 54. “We weren’t planning on 9,000 square feet, but this is what was meant to be.”
By August, the couple plan to turn the building, located in the 1300 block of Commerce Avenue, into a “one-stop shop” for new homeowners by renting space for cabinet showrooms, financial planners and home insurance agents.
“It’s a little like Fred Meyer,” said Brad Whittaker, 48. “Anything that we can do to facilitate the home-selling process and keep it in-house.”
The couple said they purchased the building, built in 1923, in February for $335,000. Although the building was remodeled in the late ‘90s by the former tenant, PeaceHealth, Brad Whittaker said it still has a few unusual aspects due to its age.
“The building’s going to have some quirks … so we decided to embrace those,” he said. “Yeah, we’ve got a dip in the floor and this wall looks a little funky, but that’s okay.”
Parts of the three-story space are currently open to visitors, like the second-floor, where the Whittakers’ office and Affordable Cabinets, Granite and Floors are located.
The bottom floor is still a work in progress, but the intent is to have a cafe, kitchen and living room space for workers and clients to relax and socialize.
The lower level will also include a conference room, and the entire area will have an industrial theme with repurposed wood and steel. According to Brad Whittaker, the look will be an homage to Longview’s history as a mill city. (The restored Long-Bell steam whistle, which regulated the work days of hundreds of sawmill workers when the company founded the city in the 1920s, stands outside, near the Whittaker’s building.)
“We don’t need to change Longview to make it look like Vancouver or Seattle, because Longview is its own thing,” he said. “So let’s embrace what’s here.”
The remodeling should tentatively be finished by early August, the Whittakers said.
On the remodeled top floor, there are more offices for tenants and agents, but the most eye-catching aspect is a large room with lots of natural lighting. Brad Whittaker said this area isn’t only for meetings and real-estate courses. Local non-profits will get to use the space for free.
“It doesn’t matter to us whether it’s Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, the United Way. We don’t care,” he said. “This room’s not going to be used all the time. So why not let people have it that need the space? It’s an opportunity for us to give back.”
Community service and charity is a major component of Realty One’s culture, he added.
“At the end of the year, we’ll know how much money we’ve made. But how much money we give back to the community is really the number we get excited about.”
Realty One, according to the company’s website, was named the fastest-growing real estate brand in the U.S. by Inc. magazine. The Whittakers are the company’s representatives for all of Cowlitz County.