New life for the old Dils center
PARKERSBURG — For decades, the Dils department store was a retail destination in downtown Parkersburg.
Then, it served as a banquet and convention center, with offices for a number of businesses and agencies.
After a few years in limbo, the building has a new owner, The Dils Center LLC, and managing partner Todd Stubbe hopes to write the next chapter.
“The idea of engaging in a friendly coolness competition with downtown Marietta is appealing to me,” he said.
Stubbe and his family lived in a loft apartment in downtown Marietta before moving to Parkersburg. He said he enjoyed the live music scene and businesses like the Marietta Brewing Company and Marietta Adventure Company, which promotes features like the local trail system and rivers.
Photo by Evan Bevins The Dils Center’s new owner has plans for it to serve as an event/convention center, music venue, business space and site of loft apartments.
Reviving the Dils facility as a destination for events and establishing it as a music venue, he said, could contribute to a changing environment for downtown, along with recent additions like the Parkersburg Brewing Company.
Downtown PKB Executive Director Wendy Shriver is excited about the possibilities for the building.
“I know he (Stubbe) has great ideas of how to use that space and try to revive that icon,” she said.
A local real estate investor, Stubbe said he’d been looking for “an old building renovation project.” The Dils Center LLC closed on the purchase of the building for $175,000 at the end of November. Since then, work has focused on “cleaning up and painting and planning,” while analyzing electrical expenses and converting many lights to LED fixtures, he said.
“It’s in amazingly good shape,” Stubbe said of the building.
And it doesn’t hurt to have a recognizable name, steeped in Parkersburg history.
Much of the focus has been on readying the banquet and ballroom area, which will play host on Saturday, Feb. 17, to a live West Virginia Wrestling Entertainment show. The following week, the Dils Center will be the site of the Miss Wood County and Miss Wood County’s Outstanding Teen competitions.
Stubbe said he also had appointments this week to show the facility to two brides-to-be as a possible venue for their receptions.
“Since we’re just getting started, we’ve got a blank slate for 2018,” he said.
Some established tenants remain on the building’s second floor, including attorney Charles Stalnaker, from whom Stubbe’s company purchased the facility after Stalnaker bought it from the previous owner. Affordable IT Solutions is there as well, and the Actors Guild of Parkersburg rents storage space. Photography businesses Spencer Imageworks and Deb Lorentz Photography have also moved in, and Studio 6 Yoga on Market and Mid-Ohio Valley Massage are preparing their spaces.
Studio 6 Yoga on Market owner Brenda Helms said it’s long been a dream of hers not only to have a yoga studio but to have it on Market Street. Although she’s about three years from retirement, she said the opportunity to have space in the Dils building was too good to pass up.
“For years, I’ve been telling people downtown Parkersburg’s coming back,” she said. “I have a feeling we’re going to really make that place successful.”
Helms said her business probably will open in April.
The third-floor was used as office space for Mountain State Blue Cross Blue Shield, before it built its new headquarters and became Highmark West Virginia. Stubbe said he’d like to have a large business locate there again.
“It’s pretty much turn-key, ready to move into,” he said. “I’m looking to find a tenant for the whole floor, or for the front half and the back half.”
There’s a great deal of space on the fourth floor, which Stubbe hopes to eventually develop into loft apartments.
In addition, the building has a number of unfinished spaces Stubbe said would be terrific settings for underground concerts, such as the kitchen area behind the former Side Door Restaurant room.
“I’m probably just as excited about this kind of stuff as I am the stuff out front in the convention center,” he said.