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History uncovered: Renovations take downtown business back in time | Arts & Culture

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History uncovered: Renovations take downtown business back in time
History uncovered: Renovations take downtown business back in time

SPARTA, Mich.—The owners of a downtown business are discovering some historic treasures as renovations take their building back in time.

Before it was Dollar N’ More, the building at 112 E. Division St. was the Johnson-Smith Department Store. According to Downtown Development Authority Director Elizabeth Morse, a fire on March 19, 1941 destroyed the store and all of its contents. Four months later, the building’s owner told the Sentinel-Leader she would rebuild the facility as a tribute to her late husband, August Johnson. 

Owen-Ames-Kimball Co. of Grand Rapids reconstructed the building in just four months.  It housed a Ben Franklin Store when it reopened November 1 that same year.  The second storefront in the Johnson-Smith Building opened as The Federated Store weeks later; but by 1970, the Ben Franklin Store took over that second space.

According to Dollar N’ More’s Facebook page, the store’s new look will focus on the historical character of the building.  So far, crews have torn out the carpet and restored the wood flooring.  While removing the current facade, they also discovered the original brick storefront, complete with old signs.   Those signs have since been restored and are now on display inside the store, to protect them from the elements. 

Renovations to Dollar N’ More are expected to be complete by November 22.  The newly remodeled store will also feature a new name, which will be unveiled in mid-November.

The Potter family, which owns Dollar N’ More, is offering space in the renovated store for the Sparta Township Historical Commission to display historical treasures from the village.  Morse says perhaps a few vintage items donated by the Johnsons will find their way back “home”.