The building standing on the corner of North Walnut and Northwest Front Street is a Milford icon, the location where many children in Kent and Sussex County were fitted with their first pair of shoes. When Skip Pikus passed way in 2015, many in the city wondered at the fate of the old building. When the for sale sign appeared in the window, some were concerned that the historic building might be torn down as it was in need of significant repair.
Last week, it was announced that the building had been purchased by Milford resident Dan Bond, the owner of The Towers Bed & Breakfast, another historic building in the downtown area. According to realtor Wes Cromer, who handled the sale of the building, Mr. Bond intends to completely renovate the building from top to bottom.
“Both the interior and exterior will be completely renovated to resemble the exact year that Mr. Bond decides upon,” Mr. Cromer said. “The building will have approximately 1,300 square feet of commercial space on the first floor and nice, higher-end two-bedroom apartments on the second and third floor. The project should be completed by the spring of 2018.” Mr. Cromer says that Mr. Bond plans to remove the covered awning to replicate an era prior to the 1970s when the awning was installed. The building will be named The Pikus Building.
Mr. Cromer said that the project would not have been possible without the Downtown Development Designation that Milford was awarded in August 2016. Mr. Bond will be using some of the incentives provided through the designation as well as state historic tax credits.
In many historic documents, the building that housed Lou’s Bootery is known as the Cooper Building. Mr. Pikus’ father, Lou Pikus, leased the building from Winfield Wright, who operated a clothing store there. However, the history of the building goes back much further than Wright’s Department Store. The corner lot was purchased by Cornelius Cane from Joseph Oliver, which was located next to the Oliver home, in order to set up a small grocery store. After Joseph Oliver died, his son, Samuel, sold the home and lots to Charles Draper, an attorney, in 1807. When Mr. Draper died in 1811, the property was inherited by his grandchildren, Charles D. Watson and Hettie Hooper.
In 1838, the store on the property was still called the Cane Store, but by 1853, the property was purchased by Daniel. C. Goodwin, who built the building that stands today, although it initially had only two stories. He operated a store on the first floor, selling general merchandise although some records indicate a hattery operated there. Over the years, the entranceway to the building was shifted to the southeast corner. The Peninsula News & Advertiser was published on the second floor. The third floor was added to house the Masonic Tall Cedars Lodge #42 when the membership outgrew meeting in the Milford Academy.
After Daniel Godwin died, Andrew B. Cooper purchased the home from Samuel Godwin and sold general merchandise there until he died in 1886. Winfield Wright operated a dry goods store in the building from 1890 until 1947 when he leased the building to Mr. Pikus. Terry and Skip Pikus, the sons of Lou Pikus, operated the store after their father’s death. Skip continued the practice of selling custom-fitted and specialty shoes after his brother, Terry’s death, until his own death in 2015. The Pikus family made the difficult decision to close the store and sell the building in late 2015.
Mr. Cromer says that he is happy to be a part of retaining this iconic building as a Milford landmark. “The most important part of this deal and for our city is that the building was sold to the right person,” Mr. Cromer said. “Mr. Bond has an appreciation and love for the history of our town and will improve this cornerstone property to its utmost potential. I can’t wait to see what business or restaurant ends up occupying the first floor. With all of the current shops, restaurants and the addition of Touch of Italy across the street, this is a prime visible corner location that will be first class retail, restaurant or spa.”
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