Naperville’s downtown area has many homes with historical backgrounds and unique layouts. Business owners who want a distinctive look and feel for their businesses have transformed some of these homes into storefronts.
Debbie Nachreiner and Evonne Rutz, owners of C’zar Salon and Spa, did just that to the home on the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Eagle Street.
“We could see (our business in this home),” Nachreiner said. “But we were so scared about what we were signing up for.”
Indeed, purchasing a home that is over a century old and converting it to a business does present unique challenges. This particular home had been on and off the market for two years. In an attempt to target business owners, the previous owners had it rezoned. When Nachreiner and Rutz, along with their husbands, Rob and Mike looked at the home, they thought it was something special.
“We met upstairs, and it was probably one of the most significant moments we’ve ever had because we stood there and held each others hands and had our bodies covered in goose bumps and broke into tears and said what do you think,” Nachreiner said.
After analyzing how the business would flow in the home, if there would be enough space, conducting research and meeting with representatives from the city of Naperville, Nachreiner and Rutz, whose lease was up on their previous Naperville location, believed they could make it work and also remain true to the history of the home.
They purchased it in November 2012, began construction in May and opened for business on Oct. 8, all while continuing their day jobs during the process.
“We honored the home as much as we could,” Nachreiner said. “We take great pride in what we did here.”
According to Paul Felstrup, city of Naperville field project manager, there are several factors regulating the conversion of homes to businesses, including zoning, proposed use, parking and accessibility.
“Working with neighbors can always be a challenge,” Felstrup said. “But reaching out in advance, and keeping the neighborhood ‘in the loop’ so to speak was a great success in this project.”
With the pair’s husbands working as general contractors, they transformed the home into a full-service salon and spa. While they had to update the home to conform to current codes, including handicapped accessibility and fire codes, they kept as much as they could that was still functional for their business and the needs of their clients.
The porch was enclosed to form a breezeway that can be used as a vestibule and also prevents cold air from blasting in the front door. The staircase, aside from a painting update, remains intact. The original floors were refinished. The turret was transformed into a waiting area for clients. The original windows, with their glazy look, remain on the first floor. A built-in unit in the old dining room remains a place for storage in the now shampoo room. Hair color is mixed in a space that used to be a kitchen.
One of the more unique features of the home, stained glass that represents the original owner, Charles Heydon, was kept intact. The piece contains symbols that represent the Knights of Columbus and the Masons, two groups that Heydon belonged to. Nachreiner and Rutz also found photos of Heydon and his extended family in a buffet in the home. They framed them, and they hang on the walls of the salon.
But, while much remained, there was also some major demolishing that needed to take place. A parlor’s walls were taken down to open it up and provide wheelchair accessibility. They had hoped to keep a fireplace and bookcases that were in the original living room, but determined they had to be removed because when adding styling stations there was not enough room to pass through. The doors also had to be changed because they were too narrow.
But, many of the changes still look like they could have been part of the original home. After installing a new HVAC system, tin ceilings were installed. Light fixtures throughout the home were purchased from an antique store to look like they were original to the home.
With all they have done, C’zar still has room to grow. Nachreiner and Rutz have plans to convert the basement into a space to provide education. The attic, with its high-pitched roof, runs the entire length of the home. The women were told that, at one time, it served as a ballroom. They would love to find a use for that unique space.
All in all, the women believe they achieved what they hoped and are happy with what the future may bring.
“We wanted our guests to feel like it was our home they were coming into,” Rutz said. “I think the people who owned it (previously) were good people. We all felt it right away — a good sense of spirit in this house.”