Several downtown business owners are now also downtown property owners after a sheriff’s sale Friday morning.
More than 50 people crowded the third-floor courtroom of the Ellis County Courthouse as 12 downtown properties were on the auction block, part of a foreclosure proceeding by Sunflower Bank against DFC Holdings and Liberty Group Inc. The sale of the properties totaled just over $1 million.
Sunflower Bank had the right of opening bid on each property, with bids ranging from $5,000 for 1108 Main, the former Hays State Bank, to $207,000 for 719 Main, the historic George Philip Hardware.
The bank did not counter bid on any of the properties, but ended up with three properties that did not receive any further bids — 1008 Main and 1012 Main, which house Bluetique and Something Blue, respectively, and 1102 Main, the former Strand Theater.
Emotions ran high as business owners Sarah Cearley, Norman Keller and Shaun Musil were among those that successfully bid on their buildings. Family, friends and colleagues reached out with pats on shoulders in congratulations.
All expressed relief after the conclusion of the sale, as hugs were shared and tears wiped away.
“This is an extension of our home, our lives,” said Keller, who along with his wife, Sandy, owns Regeena’s Flowers at 1013 Main.
His bid of $140,001 — $1 over the opening bid — went unchallenged. As Ellis County Undersheriff Scott Braun declared “sold,” Keller closed his eyes and covered his face with his hands and his wife and Sarah Bloom, executive director of Downtown Hays Development Corp., and others reached out in congratulations.
He said he was grateful for the “amazing outpouring” of support from friends and family.
Cearley, whose business, Simply Charmed, just celebrated its 16th anniversary, said she was happy to now own the buildings.
“We’re looking forward to a really big holiday, and it was just kind of a little bit of a weight on our shoulders,” she said of the foreclosure and sale.
Her bids of $75,001 and $70,001 for the two buildings Simply Charmed encompasses, 1011 Main and 106 W. 11th, likewise went unchallenged.
“We’ve put a lot of blood, sweat and tears and a lot of years into downtown, so we want to be able to continue to grow our business,” she said.
Taking on the property will be no extra burden, she said. In fact, she sees it as just the opposite.
“I’ve rented for nine years now. So to be able to own it is very exhilarating at this point because it just gives me the motivation to continue to succeed and thrive,” she said.
Musil, owner of the Paisley Pear wine bar, 1100 Main, purchased his building for $211,001. He said he hadn’t felt nervous about the sale until Friday morning.
“It’s over,” he said after the sale. “Very thankful.
“It means we can get back to doing what we do best, running our business,” he said.
Bloom, of the downtown development group, and Doug Williams, executive director of economic development group Grow Hays, both said the sale is a positive move for Hays businesses.
“This is all good news for downtown. We already have several successful businesses and for them to be able to own their own buildings will allow for further growth,” Bloom said.
“They control their own destiny and it’s great news,” Williams said.
“It’ll be interesting to see the properties the bank did end up getting back what will happen there. I’m hopeful that a lot of good will come from this,” he said.
The most contentious bidding was over 121 E. 11th, a boarded-up building east of Gella’s Diner and Lb. Brewing, 111 E. 11th. The bank opened bidding at $80,000, and two bidders went back and forth for several minutes. Each first raised the bid by $1, then up to $81,000, then each countered back and forth in $1,000 increments until the Robert E. Schmidt Foundation had the winning bid of $91,000. Representatives of the foundation said they had no comment on the purchase. The Schmidt Foundation owns the building housing Gella’s and Lb Brewing.
Updated 4:20 p.m. with additional information.