To the Normal Hill regulars who may be wondering what’s up with the quaint-yet-vacant collection of six brick apartments and the adjoining commercial building on the corner of Sixth Street and Seventh Avenue, owner Dixie Scharnhorst has an easy answer.

Work on remodeling the apartments at 601 Seventh Ave. will resume soon after an extended break, and they should be available to rent by next summer.

“Our next step is the plumbing and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), the mechanical side,” said Scharnhorst, who owns the buildings with her husband, Bill Scharnhorst. “Then they’ll each be remodeled individually, and they’ll be rented out.”

The mechanical work should be a cinch because the Scharnhorsts also own Guardian Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning in Lewiston. That business is one of the reasons they have taken a break from sprucing up the apartments after some major exterior concrete work was done last year.

“We own a service business, so we’re very busy with that,” Scharnhorst said with a chuckle.

The commercial space next door at 607 Seventh Ave. has seen a parade of restaurants open and close over the years. Cafe Reuben is the most recent example. The breakfast and lunch spot closed earlier this summer after opening in late 2016, and Scharnhorst said she has gotten several inquiries from prospective tenants.

But whoever gets the new lease will have to wait a bit for some improvements there to be completed.

“We’re going to go in and change the color scheme and do some remodeling, so maybe it can become a favorite spot on Normal Hill,” she said, noting the location right across from Lewis-Clark State College. “It would be a nice little walk-to-it place. Parking can be an issue during school time, but of course, summer is fine.”

Calls have come from people interested in serving a variety of foods, from Asian to barbecue. Scharnhorst even fielded one inquiry from a bar owner looking for a new location, but there probably isn’t room for the pool tables and dart boards, she said.

The Scharnhorsts once tried to recruit a local pizza restaurant to add a branch at their location, which many people know as Campus Corner. They weren’t interested, but Scharnhorst said she’s always believed a simple business model like pizza and beer would be the most successful.

The old ice cream machine from the Knowles Ice Cream Palace days in the 1980s and 1990 is still in the kitchen and still works, so that is another possibility. It was Hossner’s Fountain and Grill later in the 1990s, and since then various other operators have served up burgers, sandwiches and salads in addition to occasionally churning ice cream.

The apartments were built in 1922, and the commercial space came about a year later. Before that, it was the site of the Normal Hill Grocery, whose proprietor, A.B. Paris, offered “auto delivery” of groceries to homes in the neighborhood.

Scharnhorst said the owner of the beauty salon on the east side of the restaurant space is still in business. And even though the restaurants that have come and gone over the years illustrate the challenges of running a small eatery in the middle of a historic residential neighborhood, she has high hopes that nostalgia will help keep the next tenant in business.

“These little old places, they’ve gone away,” she said. “They can become favorite little places to hang out in, if you can hold on to them and you get the right thing going. It can be really popular. We’re kind of wide open to something that would be enjoyed by many.”

Mills may be contacted at jmills@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2266.

What’s up with that? is a reader- and Tribune question-generated column that runs on occasion. To submit your question, call City Editor Mary Stone at (208) 848-2244, post to the Tribune’s Facebook page or email city@lmtribune.com with What’s up with that? in the subject line.

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