The “Save the Grain Elevator” campaign is on.
Trustees for the Museum & Arts Center of the Sequim-Dungeness Valley are looking for donors to give up to $1 million to purchase the Clallam Co-op grain elevator and the building formerly housing El Cazador at 531 W. Washington St.
MAC trustees like Louie Rychlik, its treasurer, have expressed interest in preserving the building for more than a month.
Rychlik said their strategy is to work together as a community.
“We want to get enough people to pledge money so that we can buy grain elevator as a community itself rather than have it tore it down,” he said.
So far, Rychlik has paid for advertisements while fellow trustees continue to spread the word and make items like T-shirts for supporters.
Most recently, Heritage Bank, formerly Whidbey Island Bank, delayed a public auction of the site to June 6 on the foreclosed property.
Kerry Wake, a commercial loan officer with Heritage Bank, told the Gazette last week the postponement was to finalize internal paperwork and had nothing to do with the MAC’s efforts.
He advised Rychlik get in touch with the former owner Hilda Rodriguez and her accountant Gary Morgan to seek a purchase agreement prior to the auction.
Rychlik said he’s contacted Morgan but hadn’t heard back as of Monday, May 19.
Judy Stipe, spokesman for the MAC, said supporters feel the urgency every day.
“We have 10 dozen (Sequim) pioneers with the last thing they think about before bed and when waking up is how can we stop this auction,” she said. “It’s a desperate attempt to do something.”
Stipe said whether or not the museum can use the facility for its collection doesn’t matter so long as they save the building.
“If we did have it, we would utilize it as an exhibit center but right now we don’t have the money to purchase it,” Stipe said. “We really want to stir up people’s feelings. It’s like removing our mountains. It makes us sad.”
Rodriguez, who owned El Cazador, owes more than $950,000 on the estate. The restaurant was in that spot for 33 years before closing on March 3. The grain elevator’s site dates back to the early 20th century with its many businesses selling feed, produce and seeds.
Rychlik said his personal attachment to the site was that his father and step-father both worked at the site at different times.
“There’s a lot of old-timers who remember it fondly,” he said.
Wake indicated that it’s unlikely the bank would want to accept less than what it’s owed.
However Rychlik said he’s hopeful they can receive it for much less.
Stipe said since Heritage Bank is more local they’ll have some ability to speak with its officials about price and auction date.
For now, Rychlik is accepting pledges over the phone at 457-8388, which he said are confidential. He doesn’t have any pledges yet, he said, but donors don’t have to give money right away.
“If we get enough pledges in, I’ll e-mail (Wake) how much money we have and hopefully he’ll postpone it for another few weeks,” Rychlik said.
If the site does go to auction, Rychlik said he would be told the auction price by Monday, June 2. He would try to strategize a way to purchase it at auction if needed.
If the MAC does help obtain the site, Rychlik said he estimates $50,000-$100,000 is needed in renovations, but he anticipates many organizations would want to help be a part of it.
Again, to reach Rychlik about the preservation effort, call 457-8388.