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Friday, 29 January 2016 09:33

Once-vacant Janesville building offers event venue, music center

Written by  Dennis Hines
Boarded-up windows and crumbling plaster have been replaced by an extensively renovated space known as The Venue, which includes a community room, banquet room and kitchen at 34 and 38 S. Main St. in downtown Janesville. Britten Langfoss, pictured above on the third floor of The Venue, said “the sky’s the limit” for the types of events that can be held there. Langfoss and her family bought the building in November 2013. Boarded-up windows and crumbling plaster have been replaced by an extensively renovated space known as The Venue, which includes a community room, banquet room and kitchen at 34 and 38 S. Main St. in downtown Janesville. Britten Langfoss, pictured above on the third floor of The Venue, said “the sky’s the limit” for the types of events that can be held there. Langfoss and her family bought the building in November 2013. Terry Mayer

JANESVILLE MESSENGER -- A portion of a building that sat vacant for almost 50 years could now play a part in the revitalization of downtown Janesville.

Britten Langfoss of Certified Parts Corp. recently opened The Venue on the second and third floors of 34 and 38 S. Main St. An expanded Voigt Music Center occupies the first floor.

The area of the building that now houses The Venue was previously used as a church and Masonic lodge. Langfoss said she and her family are excited about bringing new life to the building.

“I think having something that’s in such a centralized location is a large investment. Downtown redevelopment is really starting. For me, it jump-started the enthusiasm (for the downtown area),” Langfoss said. “I’m very involved with what’s happening in the downtown. We really did move this project forward, because we thought it was ground zero for all the action that’s going to happen.”

The Venue features a community room, banquet room and kitchen area and can be used for weddings, private events, fundraisers and company parties.

“Really, the sky’s the limit,” Langfoss said. “We can have retirement parties and class reunions, so I think that’s the exciting part. We tried to make the place as versatile as possible so that anyone could have any type of event they felt would work in this space.”

Langfoss and her family bought the building in November 2013 and spent the past year remodeling. Langfoss said a lot of work needed to be done to the building because it sat empty for so long.

“The plaster was falling down. All the woodwork needed to be touched up. The HVAC, plumbing and electrical work is all brand new,” Langfoss said. “The building had been vacant for 50 years, so you could only imagine how much work had to be done. We needed a new roof on the building and we had to put in a new sprinkler system.”

Langfoss said after touring the second and third floors of the building, she and her family felt a banquet facility would be an appropriate use for the area.

“We were walking through here, there was no electricity, all the windows were fully boarded up and there was no light coming in from the outside,” Langfoss said. “We were coming around here with flashlights and we saw what it could be. You had to have a vision.

“You had to see what the building could become, and the whole family was in agreement about it. Something had to be in this building, and it’s like nothing I’ve seen in Janesville with the architectural elements and how intact it was.”

An open house for The Venue was held last month, Langfoss said, and the business has received a positive response.

“Everyone who walks in has been in awe that this is in downtown Janesville,” Langfoss said.

Several weddings and fundraising events are scheduled for The Venue for the next few months and dates are available, she said.

“We have a couple of slow months coming up, because we didn’t want to book anything until we were confident with the finishing schedule,” Langfoss said.

The Venue also could be used for music performances and community events.

“I very much care about this building and the future of

it … “ Langfoss said. “I was here daily during the reconstruction and making sure everything was working. It’s an extreme accomplishment for me that we broke ground almost a year ago. It was a very fast-paced project, but I think it’s something that had a great result.”

Voigt Music Center

The Venue is just one part of the revitalized building. The first floor is the new location for Voigt Music Center. Owner Tony Farrell Jr. closed his stores in Beloit and Janesville and consolidated into the new downtown location.

Farrell said the new space has allowed him to expand  inventory and establish a community room, which will be used for concerts and private events. The community room also includes an art exhibit wall and is set to include a new location of Lucy’s Loon Lake Deli in spring.

“(The community room) really is the whipped cream and cherry for us,” Farrell said. “It’s something we’ve always really wanted to do. It’s a real relaxed area available for rent for events with a full state-of-the-art sound system.”

The new Voigt Music Center features an education center with eight sound-proof lesson studios.

“Each teacher gets their own studio, so they can have a space of their own. They can put lamps in there, posters on the wall and make it feel comfortable for kids and parents,” Farrell said. “We decided to name every room as a musical term, rather than saying, ‘You’re in Room No. 3. You’re in the treble room.’ I’ve gotten a lot of great comments about it from the parents and the kids. Education is a big part of this.”

The mezzanine areas include spaces where people can work on their music and try out the instruments.

“We want people to feel like they’re in their living room. We want people to feel like they can come in, grab a guitar off the wall and sit down and feel it and get comfortable. That’s what it’s all about,” Farrell said. “That’s what makes us different than the Internet. That’s our main competitor. In order to get people off their computer and into our store, we have to give them a reason to do that and try things out.”

The new location also features an instrument repair department. The music center repairs instruments for several local school bands and orchestras, he said.

“The repair department is a big part of our business,” Farrell said. “We’ve finally got room. ... We have full-time repair technicians who stay busy around the clock. We’ve got a great facility for that now.”

The move to a consolidated location has been in the works for years, Farrell said, and the Main Street building is an appropriate side.

The lower level of the building once housed a JCPenney store and after that, Rock County Appliance.

The newly renovated building is getting a positive response from members of the community, Farrell said.

“The first week we were open, we estimate that we had 2,500 people come through the doors,” Farrell said. “There were some hurt feelings (with people from Beloit), which I felt bad about because it was the hardest decision for me to make in my career.

“I hear people gasp when they walk through the door and if they’re from Beloit and I get a chance to talk to them, the recurring theme is, ‘Now, I understand what you did and why you did it, because there’s no way you could have done this to this degree and done it right at the two other locations.’”

“I want all the folks to know that this just isn’t for Janesville, but this is Beloit’s store, too,” he said. “We’ve kind of created this as a regional location, so we’re going to try to bring folks in from other nearby markets. I think with the right mix of performances and space, we can do that.”

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