Owner will renovate as he eyes tenant at OC property

With two first floor tenants, Movie Stop and Raymond James, moving out of the old Welker & Maxwell building on Oil City’s South Side, the owner of the structure has plans for a fix-up.

“It is a good time to do renovations, things just fell into place,” said Bob Kellner of the location at the corner of Central Avenue and First Street. “It’s a good building and we want to take good care of it. To do that we need to change some things around,” he added.

Kellner, an Oil City native who owns Kellner’s Fireworks in Barkeyville, said Raymond James was moving July 1 and another tenant, The Performing Arts Academy with Darin on the second floor, expressed a need for more space.

He plans to turn the first floor of the building, which housed Raymond James and Movie Stop, into one large rental space.

“I believe it had been one retail space at one time, long before any of us remember,” Kellner said referring to the old Welker & Maxwell department store.

The Raymond James office is moving to 3152 State Route 257 in Seneca effective July 1, according to a sign in the window of the business.

Chris Arduini, who has owned the Movie Stop since February 2002, said Wednesday he recently lost the lease to the store.

The store’s closing sale began Wednesday and will continue to the end of July, Arduini said, noting that the timeline is “fluid.”

Arduini said he will continue to rent out movies until about the second week of July.

An architect is working on drawings for the renovations, Kellner said. After the Oil City code office and the architect agree on plans for the renovations, Kellner said he can proceed with renovating.

The planning phase of the interior renovations will be wrapped up by the end of July, Kellner said. At that point, he said, he will be looking for a tenant for the space and then the space will be renovated to fit the tenant’s needs.

Facade work will also be commencing on the building in August, Kellner said. He said he received a facade improvement grant from the Oil City Main Street Program to cover part of the costs of the renovations.

Gravatt painting and Services will be painting the building’s exterior, Kellner said.

The building was built in 1889 by two oil men, G.E. Welker and S.L. Maxwell. The three-story brink building housed the Welker & Maxwell department store, which offered a wide range of merchandise for 95 years until it closed in 1984.

Welker & Maxwell claimed the title as the oldest store in the U.S. to continuously give out S&H Green Stamps, a promotion it maintained from 1897 to 1971.

Next door to the department store was the P.H. Cribbs grocery store, a business that sold everything from imported fresh caviar to custom cut meats, fruits, vegetables, canned goods and freshly ground peanut butter served up in little paper trays.

Established in 1863, Cribbs was a national marketer of homemade French dressing, mayonnaise and peanut butter.