Va. resident plans to buy, renovate Pure Oil station

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Michelle Williams stands in front of the former downtown Elizabeth City Pure Oil Station, Thursday, She's in the due diligence phase of purchasing the site from Ken and Mamie Hoffer.

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Michelle Williams’ passion for historic properties is behind her plans to acquire the long-vacant former downtown Elizabeth City Pure Oil station and an empty adjacent commercial building behind it.

Williams, from Haymarket, Virginia, said she invests in properties, sometimes holding them, sometimes selling them, depending on the property. She is the investor/designer for her business Williams Holdings.

Williams’ great grandmother lived in Elizabeth City, so the Harbor of Hospitality isn't unfamiliar to her.

“I love the area down here and see so much potential,” Williams said late last week. “There's so much history here – and I just would love to see it revitalized.”

The former Pure Oil station is an early 1930s Tudor revival building and is at the southwest corner of Main and Water Streets. “This was the cool spot I'm sure at that point in time,” Williams said.

Ken and Mamie Hoffer own the former Pure Oil station and the adjacent Water Street commercial building once owned by Zack Robertson. The Hoffers bought the former station for $95,000 from Wood-Hall Inc. of Nags Head in 2013. In January 2014, they bought the Robertson building from Zack Robertson for $240,000.

The Hoffers began renovating the buildings with the intent to transform both locations into a wine and sandwich shop. The couple eventually decided not to pursue the venture and put the real estate up for sale.

That’s where Williams stepped in. She made an offer, and the sale terms are currently being negotiated. If agreed, Williams hopes to start restoration efforts in November. She declined to be specific about the purchase price.

The former Pure Oil station is distinctive because it reflects pre-World War II efforts by major oil companies – Pure, but also Phillips 66 and Citgo’s predecessor, Cities Service – to build aesthetically pleasing locations in business districts and in residential areas.

Pure stations were particularly noticeable because they, like the company’s color scheme, featured white-painted bricks with blue rooftops.

Williams said she also has seen the downtown New Bern's former Pure Oil Station, now home to a law office.

She said she believes the former downtown Elizabeth City Pure Oil station has much charm and would like to compliment it with Pure Oil memorabilia. She said her plans include replacing the existing concrete parking area with new pavement.

“If I'm going to spend the time and the money on the building, I want the concrete to be nice as well,” she said.

As for a possible use of the building, she said, “It will be rented as some sort of a light restaurant or retail space – or maybe a florist shop or a bridal shop.”

“I would like to encourage strolling traffic down there,” she said.

Plans for the Robertson building, which is two stories, is renting retail space downstairs, and an apartment on the second floor.

Williams said she believes she began looking at the former Pure Oil station and the Robertson building sometime back in February. She said her first reaction was, “That's a nice piece of property. It's a shame that it hasn't been updated.”

She said she kept driving back there and kept saying to herself she wanted to see the inside of both places.

“And then one thing led to another and I went back home and got busy with work and started talking about it with my husband,” she said.

Her husband, Dr. Wesley Daczkowski, is an orthodontist.

Williams, who is from Loudoun County, Va., graduated from George Mason University with a triple major in public policy, law and communications. She worked at ManTech International Corp., SAIC, UUNET and MCI WorldCom, before going to work for the federal government in computer systems, software and information technology, while also designing future buildings.

In 2002 she started investing in and renovating buildings.

Williams noted that in Elizabeth City, she has renovated a house in the 700 block of Raleigh Street and said she may acquire other properties in the area.