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Comstock's building has new owners

122017PurcellComstockBuilding

Jennifer and Chris Purcell pose Wednesday for a photograph in front of the former Comstock Confectionery building at 115 South Water Street which they recently acquired. The Purcells plan to renovate the first floor of the building for a new tenant. Dockside Elizabeth City Day Spa currently occupies the building's 2nd floor.

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The owners of Firehouse Subs in Elizabeth City have purchased the former Comstock’s Confectionery building downtown and are moving forward with plans to renovate the first floor of the two-story structure. 

Chris and Jennifer Purcell acquired the site last month for $65,000 from Sallie Stimatz Properties, Pasquotank County Register of Deeds records show. County records list the property's tax value at $114,200.

Besides the local Firehouse Subs franchise, the Purcells also own residential real estate in Elizabeth City. Their purchase of the Comstock Confectionary building at 115 South Water Street is their first commercial property venture downtown.

Chris Purcell said he and his wife are excited about investing in the downtown.

"It's set to boom and really revitalize. And we want to be part of it," he said.

The Purcells particularly like the fact the former Comstock's Confectionery building faces Mariners' Wharf Park and the Pasquotank riverfront.

“It's a gorgeous view," Chris said.

Jennifer said she loves old buildings, pointing out they maintain their character.

"They tell a story," she said, adding that she’s been learning recently about the history of Comstock's Confectionery.

The building was the home for nearly half a century to a downtown diner owned and operated by Walter "Stalk" Comstock, whose menu was famous for, among other things, its custom-made orangeade drink.

Comstock retired in the spring of 2003, and months later sold the building to Sallie Stimatz Properties. The building’s second floor has been the home of the Dockside skin care and nail spa for nearly 3½ years.

Chris Purcell said the first floor recently became vacant when the previous tenant, the Shear Perfection hair salon, left for a larger location.

Asked if he and his wife envision another eatery occupying the building’s first floor, Chris said that logistically would be impossible. But he said his wife is looking for photos of the former Comstock's Confectionery that, depending on who rents the space, could be displayed on the walls.

For now, the Purcells’ focus is on remodeling the first floor's interior space to attract a new tenant.

Asked who will be the decorator, Chris said, "The design is usually her. The labor is usually me."

Chris said they hope to have the space ready for lease again by the start of February. He noted they’ve already received a couple of calls from people who are interested.

The Purcells also eventually plan to redo the building’s storefront windows.

"They're old. They're rotted. They need replacement," Chris said.

An upgrade to the building's exterior is also on the Purcells’ to-do list.

"We're going to try and update the front of it — and make it look a little better and get it rented back out, hopefully, and just try to improve the looks of downtown, especially right there on the water," Chris said.

He said the work to the facade will depend on whether he and his wife can secure a grant from Elizabeth City Downtown, Inc. The Purcells hope to begin the work as soon as they win that approval, he said.

"We're not looking to drag it out over two or three years," Chris said.

At the same time, he understands there are procedures that have to be followed when working with a historic structure in the city’s downtown.

As for whether the couple plan to invest further in downtown, Chris said it’s possible.

"We've got our eye on a couple of more (buildings) we'd like to pick up," he said.

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