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Visions For Vacancies: The Importer

What would you like to see move into this historic building on Lancaster Avenue?

The Importer building is ready to import a new business. 

You might remember the building from a recent historical photo challenge. It was constructed in 1715, originally part of a 20,000 acre estate. Today, it sits on about three acres at 370 Lancaster Ave., next to the Tri-State Tubular Rivet building, and most recently housed a furniture distributor.

The building is now on the market for sale or lease, being represented by commercial real estate broker Jason Dempsey, the man behind the East Whiteland summer concert series. He said he's proud to be handling the building, which is both historic and cool.

"We wanted to help create a vision for the property and wanted the community to offer some ideas. It has a real cool factor to the space," Dempsey said. 

His firm, Dempsey Development and Brokerage, assembled a brochure with artistic renderings of potential uses for the building. One of them is featured in the gallery above.

What would you like to see take this historic space in this space on Lancaster Avenue? Tell us in the comments.

AmandaMiller December 05, 2012 at 12:54 PM
I love this building. I've been eyeing it for years. It's got such potential. On this side of town, we really need a cafe/store with comfy chairs to relax, bide time, as well as get stuff done (Wi-Fi). The Paoli Starbucks is too cramped with limited parking, Exton Starbucks has hardly no comfy chairs, just hard ones & Cosi always makes you feel guilty if you just order coffee & lounge--you feel you need to order food and go. An outdoor patio space would be awesome too!!
AmandaMiller December 05, 2012 at 12:55 PM
Do you have any interior pics?
Bob Logan December 05, 2012 at 01:10 PM
a 20,000 acre estate?? wow. would love to see a sketch/outline of where the 20,000 acres was
Betsy December 05, 2012 at 02:15 PM
I always found the most unique gifts from all around the world at the Importer. It would be nice to have a center for local artisans in the building, like they have in Reading. http://www.goggleworks.org/
April December 05, 2012 at 03:02 PM
I fondly remember The Importer and I've missed it ever since it closed. The inside was beautiful - barn-like with stairs up to a wooden loft. I love the cafe idea above. It's big inside, so maybe it could also have a stage for performances.
Regina DiLabbio Klugh King December 05, 2012 at 03:02 PM
Daughter and I drove by the other day and reminisced about the good old Importer and the "Honey Bear" next door! (now Classic Diner) Do we really need more places to eat, drink and be wi-fi'ed? I'd love for it to be a historic, cultural center, featuring art shows, lectures, string quartets with unique pieces of jewelry, history, art for sale. Malvern/Frazer/East Whiteland historic archives, etc. But then, I have been called an obstructionist regarding all the new development going on in this area. Just waxing sentimental (? semi-mental) as always.
Geoeray December 05, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Does anyone remember the estate house? It was also part of "The Importer". It burnt down in the 70's. Lots of jewelry was never found after the fire. Perhaps a good spot for a storage facility or a new pizza joint? lol.
April December 05, 2012 at 03:04 PM
The main floor in the middle could be a cafe with a stage for musical performances, and the bottom floor could be a gallery space for local artists... like a coffee shop/cultural center.
Jason December 05, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Amanda, I love your idea for a cafe. we have reached out directly to Starbucks and spoke with them about this location. Perhaps you can make an appeal to them as well. We are open to ideas and tours of the property.
April December 05, 2012 at 03:09 PM
I was more thinking of The Coffee Beanery. Their location in Media hosts musical performances, and this one could too. It is too large to be "just" a cafe.
Geoeray December 05, 2012 at 03:13 PM
I looked at the "Historical photo challenge " later than sooner. Nice photos of the house. The nursery mentioned was still operating in the very early 50's. It was across the road where the "Quaker Motel" was built. Now the "Frazer View" facility.
Catherine Raymond December 05, 2012 at 03:54 PM
I would love to see the building be used as a bookstore cafe--i.e., a small, perhaps specialized bookstore with a cafe area that serves coffee and tea and light meals.
Jared December 05, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Would be perfect for a micro brewery!
Mark Galik December 05, 2012 at 04:13 PM
A chain? Starbucks? The amount of money it would take to restore this building would probably make it cost prohibitive for a Starbucks - especially when everyone sits around, uses the wifi for hours and spends $5 on one cup of coffee. Realistically, it's a challenging location because it's a little far from the Great Valley Corporate Center which would feed it lunch traffic. I think it might serve a microbrewery well - but it's a tough location for a restaurant. A banquet hall for event rental could be nice - would have to work on the landscaping, outdoor spaces and parking - but I could see companies in GVCC using it for corporate events/meetings and local residents in the area for weddings, parties, etc. - there is a lack of venues like this in the area - the "iron works" place in Phoenixville is a good example of how they repurposed an old building like this.
Paula K December 05, 2012 at 05:47 PM
All the modern codes really hinder re-use of historic structures like this--and the regulations get worse all the time...lots of good ideas here but the cost of construction likely is far more than the income potential sadly. When it was the Importer, it was creaky and squeaky and we loved it! It even still smelled like an old barn. Regina, right there with you on the sentimental part---i remember when the GVHS site had cows!
Jim M. December 05, 2012 at 06:33 PM
what about a front end retail spot with a cafe' and maybe some small office/other retailers in the rear - is there room?
Jason December 05, 2012 at 07:38 PM
The site is situated on 3 acres. The location is a great in-fill location. We appreciate everyone's opinions please keep them coming.
brad December 05, 2012 at 08:47 PM
this would make a great starbucks location.
Jim December 05, 2012 at 09:49 PM
Any kind of coffee shop would be great there. I agree with Cathy, a real bookstore would be a nice feature. The placement on the south side of the road means that commuters could stop on their way in to work and grab a cup. There isn't any coffee in the GVCC area!
Tom Pratt December 05, 2012 at 10:27 PM
someone will buy it, find a reason it has to be torn down,build a strip mall w/nail salons and pizza shops.that's the way it goes around these parts.NOONEgives a s@#% about history.
Jim December 05, 2012 at 10:52 PM
Do we need another bank I've never heard of or another Veterinarian center?
Jim December 05, 2012 at 10:55 PM
A real bookstore? Tell that to Chester County Book & Music. Pssst. No one goes to bookstores anymore.
Susan December 06, 2012 at 11:03 AM
Regina, like you, my middle name is nostalgia. I can almost smell the incense mixed with barn smells in that buiding, too. I'm sure it will take serious $$$ to bring the structure up to current building code but it would make for a wonderful gallery. And why not have a small coffee concession as well. I wonder if the Chester County Art Association has looked into it...it would be better there than the Exton Mall. Also, there's a wonderful local artist called "The Barn Lady" (I am determined to have one of her paintings one day). THis buiding would be perfect subject matter for her. Lots of possibilities.
Geoeray December 06, 2012 at 12:19 PM
Veterinarian for cows. With free wifi and a dairy bar, coffee, and news stand.
Jason December 06, 2012 at 01:12 PM
We are certainly conducting an exhaustive marketing effort for the reuse of the building. Uses have included food services, coffee purveyors, office, merchandising retail. As for the costs to rehabilitate the property that becomes a user specific discussion. Different users have different needs. Based on the comments here it seems clear that the romance of the property is appealing to most. We will know better as we go through our process to find a user. In the meantime stay positive and talk it up. Thanks for the comments
Nikki Starke March 17, 2013 at 01:08 AM
I would like to see a craft beer / restaurant. How about Victory, Yards, or Sly Fox.
Jason July 12, 2013 at 07:42 AM
Thought I would check back here on the comments...We have been working closely with several quality users that would accommodate the needs and wants of people and businesses in our area. Please stay tuned and let us know what you would like to see here
annmarie bryan October 15, 2013 at 07:33 PM
I too am a huge importer fan..it is a fantastic building. I would like to see a thrift store inside and a flee market outside....just wish I had $$$ to make it happen....do we know the condition inside????

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