Greathouse Hardware to be restored into furniture store, culinary school and more | North Vernon

A Madison business owner is bringing his flagship shop and his customers to North Vernon.

Robert Dean, owner of a designer merchandise and antiques store called WOW What a Find, addressed the North Vernon City Council on Monday regarding his business plan for the old Greathouse Hardware building located at 462 E O&M Avenue in downtown North Vernon.

Dean explained that his shop was never intended to be a full-time business, but, despite the pandemic, business and revenue has soared over the last two years and they are now out of space at their current location. But, instead of purchasing a bigger building in downtown Madison — which has a booming small town market — Dean has decided to bring his success to North Vernon.

Local David Woodall actually gave Dean the idea to consider North Vernon. The latter, having dined at some of the local restaurants downtown, had seen the recent growth and potential in the downtown area.

As an interior designer by trade, Dean intends not only to bring his furniture store, which he speculates will bring six new jobs to North Vernon and will be open at least five days a week, but other businesses as well to utilize the three buildings that make up the old hardware store.

“My goal is to become the Amazon of used and high-end furniture,” said Dean.

The second floor of one building will host the WOW Culinary Arts Center. Dean explained his plan of bringing in cookbook authors, celebrity and local chefs to come in and teach, and that that business will employee 12 people. The first floor of that building will be Dean’s kitchen showroom. Dean also mentioned acquiring a wine and beer and liquor license for the school as well.

A photography studio will be on the corner building’s second floor and the furniture store will use the first floor. Dean also mentioned making space for visiting artists to design and create.

Real Design and WOW Design, Dean’s interior design business and state sale and auction business, will be in the third building and will bring five and 16 new jobs respectively.

Finally, Dean wants to open a coffee house in an old railcar in the lot behind the building.

The piece de resistance to Dean’s plans include the acquisition of a 16 passenger van that he hopes to use for a shuttle service between Madison and North Vernon to allow out-of-town tourists to experience both communities. Dean said he has customers from as far away as St. Louis and Chicago.

“Sounds awesome,” said Councilman Brian Hatfield. “Sounds like something we need in that area.”

Dean plans to stabilize the Greathouse building, which is currently owned by local Steve Gasper, and restore it to its former glory, but also utilize green energy with solar panels and rainwater catchers.

His opening timeline is uncertain and will vary on cash flow and what financial support Dean and his team can get. He requested being considered for any available grants or tax incentives from the City Council. The board did not promise any incentives, but voiced their support for Dean’s endeavor.