SALISBURY — Turning a former bakery into a health and wellness center hasn’t been easy.

But sometimes Wivianny DeHaas forgets how much work that was.

She remembered the Herculean group effort it took to bring Heart of Salisbury to life when the company was named Downtown’s Best Public-Private Partnership of 2021 by North Carolina Main Street. Heart of Salisbury was recognized at the virtual NC Main Street Conference held on Thursday.

“It just brought back memories of all the love we poured into this building and I think sometimes I forget how far we’ve come,” DeHaas said.

Heart of Salisbury wasn’t the only local business or individual to receive recognition at the event.

Barnhardt Jewelers at 112 E. Innes St. was announced as the recipient of the Best Adaptive Reuse Project. The jewelry store occupies a recently renovated historic storefront with apartments upstairs. Barnhardt Jewelers was also selected as Small Business of the Year by the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce at the chamber gala Thursday night.

Barnhardt jewelers. Ben Stansell/Salisbury Post

Whitney Wallace Williams of the law firm Wallace & Graham has been selected as one of 33 North Carolina Main Street Champions.

“Since joining (Downtown Salisbury Inc.) in 2015, I have been fortunate to work alongside incredible Board members and the Town of Salisbury to increase the cultural and economic prosperity of our downtown,” Williams said. “Despite the challenges, we have continued to propel Salisbury town center forward with the most momentum we have had in years. I am extremely proud to have done my part, alongside countless others, to energize this community.

Whitney Wallace Williams. Photo submitted.

North Carolina Main Street is part of the national Main Street America program, which focuses on strengthening communities through preservation-based economic development in old and historic downtowns. Each year, North Carolina Main Street recognizes organizations and individuals who have done just that.

The awards can provide validation to people like DeHaas, who have fully invested in a major downtown project.

DeHaas, a therapist and yoga teacher, had a vision to create a one stop shop for healthcare and wellbeing in downtown Salisbury. As well as a studio and art gallery used for yoga, tai chi, pilates and belly dancing, Heart of Salisbury has a show kitchen, retail store and seven offices for wellness professionals. DeHaas calls Heart of Salisbury a “wellness incubator for wellbeing professionals”.

DeHaas had the vision for Heart of Salisbury, but it took a team effort to make his dream a reality.

The Bogle Firm Architecture assisted with the design and Central Piedmont Builders completed the plans. Historic rehabilitation tax credit consultant LMY, Inc. helped fund the project, and the City of Salisbury awarded DeHaas and his team two grants totaling $55,000. Heart of Salisbury has also benefited from historic state and federal tax credits.

The wellness incubator is located in what was once the Flowers Bakery Building at 120 E. Innes St. When DeHaas started the project, the 5,000 square foot space she inherited was in poor condition. .

“With an older building, you don’t know what you’re getting into until you walk into it,” DeHaas said.

Creative design solutions were needed to determine how to bring utilities into different parts of the building and new floors were needed throughout most of the space. All of the renovations ended up costing about double what DeHaas had expected at the start of the project.

“It took a lot of effort, a lot of energy, and a lot of funding to bring the project to fruition,” DeHaas said.

The reward, she said, was worth it.

“It was a bit like saving part of Salisbury town centre.”

Work was completed in March 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning to shut down the company. DeHaas has adapted accordingly, offering online or off-site yoga classes and promoting the Heart of Salisbury boutique, which offers ethically produced products. People have started to return to in-person classes, but DeHaas said she is still offering online options.

The Heart of Salisbury healthcare offices are almost fully staffed with mental health professionals, massage therapists and a physiotherapist. The kitchen is used for classes and by a fledgling cookie dough business.

As part of its partnership with the city, Heart of Salisbury is offering city employees a 50% discount on yoga classes. The same discount is offered to military veterans. DeHaas said the organization also works with the city’s wellness committee on programming and activities.

Despite the difficulties of renovating an old downtown building, DeHaas would like to see others rise to the challenge.

“We need more visionary people to come to Salisbury town center and do something with our beautiful buildings,” said DeHaas.

DeHaas said there are many tax credits and other resources available that help make big projects financially feasible. She would like to see other Salisbury town center developers claiming NC Main Street awards in the future.