CLAYTON — The owner and perspective buyer of the old Red and White building pleaded Monday with the Town Council for a chance to preserve the former grocery store.
After 18 months of waiting for work to begin, the council has grown impatient and wants the eyesore and public safety hazard renovated or razed.
Katie Smith, 72, owns the building at 110 W. Front St. A former Clayton resident, she now lives in Sneads Ferry, near the coast.
“To me, that building has a lot more value than it does to probably anyone else,” Smith told the Town Council at its meeting Monday night
The fact that the town might demolish the building is heartbreaking for her, Smith said. And worrying about the building’s fate has made her sick, she said.
Smith’s hopes of keeping the building vital began to crumble when a former tenant let it fall into disrepair, much to her surprrise and shock, she said. She is now is working with prospective buyer Randy Messick of Clayton.
The town had asked Messick to show proof by Monday’s meeting that he had the financial backing to purchase the building and make the needed renovations. He has not yet done so, and the council’s patience is wearing thin.
“We’ve given you reprieve after reprieve after reprieve,” Councilman Butch Lawter told Smith and Messick on Monday.
Councilman Michael Grannis said his biggest concern was whether Messick had the financial backing to make his plan a reality.
Messick wants to open a classic grocery store modeled after a grocery store in Fayetteville called Kinlaw’s.
“That is a huge asset to their town,” he told the council.
And he thinks a similar grocery store would be an asset to Clayton.
Town Manager Steve Biggs has said that renovating the building would be better for Clayton’s tax coffers than tearing it down. But council members appear increasingly doubtful that Messick can pull his plan off. On Monday, they have him until Jan. 22 to show proof of financial backing and until Feb. 1 to begin renovations.
Messick seemed optimistic and told the council that he expects to sign the purchase contract on Jan. 15. On Monday, Smith and Messick suggested they were working on a lease-purchase agreement.
But if Smith can’t meet the deadlines the council imposed on Monday, it will order the building torn down.