When Shellie Faris was going to Hastings College in the 1990s, one of her classes wanted to celebrate the end of the semester at a coffee shop.
There weren’t any coffee shops in Hastings at the time. Local artist Dave Stewart offered his gallery space at First Street and Denver Avenue for the class’s celebration.
Stewart was accommodating, and ready and willing to play host.
Now, nearly 30 years later, Faris, her husband, Tim, and their children, Abbie, Max and Monte, are transforming the space that once housed Stewart’s gallery into a different gathering area.
Working with local contractors, the Faris family is renovating the upper level into living space for themselves and the ground floor into a board game café. Entrance comes with a small day fee.
“Dave was excited because it’s still somewhere where people can go hang out,” Shellie said.
Stewart gave them a jigsaw puzzle he completed depicting different board games.
“Our family likes to play board games a lot, and we already had quite a large collection of them,” Abbie said. “We thought we might as well share it with people.”
The Faris family now keeps its stacks of board games in the coolers of what was once Phelps Liquors. No longer used to cool beer, the large glass standing containers with shelves make a perfect storage space.
The family found and enjoyed board game cafés in other cities.
“We want to be able to contribute something neat to Hastings,” Tim said.
They look at the board game café as a space for teenagers to hang out.
They plan to offer a limited food menu, but also allow food in from other restaurants.
“We’re trying to do something that adds to downtown and doesn’t take away from what’s already there,” Tim said.
The Faris family has been working with the Community Redevelopment Authority to meet guidelines for renovated downtown spaces.
Construction crews are restoring the façade to its original appearance with tall windows.
The Faris family members relish any connection to the building’s past lives.
They chuckle when they are asked about their timeline.
“We’re hoping some of us are living here by March,” Shellie said.
They hope for the board game café to be open by the summer.
Their house sold in October 2019, so they have been living with Shellie’s parents in Hastings since then.
The Faris children have been working nights and weekends, pulling plaster and nails.
“My aunts and uncles and parents have all been over here painting and scraping,” Shellie said.
Tim joked that his children have learned how much fun brick scrubbing is.
Renovating the space that is just feet from the BNSF Railway and has had many uses over the last 100-plus years, the Faris family and construction crews have uncovered a lot of history.
They pulled out a letter from the wall written in 1894 in Danish.
The space once was home to the Hastings Hotel and Restaurant. A construction crew member found an old railroad security badge.
“It’s fun finding neat, old things,” Tim said.
As work progressed on the living space, they found layers of brick missing in the wall that created pockets for scaffolding.
“As we got the plaster off the walls we exposed those holes,” Shellie said.
Construction crews exposed a big wall mural when taking down drywall.
While the Faris family looked at other downtown spaces before deciding on 601 W. First St., there was never any question about where they would locate their board game café or their new home.
Being within walking distance to the movie theater, coffee shops and restaurants was just too enticing.
“The whole downtown’s being revitalized, which is pretty nice, and it’s nice to have a pizza place down the street,” Tim said.