Renovation maintains building's character; Old feed store on Main St. becomes excavator's offices


As a boy, Charles R. Stambaugh loved visiting the local feed store in Union Bridge and sneaking rides on the freight elevator.

So, about 40 years later, when he bought the since-vacated building to renovate as offices for his excavating company, Stambaugh's Inc., a few things were going to stay just the way they were.

"They talked about taking out the elevator, and I said, 'I rode on that elevator as a kid, so we're going to keep that elevator,' " Stambaugh said.

Today's regulations forbid rides -- the elevator is strictly for moving furniture -- but it's one of the ways he has tried to keep some of the building's history and character.

Stambaugh's excavation company began in 1973 as a one-person business, operating out of his basement. He later moved to a trailer office, then turned his home -- about a mile north of Union Bridge -- into an office.

Recently, with about 100 employees and an expansion into concrete and utility work, new offices were in order.

Stambaugh purchased the former Southern States Cooperative feed store at Main Street and Railroad Avenue in September, began renovations and moved in the week after Christmas. The new offices are a stone's throw from his warehouse and shop.

The renovation project is seen as a boon to the town of 1,000.

Union Bridge is trying to revitalize its Main Street, and some wanted to tear down the old feed store, long consid ered an eyesore.

Its new, sparkling, red-and-white facade fits in with revitalization efforts. The offices, which house about 15 employees, mean more customers for area businesses.

Suppliers and developers who visit his offices will also bring more people to town, Stambaugh said.

"They might say, 'I've never been to Union Bridge before; they've got a nice little town there,' " he said.

Stambaugh, who graduated from Francis Scott Key High School in 1967 and served in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970, is the town's second-largest employer, behind Lehigh Portland Cement Co.

"Mr. Stambaugh has always been very helpful to the town; he's given a lot of donations, and we're proud to have a business like his," said Mayor Perry L. Jones Jr., who owns a service station across the street from Stambaugh's offices.

"It's a shame that anyone would think of tearing down a building like that," Jones said. "Buildings like that last longer than if you built something today. We've always looked at utilizing existing buildings."

During the renovation, Stambaugh tried to integrate the building's original features. Although drywall covers the brick interior, the original wood floors were sanded and polished, and exposed wood beams remain.

The building originally had a two-story enclosed porch, which ran close to the railroad track. Stambaugh removed the outer walls and reattached the roof to create open-air porches where employees can smoke or eat lunch.

The 4,400-square-foot renovation cost about $200,000, excluding the price of the building, which Stambaugh declined to disclose. He said expenses were kept low because he was the contractor and many of his employees worked on it.

He splurged on the kitchen, which has counter and table space for at least a dozen people.

"We are old farm boys, and we like a kitchen," Stambaugh explained, "and we like a complete kitchen."

It helps make the place feel like a home, which isn't too hard considering that most of Stambaugh's family works for him.

His brothers -- Jerry, Steve and Barney -- work there, along with his sister, Laura. His 26-year-old son, Ryan, is vice president and excavating foreman.

Stambaugh hopes his daughter Shannon, a senior in marketing at Towson University, will join the business.

His father, Kenneth, who farmed rented land and worked full time at Lehigh, also did excavating work on the side. It was there that the younger Stambaugh learned the trade, and the two later helped each other on jobs, although they never formally joined forces.

In the Army, Stambaugh became a combat engineer, building bridges, roads and airstrips. "I was drafted, but I was lucky because I fell into something I wanted to do anyway," he said.

Stambaugh's Inc. will hold an open house from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 6. Proceeds from the $5 admission fee will go toward paying off the mortgage on Town Hall.

Pub Date: 2/22/99

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