In late 2022 and continuing into early 2023, the space formerly occupied by a single corporate chain store (Rent One) will be converted into nine separate spaces, including three storefronts which will accommodate three locally-owned and independently-operated businesses – further contributing to the already strong presence of small businesses on Cherokee Street and along the 2600 block in particular.
In addition to the retail spaces, we’ll remove the plywood from the long-vacant second-level windows and turn the lights back on with the addition of four residential apartments above. Two first-floor residential spaces round out the building on the ground level. The project will utilize historic tax credits and comply with the National Park Service standards for historic buildings.
As much as we try to honor the original occupants and purposes of our historic spaces in how we reference them (such as McKinley Theater, Canyon Run Complex, Schoolhouse, etc.), we can’t seem to call this building anything other than Rent One – nor can anyone else on the street. So, while you may have been more likely to purchase a piano here in 1923 than rent anything at all, we’re sticking with the name Rent One and we’ll bring it full circle when neighbors reach out to us at the end of the project to rent one of these spaces (get it?).
Built in 1923, the building at 2616-20 Cherokee housed a variety of shops in its first few decades, including the Saiger Variety Store, the Horras Piano Company, and Nachman’s Furniture & Appliances – a South St. Louis retailer that offered everything from Zenith long-distance radios to Thor washing machines in the 1930s. Later occupied by Western Auto, the building’s longest-standing tenant is also its most recent – Rent One, formerly known as National Rent-to-Own.
The building’s architects, Wedemeyer & Nelson, were familiar names in St. Louis, designing a number of other buildings primarily on the north side; some south side examples include the Dickmann Building at 3115 S Grand and the original Casa Loma Ballroom (before the fire) at 3354 Iowa.
The original purpose of the second floor remains a mystery; sealed off for decades, even long-time employees of Rent One were unaware of how to access the space or of what surprises were hidden above their workspace. Used as some form of haphazard storage for a former auto parts retailer, the most notable finds were some 1940s or 1950s bank teller windows, and evidence of an extensive fire – a fire that left distinctive marks on most of the walls and floors which could be considered either beautiful or terrible (depending on which team member you ask).
Photos below: 2616 Cherokee, looking west, in 1946 and 2022.