Building sale clears way for Old World deli shopWritten by Joel Sensenig | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Before one could find imported cheeses and gourmet foods at everything-under-one-roof stores, there was A. Rensch & Co.
After being in the family of a Swiss immigrant for 127 years, the building at 607 Monroe St. — four doors west of Fifth Third Field — was sold for $103,500 to developer Dave Ball.
Despite the change in ownership, the location’s tradition of selling specialty food items will continue. Ed Beczynski, owner of The Blarney Irish Pub, which shares a wall with the building, is purchasing the first floor from Ball with plans of turning the front half into an Old World-style delicatessen this summer. The back half will be used for additional kitchen space for The Blarney, while the upper two floors will be renovated into a loft apartment.
Angela Rensch Ligibel is the granddaughter of Benedict Rensch, who began selling food from the building in 1888. Ligibel sold the building, listed in the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Monroe Street Historic District, on Feb. 10.
“At that time, there were a lot of [businesses] in Downtown Toledo, so there were many, many places he could sell his wares with horse and buggy, which was how he sold his cheese,” she said. “It grew and grew and grew, and he started handling all kinds of imported cheeses, gourmet jellies, caviar, smoked eel and all kinds of things like that.
“We were one of the few places you could get those imported items at that time,” she said. “Now, you can go anywhere, you can go to Walmart and get them. That’s kind of what ended our business.” Ligibel started noticing the public’s shift to larger stores in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Ligibel, who took over the store in 1984 when her father died, said she relished the chance to operate the family business.
“I enjoyed every minute of it,” she said. “It’s sad to see it go, but time marches on, as they say. That’s what happens.”
The business was largely closed in 2005 and the building had been on and off the market since then.
Ligibel wasn’t going to sell it to just anyone, however.
“I was very particular about what might be in there,” she said. “You sort of fall in love with your building, and it’s hard to see just any name go in there. Of course there were offers made over the years, but I kind of hung in there because I thought, “This is not [what I wanted].”
Beczynski Market is exactly what she wanted.
Although he’s not quite certain on the name yet, Beczynski believes the Old World delicatessen model will play well in the neighborhood.
“With all the people living Downtown, I’ve been racking my brain with ‘What does Downtown really need?’” he said. “You hear it all the time: grocery store. Well, this would be a specialty-type store selling different meats by the pound, cheeses and specialty items.
“I think it’s another piece of the puzzle for all of Downtown,” Beczynski said. “Hopefully there will be a big grocery store that comes Downtown. I hope there’s a pharmacy that comes Downtown. We need those things, but even with that, having a specialty market like this, making our own pierogi and kielbasa and all that kind of stuff, I think this will be a nice add-on to what’s happening Downtown.”
He compared his market to a scaled-down version of Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor. Plans call for the market to contain a bakery and offer beer and wine to go.
Ligibel’s son, Ted, said his memories of working in the shop during the 1950s and 1960s remain strong.
“The sale of A. Rensch & Company is definitely bittersweet for our family, all of whom have worked there at one time or another, including our spouses,” he said in an email. “After 127 years at the same location and in the same building, a city record, it is difficult to say goodbye to a place we grew up with, knowing that this was where our grandparents and great-grandparents spent the entirety of their working careers.”
Ted said the store’s legacy will live on due to the exhaustive records kept by the family.
“Also preserved were many photographs, articles and food containers that had been saved over the years, including records going back to the 1880s,” he said. “In order to ensure that this history would be preserved, we donated some records to the Local History and Genealogy Department of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library and to the Canaday Center at the University of Toledo. The Henry Ford Museum took dozens of vintage food jars and tins to add to their retail goods holdings, noting that these were items never before available in their collections.”
Obtaining the extra space will allow The Blarney to better serve its customers during peak times, Beczynski said. Since opening in 2006, he purchased the building behind the bar to use as The Blarney Event Center, which hosts private parties. The pub has also begun offering catering services.
“We’re going to be able to put food out so much faster,” he said. “When it gets crazy down here, it’s just hard with the kitchen we have. It’s going to give us the ability to really pump out the food.”
Ligibel is glad to have found the right buyer at the right time.
“This is kind of what I’m looking for, because they’re going to carry on a deli, in sort of the theme of the business as it was,” she said.
Although she no longer owns the building, Ligibel is glad to see the neighborhood coming to life after years of dormancy.
“To see all of this happening, it’s very exciting,” she said. “I never could have imagined that the Mud Hens would draw the crowds like they do. It is just awesome the way Toledo has come around to the Mud Hens and the Walleye. To see all of that happening, it makes me feel good.”
Beczynski expects to begin interior demolition work within a few weeks and hopes to have the market open this summer.