The former Schweser’s building in downtown Columbus is officially reopened just in time for its 100th anniversary.
Husband and wife Robert and Tracy Gasper purchased the 11,750-square-foot building in June 2017, and a little over a year later, their hard work is ready for the community. The couple is using the space to house Friedhof & Co., an events and dining center.
“The first time we stepped into the building, we just thought it would be a great place for receptions and a venue for occasions,” Tracy Gasper said. “The architecture itself is amazing.”
The Gaspers said they were drawn to the building’s long history and, Robert said, with the price of the building decreasing each year, they knew it was time to make the leap.
“We get thanks all the time for restoring it because it’s one of the better buildings in town and the people of Columbus just really have a fondness and a lot of interest in the building, especially being in the town square,” co-owner Robert said.
The building was built in 1918 by Theodore Friedhof, an orphaned immigrant from Germany, to be a dry goods store. Friedhof played a big role in developing Columbus to where it is today by donating land for Ag Park, establishing First National Bank, building The Evans Hotel, and he was one of the original board members working in Loup Power District’s canal project.
“By the time he passed away in 1946, he was the most wealthy and prominent guy in Columbus,” Robert said.
Decades down the road, the building transitioned into Schweser’s clothing and merchandise store, which opened its doors in 1929 by Fred Schweser.
Robert said Schweser went for a more modern aesthetic with his store, covering up many historical structures built by Friedhof. The Gaspers, who are also owners of Flatland Auction and Equipment, worked to bring back the history of the building, from the maple floors to the plaster details to the mezzanine level.
“It’s kind of ironic that on the transition of its 100th anniversary, we are going to the exact opposite direction of uncovering everything that they’ve covered up over the years and going back to more of the 1920s look,” Robert said.
Robert said community members have enjoyed sitting on the mezzanine level because it overlooks all the historical details of the building, noting not many businesses in the area has that feature.
“It’s just an icon,” Tracy added. “The Schweser sign is an icon to the community and the look of the building with all of the glass windows and stained glass…It’s just a really beautiful place.”
The Gaspers said they envision the building being a community one, open to host events of all levels, from wedding receptions to birthday and retirement parties. Since the recent opening of Friedhof & Co., several community members have held birthday celebrations and wedding receptions in the building. The business accommodates up to 275 guests and caterers are offered full access to the bar.
On top of hosting events, the business is open from 4-10 p.m. from Thursday through Saturday with menu options like wine, craft beer, as well as meat and cheese trays. The Gaspers said they are thinking about adding more food options to their menu in the near future, such as sandwiches and pizza.
“What’s really important to us is to always provide a conversation-based atmosphere with not a lot of loud music and loud TVs,” Robert said. “It’s just a place for someone to come in to enjoy a glass of wine or craft beer and enjoy it with family and friends.”
The Gaspers said they look forward to sharing the history of the building with community members, noting they leased out the second floor of the building to a Columbus couple, who will be opening their Star Escape Rooms soon.
People who are interested to learn more about Friedhof & Co. and its upcoming events, such as its grand opening date, are advised to visit its Facebook page – “The Friedhof Room at Schwesers.”
The establishment is at 1270 27th Ave.
Natasya Ong is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at email@example.com.