For years, the property at 101 S. Broadway St. in Seymour had been an eyesore for the community.
The building, which had once served as a Latino bar and nightclub and at one time a feed store, had fallen into disrepair over the years, and weeds had grown up around it.
But when Martin and Connie Hernandez of Seymour looked at the property, they saw an opportunity provided by God, they said.
The Hernandezes were looking for a new location for their downtown family-owned and -operated Mexican restaurant, Mi Casa. Although they knew it would take a lot of money, time and hard work, they believed God would get them there.
Story continues below gallery
That faith has paid off in numerous ways, the Hernandezes said.
With support from friends, family and other local businesses, the family was able to renovate the interior of the building.
In January, Mi Casa reopened in its new location; however, much work was still needed on the building’s exterior.
Martin Hernandez said he would only complete what work they could pay for in full, and other things would just have to wait until they had saved enough money.
That’s how, over the past 10 months, they were able to get the building painted, the upstairs insulated, a new awning and window flower boxes installed on the front, landscaping and half of the parking lot paved.
They have used all local contractors and businesses to do the work, including Morton Renovations, All Star Paving, Sherwin-Williams paint store and The Awning Guy. They also partnered with Bite the Bullet employee Ben Brumley to design their new logo.
In the future, they hope to pave the rest of the back parking area, redo the floor in the dining area, create outdoor seating and replace booths, tables and chairs.
“Everything has been done in steps,” Connie Hernandez said.
Their work has not gone unnoticed by the public.
On Monday night, Mayor Craig Luedeman presented the Hernandezes with the Seymour Shine Award during a city council meeting.
City building commissioner Jeremy Gray nominated them for the honor.
“In the past, this property has received several complaints as being an eyesore in the community, and the Hernandezes have rehabbed the building, landscaped and paved the parking lot,” Gray said. “This hard work has resulted in many compliments on this property, and the city would like to thank them for an outstanding job beautifying and investing in this location.”
Connie Hernandez said when she received the call from the city, the first thing she was told was that they weren’t in trouble. She then thought it had something to do with downtown trick-or-treating. When she was told it was the Seymour Shine Award, she mistakenly thought it was about the annual Make Seymour Shine Week.
“I had never heard of it,” she said of the award. “But it was amazing to receive this. It means more to us than they can possibly know.”
It is the third such honor the city has bestowed since creating the award in 2014 to encourage residents and business owners to take care of their properties and to recognize those who make noticeable improvements.
The first recipient was Chad and Kim Cooper for cleaning up the old concrete block and brick plant property at Eighth and Elm streets. Darin Johnson received the award later that year for creating the Grassy Fork Trail, a cross-country course and public trail located at the Freeman Field Sports Complex on the city’s south side.