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Brigus couple transforming former school into mercantile property

Jim Power is nearly finished adding a bright red coat of paint to the old school in Brigus.
Jim Power is nearly finished adding a bright red coat of paint to the old school in Brigus. - Barbara Dean-Simmons

BRIGUS, N.L. — It’s hard to miss the work Jim Power has put into his Brigus project.

The large building, which opened as a school in 1964, is turning from a shade of pale white to a brilliant hue of red.

“The weather didn’t help,” he laughed, referencing the cold and wet weeks of June.

Over the winter, Power replaced most of the windows in the building and cleaned up the inside.

He and his wife, Elizabeth, bought the property last year from the local Catholic parish.

They’re transforming the old, worn building for a brand new purpose.

The old classrooms on the second floor will become boutique stores. Three of them, including an antique store and an art store, will open later this summer.

Eventually, the spacious main floor of the building will be available for large gatherings, like weddings.

For Power, there’s a strong sense of déjà vu as he wanders through the space.

He spent his school days in these rooms and hallways.

His children also got their early education here.

The rooms are pretty much the same as they were left when the school closed in the early 1990s. Following the abolishment of denominational education in this province, students from this school were bussed out of the community to another school.

The chalkboards are still in place, old desks are stacked in an empty room, and cupboards that once held supplies for the teacher are still attached to the wall.

The Powers plan to leave a lot of the school memorabilia — including the green chalkboards— in place.

For now, Power’s focus is to finish the outside painting and transform four classrooms into retail space.

The rest will be completed over the next year or so.

“It was a big thing to take on,” Power says of this project. “But we’ve been plugging away at it all winter, every day.”

Powers believe there’s a need for more boutique-style stores in the town to encourage visitors to stop and shop.

“A lot of tourists and bus tours come through here every day, see the historic sites and then leave again,” Power told the Compass.

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