Kari Lempka, owner of 6th and Broadway Clothing and Decor in downtown Alexandria, bought the building with her husband, Scott, on Jan. 3, but they weren’t able to officially open the store’s doors until May 19.

Now, the finishing touches are being made to the outside of the building at 528 Broadway St., but it’s a work in progress.

The smoke from the February fires blew directly over the building and into the store, so there was soot damage inside. The store didn’t have a strong smoke smell, but the insurance company covered all damages and completed restorative cleaning on the space and merchandise.

All fabric and clothing went through an ozone restoration process. Everything else was either replaced or sanitized with special cleaners.

“The process took about two months to do all that, but it was well worth it,” Kari said.

When the Lempkas pulled away some rotted siding on the south entrance, they found brick arches and columns that had been hidden behind the wall for decades.

“It was just like unwrapping a present,” Scott said. “The more they peeled away, the cooler it looked.”

The Lempkas are finishing repairs on the bricks, replacing the wood frame and installing an awning to make it look like the original structure. Since being built in 1881, Scott said the building previously served as both an opera house and a news office. The columns will be painted to match the rest of the building.

For the interior, they got new carpeting, ceiling tiles and paint on the lower level space as well as the three upper level apartments.

“I wouldn’t say it’s been an easy road,” Scott said. “There have been a few things that you really can’t plan for that we’ve had to navigate. But now that we’re open, it’s been really exciting.”

Reviving the store

Kari Lempka purchased VS Designs Garden Gallery from Vicki Stanz when she was going out of business.

“It was my favorite store in town,” Kari said. “I was really sad to see that, and then the thought occurred to me to give her a call and find out what her plan is.”

The Lempkas were looking for a chance to move their family back to the area, as they’re both Alexandria natives.

All of the clothing lines Stanz sold will remain, and a few sizes will be added: petite, tall and plus. Special orders and specific needs can also be inquired about and ordered in.

“I would call it a more fresh and youthful look,” Kari said.

Virtual beginnings

Kari held a Facebook live event June 16 to feature the Liverpool jean line.

“We’re looking forward to taking advantage of the Facebook option for those that are concerned about COVID and wanting to play it safe and take part in shopping still from the comfort of home,” Kari said.

A brand representative from New York tuned in to talk about each of the featured pieces, five locals modeled clothes and people who viewed the event could get discounts.

Kari said she hopes to incorporate other brands and products into future events like this, including purses, dresses and clearance items.

For those who do visit in person, Kari said the lower level has been expanded to twice its original size and has “a little bit more of a beach flavor.”

“I’m excited to be serving the great people of this community and just enjoying a pace of life that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time,” Kari said.

6th and Broadway Clothing and Decor co-owner Scott Lempka and carpenter Tom Sullivan stand next to the store after removing the siding. The original structure was built in 1881. (Contributed)
6th and Broadway Clothing and Decor co-owner Scott Lempka and carpenter Tom Sullivan stand next to the store after removing the siding. The original structure was built in 1881. (Contributed)