By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit
As the father of four young children, Derek Basile lives very much in the present, with an eye to the future. But as the Executive Officer for Blue 52 Homes, he also has a passion for the past. His company buys older houses, fixes them up and resells them.
So in 2011 when he first saw the building for sale at the corner of Bremerton Road and Madge Avenue, his eyes lit up with possibilities. What passersby saw as an old, vacant brick structure that years ago had been “modernized” with ugly corrugated metal siding, Basile saw as a diamond in the rough − an opportunity to honor the past while laying groundwork for his family’s future.
Basile toured the building and researched its past. He learned that it was built in 1925 and had since housed, at different times, a grocery store, a newspaper office and a beauty salon and barber shop. The second floor had been apartments.
He began making plans. Buy the property. Restore the façade to its original look as much as possible. Renovate the inside to create two side-by-side townhouses, one for his family. Add a garage to the rear with a huge storage space above it. Build a small room just inside the front entrance for Blue 52’s office.
Basile said the property, 2542 Bremerton, was for sale then went into foreclosure. When it went back on the market in June 2012 he bought it.
“It was listed as ‘lot/land for sale,’ for the buyer to tear down,” he said. “We saw it as an opportunity to restore the building to its original design.”
Construction began in January and is expected to conclude late next month. The original building’s 3,200 square feet has been expanded to 5,700 with the new garage and its upstairs storage. Basile and his wife and four children will live in the four-bedroom eastern side. They’ll seek a tenant for the living space on the western side, which includes two bedrooms.
Basile plans to hold an open house when the construction is completed.
“The community has been beyond supportive,” he said. “A day doesn’t go by without a neighbor stopping by to see what’s up.”
“It’s a neat thing what Derek is doing,” said Dan Fitzgerald, president of the Brentwood Historical Society. “He really wants to restore it. I think it’s looking great and will be a big improvement on how it looked before.”
Mix of Old and New
When Basile and his site supervisor, Ilijaz Hotic, are done, the finished product will be a blend of old and new. The most obvious of the new is the four-car garage built onto the north side, with a huge storage room above it. But a large segment of the original brick exterior is being left in place along the inside staircase that leads from the garage to the storage.
Other new touches include an Energy Star roof, a screened-in porch on the ground floor of the northeast corner and a deck with interlocking planks above it.
To help restore the original look, the corrugated metal panels were removed from the front and the original window frames are being trimmed with Honduran mahogany.
“Our goal is to restore the original storefront to its 1930s look,” said Basile.
Inside, Basile is having the original hardwood floor restored. The quartersawn pine planks were found underneath three layers of flooring.
Groceries, Newspapers, Haircuts
According to Fitzgerald, the structure was built in 1925 and originally housed a corner grocery store that was owned until the late 1950s by John Kelly, whose son was the mayor of Brentwood in the 1980s. An old, undated photo shows the store with the sign “The M&B Grocerette.”
Fitzgerald, who is also Brentwood’s assistant police chief, said the building housed The Scope, a Brentwood newspaper, in the 1950s and ‘60s. After that, its tenants included a beauty shop and a barbershop.
An article in a Sept. 1965 edition of The Scope announced that the building had been renovated and a month earlier had become the publication’s “new quarters.” The article said that a business tenant was being sought for the other half of the first floor and that two apartments were available for rent upstairs.
Basile moved to the St. Louis area from Connecticut seven years ago. He and his wife Mollie lived in Brentwood Forest until they had twins three years ago and moved to St. Louis. His family owns Blue 52 Homes. In 2011 he was working on a house at 2509 Bremerton when he noticed the vacant building at the corner of Bremerton and Madge.
Blue 52 Homes website: