Nick and Terry Xidis have devoted a lot of energy to Hazel Hill Chocolate, the candy shop that has become a fixture of downtown Topeka, and now the couple is ready to invest even more in the city’s up-and-coming district.
Since August 2016, the couple has lived in the refitted office above the chocolate shop at 724 S. Kansas Ave., but by the end of this year, they hope to be moving across the hall to a completely renovated three-bedroom apartment above the H&R Block at 726 S. Kansas Ave.
“We love it down here,” he said recently while touring the space. “We want to be where the action is.”
The Xidises left a multi-bedroom home on 5 acres off 53rd Street west of Wanamaker Road for their downtown space that is around 1,800 square feet. Now that their children have left home, downsizing felt right, he said, and the lifestyle change has been “great.”
“We don’t have to mow or shovel snow, and plus we can sit up here and watch what’s going on the avenue,” Xidis said while looking out the front windows of the apartment. “Now that during the summer there’s an event almost every weekend, it’s really kind of cool to just be able to open windows and take in the music or whatever or pull up your chair and look out on the avenue. It’s not a bad thing.”
Behind him a pile of old lumber and a stack of nearly century-old ledgers collect dust. When that’s cleaned up, Xidis hopes the food floors can be restored, along with red brick on the north wall and limestone on the south wall.
That south wall was formerly the exterior wall of 728 S. Kansas, complete with the painted billboards commonly seen on buildings around the turn of 19th Century. Faded white letters advertise “Beeman’s Pepsin Chewing Gum” on a black background.
The nostalgic sign will be the back drop to a living room that will open directly into a kitchen area, which will be outfitted with a stone counter top that brings the brick and limestone together.
A hallway will run along the north wall that opens first to a master bedroom, then a den and a guest bedroom. In the rear, Xidis wants a small dark room next the the utility closet. Throughout, vaulted ceilings of about 15 feet will show of the buildings timber frame. Altogether, Xidis said the project will be a $100,000 to $150,000 investment.
When the couple moves, the space above Hazel Hill will be left open, but Xidis said they haven’t made a decision on what to do with it. The space could easily be an office or an apartment.
Downsizing is just one part of the couple’s move downtown. Xidis said the remodeled streetscape of Kansas Avenue and talk of year-round events in the downtown have built confidence the area is in the midst of renascence.
Business is up at Hazel Hill since the Kansas Ave. street project finished. Xidis said the store has seen more than 20 percent increase in sales between 2015 and 2016.
That means the chocolatier the is expanding, but not with a new storefront. Xidis said he’s working with at least three wholesalers to sell candies in stores outside Topeka, including one in Stockton in northwestern Kansas.
The store is also staying open an hour later, until 8 p.m., because Xidis said more people are walking around Kansas Avenue in the evening.
“We may stretch that out more as we get more into summer,” he said. “We see it kind of trend coming off last summer. There’s a lot more people out and about downtown.”