Poplar — Poplar’s former elementary school is being remodeled in stages by owners Shadley and Brittany Nelson. Future plans for the site include a Blast paint shop. A space where spray foam can be applied to the boat. Exterior and interior storage; plus Fourplex.
“It’s a work in progress for as long as money allows,” says Shadly Nelson. “My wife and I run a small industrial paint company that we are slowly putting together as our home base.”
Their business, Nelson Industrial Coatings LLC, is currently running out of their home in Bennett. Nelson said the company employed up to 12 people at its peak last summer. The business offers a range of services from sandblasting, painting and spray foam services to polyurea coatings.
The couple purchased the Poplar Elementary school building a year and a half ago, and purchased the storage unit behind the school about six months later, Nelson said. It included creating storage space for company equipment and installing surveillance cameras. Nelson said he is waiting for state permits to install doors in those spaces.
“Slowly by spring you’ll see things starting to take place here, like light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
The former poplar school building has been a local landmark since shortly after the village was founded in 1917. According to his 100th anniversary book, 100 Years of Poplar, published by the village in 2017, the ground was broken for a brick building in 1921. The structure cost $22,000. Richard I. Bonn added his Auditorium to the school and his Trophy Room was inaugurated in 1955.
“Even my brother used to play basketball here through the RBA[Rookie Basketball Association],” Nelson said. “They used to play basketball here. They had a tournament here on Saturday. I mean, I remember that.”
The elementary school closed when Northwestern Elementary School opened for the 1998-1999 school year, but became the county’s first charter school, the Richard I. Bonn Memorial Academy, in 2000. The academy closed five years after him.
Most recently, Poplar School was used as an apartment building from 2008 to 2014. The Bonn Memorial Apartments closed after the state declared the building uninhabitable due to building code requirements that the owners did not address and the loss of sewer service. Non-payment of overdue invoices.
The next incarnation of the building is planned as a business site. Nelson said village officials were supportive.
“We are a small family trying to start something,” Nelson said.
Residents can expect more work to be done on site this spring and summer. If you are interested in renting space on the property, please contact Brittany Nelson at 715-919-3274.
Nelson said his wife also plans to install a storage unit behind the Dollar General Store in Poplar.