By Elaine Williams
Lewiston Tribune, Idaho.
A contractor carried a gun when Nikky Hites and Vikky Ross renovated a former crack den at the base of Ninth Street in Lewiston.
The extreme measure was the only way the usually unflappable twins felt safe as squatters stopped by to pick up their belongings during the day and tried to steal fixtures at night.
It’s also an example of the lengths the Latah County residents are willing to go to save historic buildings with character, something they’ve learned to do and make a profit.
Their rescues include Morgans’ Alley, the Main Street building where the Blue Lantern Coffeehouse Lamp; Wine Bar is and a six-unit Normal Hill apartment complex. Blue Lantern’s location is officially called the Commercial Trust Building and was the office of the entrepreneur who constructed the Hurlbut Mansion in Lewiston as his residence.
Business Profile talked with Hites and Ross about what led them to buy properties in Lewiston, how they make their projects pencil out and where their business is headed.
Business Profile: How did you decide to go into commercial real estate?
Vikky Ross: When we were kids, we used to visit a relative in Albany, Ore., who had a big apartment building in a commercial area. We’d run down these big long hallways and then we’d go outside where she had a concrete fish pond. That made us want to own commercial property. Nothing was available in Moscow because that downtown had gone through this transition in the early ’80s when we were young, married, having kids and working part time.
Nikky Hites: We were also inspired by Ron and Julie Wells. They’re big commercial developers in Spokane. They bought the Brier Building in Lewiston. Mingles in Moscow was a condemned apartment building that was going to be torn down.