WORTHINGTON (AP) — Mike Sauerbry and Jake Willey never anticipated going back to school quite like this.
The Asbury residents recently moved the headquarters for their two businesses, Super Stars of the Game and Packer Connection, into the former St. Paul Catholic School in Worthington.
While the new location seemed bizarre at first, Sauerbry said, it was probably the best decision that he and Willey have made for the web-based businesses.
“I thought the idea was nuts,” Sauerbry said. “It just seemed crazy to even think of moving into a school.”
But the more he looked into it, the more ideal the building appeared.
Both businesses, one of which specializes in selling autographed sports memorabilia and the other which organizes Green Bay Packers autograph signing events, operate completely online, so Worthington’s rural location didn’t matter.
The businesses’ previous building in Asbury had grown too small to hold their entire inventory. The school building’s classrooms provided more than enough space.
“All of that building for the price made it a steal. We really couldn’t pass it up,” Sauerbry said.
He declined to disclose the sales price, but online records show the property was bought by Frank Clasen, who is Willey’s uncle, for $165,000. Sauerbry said he and Willey will buy the building from Clasen in the near future.
The school closed in 2014 after declining enrollment made it economically unsustainable to keep open.
It then remained mostly unoccupied for several years, with the exception of St. Paul Catholic Church continuing to use the school offices and a few local charities using some of the classrooms as storage space.
Worthington Mayor Bill Burger said he proposed that the city purchase the building about a year ago, but he was unable to find additional support.
Earlier this year, Willey said he stumbled on the building while working at his second job as a real-estate agent.
“I knew we needed space, so I was keeping my eye out,” he said. “When I saw it, it just made sense to me.”
In late September, Sauerbry and Willey moved their businesses into the building.
While many of the classrooms will be used as storage space, Sauerbry said a few will be renovated into apartments for both himself and his mother. He also said the gymnasium will be available for rent for events.
He said some classrooms and offices also have been leased out to the church and local charities.
“We want to make sure the community can still use it,” Sauerbry said. “This is an important building for them.”
Burger noted that he is happy the new owners have been open to allowing the community to continue using the building.
“It seems like they are pretty open to the community,” he said. “I’m sure they are going to make a good addition.”
With the benefits of the building and the support of the community, Sauerbry said he doesn’t know why his businesses didn’t move into the old school sooner.
“It honestly surprises me that someone else didn’t move into here before we did,” he said. “This is literally the perfect situation for an online business, and I know there are more closed schools like this.”