Imagine a friend sends you a property listing and upon arrival you discover it’s a church. That’s what happened to Mike and Carol Riley when they went to visit what is the former St. Jean Baptist Church on Warren’s Main Street.
“We had no funds [to purchase a church], but as soon as we walked in my mind started wandering…” says Carol, a creative type well-known around the East Bay for her upcycling prowess – be it her Tatters clothing line, the romantic style of Bristol Cottage B&B, or fanciful wares for sale at Hotpoint Emporium, an artisan cooperative. The 1882 building offered 7,200 square feet of possibilities and the kind of features you don’t typically find in most open house tours, like a steeple and stained glass windows. Mike was quickly onboard with his wife’s idea and has been busy dividing the space for mixed uses: living, work, studio, and retail for The Church Palace. “There are two cry rooms!” says Carol, who now uses the quarters for the shop’s dressing rooms while the church balcony is her sewing room.
“The building was in great shape so we really didn’t have a lot to do to fix it up,” says Carol, who notes that their son lightened up the interiors with coats of white paint. Now open for business, customers will find handmade apparel, hats, and bags, along with original artwork, furnishings, collectibles, and more. Carol also has plans to turn the outdoor grotto into a tea room; her daughter currently uses the spot to teach yoga.
Relocating to Warren from Bristol, Carol has found the business community to be welcoming. “The locals are very supportive. I love that! I’m right on Main Street with a huge parking lot, steps away from the bike path,” she explains. “I’ve had more than a few people say that it’s a gem of a find and they were not expecting it to be so nice. Is that a compliment?” she asks with a grin. “I’m taking it as one!”