Farmers Exchange Building
Built in the early 1920’s, the Farmers Exchange building bears traces of Bentonville’s history. Exposed masonry walls, repurposed shutters, and exposed rafters and roof decking celebrate the building’s past life. What once housed livestock feed now nourishes a digital product development agency.
Keeping up the momentum of downtown Bentonville’s ongoing revitalization and cultural stimulation, the Farmers Exchange Building has been revived by HFA as a creative tech hub for its new tenant, RevUnit, with both open and personal office space, shared auxiliary spaces, and an honest interior which showcases existing structure throughout.
Built in the early 1920’s by Vern Rife, the building served as Rife Produce & Grocery through the 1930’s. Homegrown produce was sold there and also exported via the adjacent railroad along with other goods. A farmers co-op occupied the building from 1957 until its renovation, becoming a significant stitch in Bentonville’s fabric.
The Farmers Exchange building still bears threads of Bentonville’s history. Exposed hollow clay masonry walls and broken plaster provide a notable, textured backdrop for office spaces. Wood shutters, marked from years of abuse and gouged with carvings of initials, were repurposed as barn doors throughout the building. Current employees have added their own marks to maintain the tradition. Painted wood planks from old advertisements were kept as roof decking to further celebrate the building’s past life. What once housed feed for livestock and seed for planting now nourishes the momentum for RevUnit, a tech-savvy digital product development agency. The building presents a fresh identity for the tenant while preserving and adding to the 90+ year old structure’s modest history from a feed store to a polished office space. This juxtaposition is made more evident by the use an old feed mixer and other leftover artifacts used in and around the building as art.
There were several challenges presented from the start that were addressed in order to complete a remodel that functioned well for the tenants. Upon structural inspection, it was deemed necessary to stabilize the leaning brick façade by utilizing five steel cable ties, running the entire depth of the building, to secure the front and back walls together. HFA removed various floor levels and provided a new slab to offer better use of floor area for the building program. The central “nave” remained an open floor area for collaborative workspace while the barn door opening received storefront to make it weather-tight and allow morning light to inundate the space. The side aisles became offices, conference areas, restrooms, and lounge space, tucked snuggly into existing bays marked by rough-hewn wood columns. A reinforced mezzanine floor and cable railing now provides additional open work space accessible by a new stair on the east and a new spiral stair, visible through the windows along the sidewalk, near the west entry.
The project took approximately one year to complete. HFA breathed new life into a feed store with this sensitive adaptive reuse project, providing a future for this historic structure while recalling its past.
The refreshed east façade incorporates modern storefront in the opening of the old barn doors. A well-lit patio and fire pit provide a shaded outdoor respite for the afternoon. A modern steel portal provides a distinctive entrance for the tenant space.
Aged barn doors, with their notable bruises intact, were cleaned and used throughout the building to partition spaces as needed. A modern spiral stair juxtaposes comfortably with the old door, chipped plaster, and brick flue.
The unfinished wood trusses provide a natural warmth to the space to blend with the storefront, exposed ductwork, lighting, and fan. The painted wood decking from old signage recalls the history that reveals itself throughout the building.
A reinforced mezzanine floor now serves as open office area and provides a commanding view of the area below.
A before and after photo reveals the building’s past use as a livestock feed store. The loading dock was removed along with various interior floor levels to provide ground level entry at all doorways.
Offices and accessory spaces were tucked under the lower north and south sides of the wood structure in order to take advantage of the open height of the wood trusses.
The old barn door shows its past with names and markings of former tenants. Current employees have continued the tradition, adding their marks to the barn door and creating a new chapter in its history.
The break room is centrally located and contains a table and island made from repurposed boards from the site.
“Space can really define a company in so many ways, particularly when you have so many local clients who come through and it causes them see us differently - it's the way they perceive our brand.” – Joe Saumweber, RevUnit CEO