Several years ago, after watching gobs of HGTV episodes, I seriously thought I could remodel my entire kitchen over the 4th of July weekend. With my Home Depot 1-2-3 book in one hand, and high hopes and determination in my heart, I set out on what could be deemed as one of the biggest dismal failures. Ugh. Just thinking about it makes me cringe.
So, when I meet people that set out to remodel their homes, or better yet, renovate and beautify old run down homes, like Chip and Joanna Gaines' style of amazingness, I lean in and want to learn more about them.
Enter Kevin and Ambrea Mikolajczyk, owners of Ark Restoration and Construction, right here in Toledo, Ohio. I first met Ambrea about six years ago while we were both a part of our respective bible study groups at CedarCreek. At the time, Ambrea was pregnant with their fourth child and working as a Pharmaceutical Sales Business Manager at Pfizer. Kevin was working in Corporate Finance for ProMedica. Comfortable and quite successful in their careers, they decided to purchase a duplex and house at auction, both fixer-uppers.
They obviously had more than a Home Depot 1-2-3 book, and a few HGTV episodes under their belt. Heck, they knocked that demo project out of the park and sparks went off for them. They thought, “What if we could do this more often and invest in run down buildings in Toledo?” And bam, fast forward, Ark Restoration and Construction was born, and is booming.
This past spring, Ambrea quit her full-time job to join Kevin in operating the many facets of their company. As their website states, “ARK Restoration and Construction was started from our obsession for designing and creating something special from ‘undesirable properties.’ To restore and beautify buildings that have been forgotten about, paying close attention to quality and detail.” ARK Restoration employs highly skilled and diverse masons, carpenters, project managers, and laborers, and offers construction management, masonry, carpentry, contracting, and consulting.
A November 23, 2017 Toledo Blade article states, “In the past 10 years, the couple has renovated and preserved about nine multi-family apartments — mostly in West Toledo and the Old West End — and they now manage and rent the 64 units within the buildings.”
And now, Ambrea and Kevin “want to breathe new life into [a] the 93-year-old building that long ago baked loaves of Wonder Bread and sweet-tasting Hostess Cakes,” at the Continental Baking Co. on North Summit Street in Toledo. Ambrea and Kevin applied for and received state historic preservation tax credits to renovate the building into 24 apartments, and they are moving forward with this awesome project.
Ambrea says in the Blade article, "This will be nothing like the downtown Toledo area has seen as far rental apartments. We are offering a very unique product for a very unique building," she said. “Kevin and I are confident in the product we are putting out and that people will want to come and live.”
Talk about breathing life into a building where others want to come and live! Me and about twenty other women wanted to do just that this past Saturday when Ambrea invited us all to her renovated warehouse home for “cocktails and conversation,” hosted by Ambrea and my best friend, Rhonda Sewell. Honestly, I almost passed out taking in the stunning details and beauty of this old restored building. Ambrea graciously allowed us all to view every detail of their home: the repurposed wheels that are now the light fixtures, the preserved wooden beams that support their home, and the repurposed wooden crates that once held cigars and cigarettes now hold their bathroom towels and linens. We all oohed and simultaneously ahhed when we entered her girls’ fairytale bedroom, and their sons' graffiti superhero and sports walls.
After viewing several spectacular renovations, all of us ladies sat down to share about our lives. One by one, we all courageously shared our own personal stories—the failures, setbacks, and hurts that we’ve overcome. And one by one, we laughed, cried, oohed and said “ahhh,” and cheered one another to keep going. There is no doubt that God was in the midst of our gathering. It was so invigorating. We ended the evening holding hands, in a circle, and we prayed for one another to keep going higher. It was nothing short of awesome.
So it appears that Ambrea and Kevin are not only breathing life and hope into forgotten buildings and structures, they are also breathing life into people’s stories. Ambrea writes on her Facebook page: “When Kevin and I designed our warehouse, we wanted it to be a place of gathering. A place where we could share our love and blessings with others.” Several ladies left that evening saying that they were leaving with a deeper sense of peace, weightlessness, purpose, awareness, and a new-found intention. It was more than a gathering, it was revival.
I thank God for Kevin and Ambrea’s mission work. I hope to one day see them on HGTV, or on Chip and Joanna Gaines’ newly announced television network, to help guide those “weekend renovators,” like myself, with some helpful words of wisdom, hope, inspiration, renewal and revival.
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