TORONTO - Keith Curtis peppers his speech on purchasing the former Daniels Building with words such as "opportunity" and "history" - words that can sometimes be unseen by residents who were born and raised here. But Keith and his wife Natalie, both of whom possess staunch Southern accents, are more than delighted to be the new owners of the former Daniels Building in the Gem City, and they said acquisition of the building is a dream come true.
The couple, who also reside in Byram, Miss., searched the country trying to find a building with the history and qualifications they were seeking - a building with historical significance with loft apartments, a river view and storefronts. Keith said they hit the jackpot when they discovered the Daniels Building at Third and Main streets in the city's downtown area.
"Originally, we were looking for a home away from home," said Keith. "We've searched the country looking for the property - San Diego, Indiana and Illinois.
BRINGING IT BACK TO ITS GLORY — The famed Daniels Building ballroom is going to be brought back to its former glory, according to owners Keith and Natalie Curtis. They plan to renovate the building to go with its historical past.
-- Mark J. Miller
"Toronto is a beautiful little town," he continued. "I've had people come up to me on the street and ask my why we moved here. I tell them, 'Why not?'"
Both retired - Keith from the automobile business and Natalie from the lumber industry - they also saw a business opportunity with the purchase of the multi-storied building. The Toronto High School Alumni Association office sits on the north corner of the building along with four other storefronts on the other side, including the Historical Society of Toronto's Main Street Museum.
Other storefronts are in the process of becoming occupied. An art galley is set to open in the next few weeks along with some other possible tenants, said Keith.
The building was built in 1890 by the descendants of T.M. Daniels, one of the city's founding fathers. The building has long been a social center for the city, and businesses and tenants have occupied the building since its construction. The couple finalized the sale in July, purchasing the building from Jane McConnell. The two have since been busy renovating the building, including the storefronts. Keith said he sees nothing but good when he looks at the Gem City's potential.
"Toronto has so much going for it," he said, adding the people were the reason for the move. "That's what we noticed here - the people. We both agreed it was the people. There's a lot of hospitality here. We just didn't feel the same atmosphere in a lot of other places. (Natalie) likes the fact she can be comfortable walking downtown at any time day or night. This was definitely 'the place.'"
Keith also said the building was in remarkably good shape considering its age, and that its been well-maintained through the years. He said the loft atmosphere was what the couple coveted most about the building. Even the rumored ghosts that are said to haunt the building by locals didn't faze the couple, and their attitude seems to be that only adds character - the more the merrier.
"We haven't seen any ghosts - yet," said Natalie, adding she was on the lookout for any otherworldly events and possible spectres in the building.
"This is probably the most original building we've seen," said Keith, adding the renovations are attracting attention from budding businesses. "Now we have day spa coming in, and the museum and the art gallery. We also might have a coffee shop as well. I've had other people inquire, but we don't have the room. When people want to start a business in a building like this, that's opportunity staring you right in the face."
The couple was so impressed with the business potential of the historical buildings in Toronto they recently purchased a second building - the former Clark Opera building at the corner of Fourth and Main streets. Keith said they plan to renovate that structure as well.
"We came here and never thought of buying a second building, but here we are," said Keith, adding he's optimistic about the potential future of the city. "We also want to start a Main Street festival that will run a little later than most festivals and include live blues and jazz bands."
The couple said any business plan has to start with optimism for the future and a fresh perspective.
"We can choose to live in the past or we can make a difference in the future," said Keith. "We didn't plan on buying another building, but we saw the enthusiasm and the opportunity."
Keith said he's banking on that well of enthusiasm to help bring back opportunity.
"I think this younger generation has a lot of enthusiasm," he said. "I think that's going to be the key to bringing Toronto back to its glory days."
(Miller can be contacted at email@example.com.)