Tabet buys historic F&E building

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The Feil and Ellermeyer building will sit boarded up and vacant a little bit longer, even though a Belen businessman bought the building earlier this month.

Abigail R. Ortiz-News-Bulletin photo: Belen businessman Herman Tabet purchased the Feil and Ellermeyer building on Didier Avenue and Main Street for $100,000.

For now, Herman Tabet is planning on observing Belen’s economy for a year or two before deciding on the building’s future.

“Right now I’m on hold until I figure out what’s going to happen in Belen — if business is going to die out or if it’s going to pick up,” Tabet said.

In the last five years, Tabet has watched businesses either pack up and leave or hold on dearly through an economic dry spell.

“There’s a lot of empty buildings. Some businesses are open and hanging on by a shoe string,” he said. “My business is down 60 percent at Tabet Lumber — maybe even by more.”

The Belen native is vice president of the Holiday Inn Express, Tabet Lumber & Concrete True Value, JHT Construction and JHT Sand & Gravel, in addition to co-owning 63 properties throughout Belen, according to the Valencia County Assessor’s Office website.

But the 78 year old “feels and hopes” business in the Hub City will return, “and all businesses will recover from the hard times,” he said.

In the meantime, Tabet will secure the F&E building to stop intruders from inhabiting the structure, and vandals from causing more damage internally.

A friend of the building’s previous owner Peter Spiefel, Martin Haynes, approached Tabet in late January asking if he was interested in purchasing the building on Didier Avenue and Main Street.

“I told him that I wasn’t interested in the building, but that I would take a look at it,” Tabet said. “I thought, ‘It’s not a bad thing if I can get a good deal on it.’”

After speaking with Spiefel twice, Tabet learned Spiefel purchased the building with plans of moving to Belen from Switzerland, but was out voted by his wife and children.

Maintaining and keeping up the building soon became a burden to Spiefel with increases in tax insurance, rental fees and vandalism on top of a “crappy” business economy that turned the building into a bad deal, Tabet said.

“I felt bad for him,” he said. “He would’ve been a good citizen if he had moved to Belen. He would’ve been a great asset to have here.”

Less than a week later, Tabet closed on the purchase on Feb. 1 for $100,000.

City officials sent Spiefel a notice in January notifying him the stucco was falling off the side of the building onto the sidewalk and creating a public hazard, said Steve Tomita, the city’s planning and zoning director.

“It was becoming a safety issue,” Tomita said.

Spiefel flew to Belen in late January to visit the building and told Tomita he was going to try selling it.

City officials expressed interest in meeting with Spiefel to have the building jointly occupied, but the building was sold soon after, Tomita said.

Although it’s still too early to tell, Tabet said he has ideas about what he could do with the building, such as creating a loft on the second floor or renovating. He said he could also knock down the building, but said he wasn’t planning on doing so “over night unless I had to.”

The brick building has been boarded up and vacant since September 2011 when Spiefel notified tenants they had 30 days to vacate the premises without an explanation of why.

The 12,000 square-foot building was occupied by long-time tenants Rita’s New Mexican Restaurant, Unique Boutique, the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions and architect James Lynch.

In 2011, the F&E building was listed with a price tag of $475,000 on the Southwest Multiple Listing Service, Inc., a real estate website.

The brick building, built in 1928, is two stories in height on top of a basement, sits on one acre and includes 30 parking spaces and an elevator.

The brick building was built by German immigrants Paul Feil and William Ellermeyer, who were recruited from the same area of Germany by John D. Becker to work in his mercantile business.

In its early days, the F&E building was the only building in Belen with an elevator. The mercantile sold everything from alfalfa to coffins.


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.