Lore has it that clients of McKinley & Hill Antiques included Ralph Lauren, Hugh Hefner and Oprah.
The after-hour “sherry hour” soirees in the establishment that among other things sports an indoor, 12-foot-deep swimming pool in Wheat Ridge, were as legendary as the clients of the proprietors, Bud Hill and Matt McKinley.
McKinley died about 25 years ago. After Hill died in 2013, the building at 4340 Harlan St. sat vacant until Klare Looney purchased it for $780,000.
She is renting an apartment in the building for $3,000 per month.
It is perhaps one of the more unique apartments in the Denver area. In addition to the swimming pool, one of the four bathrooms has enough showerheads for two baseball teams. That’s right. It has 18 showerheads. The apartment has three fireplaces and even an indoor pig roaster.
The balance of the building will be used for Looney’s second daycare center in the area. Looney, who opened her first daycare center, Lightway at Sloans, a decade ago, is calling her new center Lightway at The Ridge.
The Wheat Ridge Chamber of Commerce has scheduled a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Lightway at The Ridge at 2 p.m. Saturday.
She opened Lightway at Sloans in 2007 because she wasn’t happy with any of the daycare centers she visited in the area.
“I was really looking for the middle ground between a nanny and a daycare center,” Looney, 35, recalled.
One of the things she did to distinguish herself from competitors in what nationally is a $48 billion-a-year business in revenues was to install video cameras so parents could watch their children at play. Now, of course, they can stream the video on their iPhones.
“The last decade has been great, fantastic,” Looney told me last week.
She’s not kidding.
She has more than 200 people on a waiting list to enroll their children at Lightway at Sloans. And they pay $75 each to be on the waiting list. Lightway accepts children from 6 weeks old to 5 years, while the Ridge, as she calls it, will cater to those 6 weeks to 3 years.
Given the demand for her center, she has been looking, off and on, for a second center.
“Most of our parents are coming from West Highland, Sloan’s Lake, Berkeley and other nearby neighborhoods. There have been just so many young families with young kids moving in the area during the past few years,” she said.
A number of her parents have moved to buy bigger homes for less money in Wheat Ridge, Arvada and Golden, but almost all of them stuck with her, even though other centers are closer.
“Basically, once people come to us, they never leave,” Looney said. “We have so little turnover that people are on our waiting list for a long time.”
However, the real estate prices in the Northwest Denver area grew as fast, or faster, than her business.
“I wanted to stay in the area, but it was so expensive I couldn’t afford it,” Looney said.
“I looked at one 1,200-square-foot gas station (site) and they wanted $1 million, maybe even $1.2 million.”
She cast her net to areas like Wheat Ridge and Arvada, which also were seeing big jumps in real estate prices.
In 2015, while searching the web, she stumbled upon the former McKinley & Hill Antiques site.
She called the listing broker and jumped in her car with her son, Kale, now 10.
“Wow! We were blown away,” she recalled.
The price also was right.
“After looking at 1,200 square feet for a million bucks, $780,000 for 12,000 square feet seemed like a screaming deal,” she said.
It might have fetched more but for a lack of parking.
“There was enough parking to meet my needs, but if you wanted to turn it into a restaurant, there wouldn’t be enough. I was kind of the perfect buyer.”
The original house was built in the 1890s and Hill bought it in 1960, according to his obituary. He and his partner added a $500,000 addition to it. That would be about $4 million in today’s dollars.
It was a massive undertaking. The addition included 100,000 antique bricks salvaged from buildings in LoDo. Travertine marble from Mexico was laid in a herringbone pattern from the 22-foot ceiling to the swimming pool.
Looney put in a lot of sweat equity in the property.
“I spent a lot of time painting,” she laughed.
She knew nothing of the history of the building or its previous owners when she bought the building.
About every six months, people would randomly stop by, regaling her with stories of its clients and the epic parties.
Locally, it was downlow and low key.
“They saw clients by appointment only,” and a lot of neighbors had never been inside and weren’t privy to either the business or entertainment side of the establishment, she said.
“They kept everything very secretive,” Looney said. “But there are so many stories.”
One story, or rather a snippet of kismet, Looney came across on a scrap of paper in a safe, “a real old-fashioned safe,” in the building.
“The day we closed, I found this little ripped-off piece of paper in Bud’s handwriting,” she said, still amazed what he had scrawled.
He had written 5400 W. 25th Ave., an address extraordinarily familiar to her.
“What in the world? That is the address of Lightway at Sloans,” her original daycare center.
Before she bought the building in Edgewater, it was a doctor’s office and he apparently had an appointment there.
“I still have that piece of paper,” Looney said. “Clearly, I was meant to own this.”