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At a downtown intersection where a dated storefront once occupied the corner, a recent renovation has turned a former upholstery shop into a head-turner.
Gone is the old burnt-orange showroom and warehouse where Arrow Upholstery once operated at North St. Mary’s Street and Brooklyn Avenue. In its place is a fresh new structure painted in crisp white with display-size windows trimmed in classic black. Smart signage reads “Brooklyn Square.”
The building at 1126 N. St. Mary’s St., on a half-acre lot that faces the Angelus Funeral Home to the north and the San Antonio River Walk to the south, still appears unoccupied as work continues nearby on the new CPS headquarters buildings.
James Cotter of Caisson Real Estate, the leasing agent for Brooklyn Square, declined to comment on the project. A marketing brochure states the building is 15,570 square feet and will lease at $50 per square foot per year. It is billed as Class A Creative Space and features parking and “locker rooms for active lifestyles.”
County records show oil and gas executive Luis Kernion purchased the building in 2016 under the name Prize Permanent Holdings. He is also listed as owner of the former gas station that sits on the opposite corner near Providence Catholic School.
“The building is for lease,” Kernion confirmed in an email. “Since the very beginning, we had lots of interest to lease, and we received calls every single day as I understand. But we are trying to bring something new for the city – a very unique business.”
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Kernion said he has spent about $485 per square foot on renovations. Casias Construction is the general contractor.
In 2016, Arrow owner Sidney Lachman said Kernion planned to open a ballet studio in the building, according to a local news report. Those plans could not be verified through calls to local ballet schools, and Ballet San Antonio said it would not be moving there.
But a bold mural by artist Amanda Rogers that depicts a dancer and flowers has gone up on the side walls facing the adjacent parking lot and street.
In August 2017, a representative for the project, architect Benito Polendo, put in a request to the Historic and Design Review Commission (HDRC) for conceptual approval to rehabilitate the Arrow Upholstery building. HDRC approved the installation of new windows and the addition of a walkway and patio along North St. Mary’s Street.
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In June, Polendo submitted another request for approval to install a neon sign mounted to the corner.
Kernion’s vision is that Brooklyn Square will be occupied by one tenant “and bring something wonderful for the River Walk and neighborhood,” he stated.
Arrow Upholstery operated at the North St. Mary’s address for more than 50 years. Those who grew up in San Antonio during the 1980s and ’90s will likely recall Arrow’s TV commercials and the jingle “Just call Arrow – Arrow Upholstery,” along with a purportedly satisfied customer saying, “I’ve gone back three times, haven’t I?”
Lachman passed away in April 2017, and the company has operated from an industrial park office near the airport.
Diagonally across from Brooklyn Square, work has begun to transform an old gas station and former Picnic convenience store into a coffee shop with a drive-through. The building has “incredible potential,” Kernion said.
The 1940s-era structure has Spanish eclectic and mission-style elements and retains its character-defining canopy structure, according to a description by the OHP. It is an individually designated local landmark that was once popular with downtown workers and nearby Catholic high school students.
HDRC meeting minutes show that Polendo was granted conceptual approval in February to construct an addition that would enclose the gas station’s service bay, relocate an existing wall on the northern edge of the property, and modify the area surrounding the building to accommodate an outdoor seating area, two parking spaces, and a drive-through lane.
In June, another request was made to demolish the gas station’s canopy and build a new one due to structural issues. But City staff recommended to HDRC that the owner restore the original canopy by replacing some of the framing and exterior stucco that had severe structural and material damage. The end product will look the same as the original canopy. HDRC approved those recommendations on consent.
Kernion said he expects the entire project will be completed within five months.