Aurora Mills Expanding Retail Footprint, with Place for Large Things and Airplane Wings

Aurora Mills Architectural Salvage — known for purveying antique, vintage, reclaimed and other found treasures — is building something new.

The company is constructing a new, 8,125-square-foot building in one corner of the property — about 5,000 square feet of which will be for retail display and sales, with the remainder being employee-only warehouse space.

Aurora Mills owner Mike Byrnes says the new space will complement — but certainly not replace — the iconic and historic mill building, which the company will continue to use as its primary sales floor.

“We would never — this is a very special place,” Byrnes told the Canby Now Podcast. “We would never take that down at all.”

Rather, the new building will display overflow inventory and, especially, large items that don’t fit in your typical retail space. Like, you know, a 20-foot-tall canvas poster advertising a circus act. Just for example.

“Yeah, we have one of those,” Byrnes said with a laugh. “It was for a giant. And it will be for other large items: back bars, theater lighting, airplane wings, floor boards, things like that. I like to joke that we could fit a double-decker English bus in there.”

The original Quonset hut was carefully deconstructed in January. Photos courtesy of Mike Byrnes.

The new structure replaces a World War II Army surplus Quonset hut that had occupied the space since 1948, until it was deconstructed earlier this year. A buyer in the Seattle, Wash., area intends to rebuild the hut there to display vintage vehicles from the WWII era and other memorabilia.

“I was so excited that we were able to do that,” Byrnes said. “I didn’t want it to go in the scrap heap, you know.”

The mill, which is currently open to the public — albeit with a modified schedule —broke ground on the new building in early March and is proceeding with the project despite the uncertainty around the coronavirus-related economic crisis.

“Some people think we’re crazy to move forward with it, but we’ve been planning this since 2008,” Byrnes said. “I wasn’t going to let another recession stop us.”

They plan to build through the summer, and hope to be open by Oct. 1. It will be just the second new commercial structure built in the city of Aurora in the past 50 years, Byrnes said — the first being Filberts Farmhouse Kitchen, just up the road.

Two minor amendments to the project will go before the Aurora Planning Commission Tuesday: a request for a reduction in the number of needed parking spaces, from 21 to 14, and the addition of a roll-up service door on the south side of the building. The expansion will have access from First Street.

Aurora Mills hopes to open the new retail space in October. Photos courtesy of Mike Byrnes.

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