Fresno church makes most of old furniture store

FRESNO, Calif. The words may be hard to make out now but in 6-months this building will become the third Celebration Church in the Central Valley.

"We're definitely honored and privileged to be in a place like this ... it does make it very beneficial to us," said church administrator Nick Hand.

This building located on Shaw at Golden State Blvd. may look familiar ... it was home to Levitz, a well known furniture store that went belly up after 40 years.

Hand: "Really just happened to be the right fit. The shoe fit so to speak."

Hand has plenty of experience converting empty commercial space into houses of worship. He helped transform the old Bally's Fitness center in Clovis into a church that is now home to 2,500 people.

"What we're seeing is having to think outside the box a little bit and put in these alternative uses," said office broker Phil Souza.

Souza said alternative uses for vacant spaces are nothing new in Fresno. John's Incredible Pizza in Northeast Fresno used to be a grocery store. The Department of Transportation took over this old retail store at Manchester Center. And ten years ago this indoor soccer field west of Fresno State was occupied by Breuner's Furniture.

Souza said, "The old way of doing business and re-tenant those with the same type of tenants is kind of gone."

Because this building is no longer used as a furniture store church owners had to apply for a conditional use permit from the city. That means neighboring businesses have about 30 days if they want to file any complaints.

Jagdeep Singh is "really excited about [the move]. Singh owns an insurance company next door and hopes the church will deliver more foot traffic. "They come by when there is service. Usually there is a big gathering and that gives us an opportunity to advertise," he said.

By the end of the year this sign will spin again breathing new life into a large empty space.

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