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'It was a big leap of faith' Essex County friends quit their jobs and start a new career renovating the Dahl House

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The two-storey Dahl House building in downtown Essex — which was once condemned — is now ready for new tenants.

Friends Justine Chevalier and Allie Carlini had just finished a cottage renovation when they heard about the building being deemed unsafe by the town and the tenants evicted for safety reasons.

They created their company, ‘Flipping Nuts’, “because we sometimes think we’re nuts,” they said, soon after.

Chevalier describes that cost as “reasonably priced’ even though the building needed to be completely gutted and rebuilt.

“I showed the building to a client of mine and we almost fell through the floor upstairs — it was that bad, so that’s why it was condemned,” realtor Chuck Roy tells CTV News. “They just did an amazing job transforming this building.”

Building with eviction notice in Essex, Ont., on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. (Alana Hadadean / CTV Windsor)

Flipping Nuts put $1 million into the building and countless hours, working alongside their husbands who are both electricians.

“Our previous careers were not even related in this field,” Chevalier says. “So it was a big leap of faith.”

“(When) we go into something, we can see the beauty of it, we can see what it was and what we'd love to turn it into and then that before and after, I think that's the thrill for us. We just love that part,” adds Carlini.

The Dahl House, which features both commercial and residential units, had to be stripped right down to the “shell.”

Dahl House after renovations in Essex, Ont. on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023. (Michelle Maluske/CTV News Windsor)

All they were able to salvage was the exterior brick on the lower level.

“Everything in here is brand new. So HVAC, electrical, plumbing, all the things that you don't see, all had to be replaced,” says Chevalier.

They had hoped it would only take a year but it ended up taking two and was just made available for tenants a few weeks ago.

The first one to sign a lease? Realtor Chuck Roy when he was looking to establish a new franchise location of Coldwell Banker realty in the Town of Essex.

“We were attracted to this amazing building, it was so cool looking,” he says. “I approached the realtor that sold it to these folks and they weren’t ready to lease it right away but I convinced them.”

Building with eviction notice in Essex, Ont., on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. (Alana Hadadean / CTV Windsor)

Dahl House after renovations in Essex, Ont. on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023. (Michelle Maluske/CTV News Windsor)

Carlini and Chevalier credit the Town of Essex for helping with permitting, explaining how to apply for grants and walking the team through the safety inspection process.

“There were many times that we questioned what we were doing and thinking this was crazy. Why did we start this?” Chevalier admits. “But the end result? It was so worth it at the end.”

With the structural portions of the building fixed and improved, Chevalier and Carlini say they were then able to let their creativity run wild for interior design.

“Everything we have done has been with envisioning ourselves moving in here,” says Carlini. “How would we want it? We would want it to be safe, energy efficient and beautiful. And I think that has probably been our goal from day one. And I think we successfully accomplished that.” 

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