Over the summer, it took Ben Eisinger over three hours to mow the lawn around the 1928 building in downtown Kalispell that he and three other family members are meticulously refurbishing. The lawn isn’t big. He just had to stop frequently to talk to passersby marveling at the nearby piece of history coming back to life before their eyes.
“I’ll have 25 people stop,” he said. “They say, ‘It looks so good.’ It’s amazing to hear.”
Eisinger and his wife Christy have teamed up with Christy’s sister and her husband, Cara and Erik Lemire, to form a family partnership in renovating the historic three-story building on the corner of Fourth Street West and First Avenue West. The building is alternately called the Ivy or Sherman, but the new owners are opting for the Sherman Building, named after the contractor who originally constructed it.
The family purchased the building from Valley Bank in 2018. With Erik Lemire serving as general contractor through his construction firm Lemire & Company, the family has been renovating it into a downtown centerpiece that will showcase each family member’s talents and interests: an integration of dreams under one roof.
“It’s worked out so well it’s almost mind-boggling,” Eisinger said. “To have everything come together and everyone find a purpose, and that purpose be something we love.”
Eisinger, who spent 25 years in the family auto business, is opening a fly shop and guide service, which will be located on the east side of the building and is expected to open in early November. The shop is called True Water Fly Shop. Christy and Cara will merge their interior design backgrounds to fill the rest of the first level with their business R&R Home, anticipated to open in January.
The second floor and third floor will serve as a five-room lodge operating in coordination with the fly-fishing outfitting service, offering visiting angler clients a comfortable place to sleep downtown and a base camp from which to launch their guided adventures. They won’t even need to rent a car during their stay.
“After 25 years of being in the car business, it’s very rewarding for me to do something fun and that I’m passionate about,” Eisinger said. “Fly fishing is something I’ve always been passionate about.”
Eisinger has had his guide license for 12 years, taking clients down the river as a side gig to the auto business while fishing religiously in his free time. Now he will commit himself full-time to fly fishing, with the help of 12 guides through outfitter Mark Fuller’s Wild Montana Anglers.
In addition to providing guided trips with guides highly knowledgeable of the local waters, Eisinger’s store will serve as the, surprisingly, lone fly shop in Kalispell, offering reports, advice and a full lineup of gear. Brands will include Patagonia, Orvis, Scott, Rio, Sage and Scientific Anglers.
The remodel uncovered garage doors along the east side that have been converted to handsome carriage doors, which line the front of the fly shop. There are eight parking spots and an alley, a significant benefit for an outfitter that relies on hitched boats, particularly in a downtown area not known for its abundance of parking.
Then there will be the lodge component, which provides a similar experience to the all-in-one outfitting packages offered at fly fishing lodges across the world. In fact, True Water Fly Shop will also eventually offer out-of-country trips to locales such as Kamchatka, Russia and Patagonia, Argentina. The lodge, expected to be finished in February, will feature an outdoor second-floor patio.
Eisinger said Erik and Cara have expertly applied their years of contracting and design experience to reinvigorating the Sherman Building. He said when Sherman and Sons constructed the building in 1928, “from an engineering standpoint it was above and beyond what anybody had seen at the time.”
“Erik and Cara have done everything they can to return it to 1928,” he said. “Their attention to detail is second to none. They’ve done a terrific job.”
Accessed from the west, the building’s address is 343 First Ave. W., but Eisinger is using 35 Fourth St. W. as his shop’s address, located half a block and across the street from Kalispell Brewing Co.
“Everything just fit and worked out so perfectly for all of us,” Eisinger said. “It came together better than I could have ever imagined.”
Visit www.truewatermt.com for more information.