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Old PNC Bank in Berlin sold; new owner plans retail

Rayne’s Reef owner and operator Michael Queen has purchased the former PNC Bank building in downtown Berlin. Queen said he plans to divide the space into four retail units, focusing on “destination businesses” that bring something new to the town.

By Josh Davis, Associate Editor

(April 12, 2018) Michael Queen, owner and operator of the Rayne’s Reef restaurant in Berlin, has purchased the 4,124-square-foot former PNC Bank building on 1 South Main Street.

The historic building, constructed in 1895, was listed for $499,000 by Virginia Beach firm Divaris Real Estate Inc. The exact purchase price was not yet made public.

Queen, on Tuesday, said the building would be split into four rental units, with three on the ground floor and one space, likely for office use, on the second floor.

He immediately ruled out several types of tenants.

“No restaurants, no hair cutters, nothing we already have,” he said. “We’re going to try to get destination businesses, where people will come to the town and contribute to making Berlin better … It’s like, ‘hey, let’s go to this business and go into Berlin,’ not just people happen to be in Berlin, so they walk in.”

He said the former bank drive-through would be converted into an outdoor patio with “tables, chairs and umbrellas.”

“All the stores will have access through the back doors and Baked Dessert Café [adjacent to the building] will be able to have some tables out there and use it also,” Queen said. “Obviously, it’s privately owned, but it will be like a public square.”

Queen said the exterior of the brick building was already “extremely beautiful” and would not require much in the way of renovation.

“It’s just the drive through area that’s going to take a lot of work converting that into a patio,” he said. “[The interior] will have to be separated off and all the bank stuff cleared out, but the vaults will stay – because they’re vaults. But it’s in pretty fair condition.”

The Berlin Historic District Commission has used Queen’s renovation of 14 North Main Street, currently the Fathom clothing store, as an example for others.

Queen said he would get keys to the building on April 19 and plans to start showing the property to potential tenants as soon as possible.

Jenny Sheppard of Sheppard Realty, Inc., who represented Queen, declined to reveal the purchase price, but said, “He made an offer they couldn’t refuse.”

“I’m extremely thrilled that he’s going to be the landlord, because he’s done such a fantastic job with every building he’s picked up,” Sheppard said. “He has the best interest of the town at heart and is not interested in duplicating something that already exists. He’s also interested in bringing something to the town where they bring new customers with them.”

Berlin Mayor Gee Williams said he learned of the purchase on Monday.

“Whatever it becomes, I’m confident under [Queen’s] ownership it will be an asset to the community,” William said.