The once-remarkably ornate building that sits at 717 Crockett has for years been a sad and lifeless place. It was once an Art Deco showplace, a 1929 parking garage and Ford dealership designed by architect Sam Wiener. Blue and yellow Mayan-inspired molding covered the facade and the many
windows had colored glass inserts. Over the years the building was allowed to deteriorate and was finally purchased as part of a land deal with the nearby Fairmont Apartments in which it was tied to an affordable housing contract with the state. The owner feared if he sold the building, it would trigger a repayment of the credits…so for years, it sat.
The 1929 building has a colorful history, mainly because of the man who originally owned it, Redden Thaddeus ‘Thad’ Andress. Thad was born in Alabama and graduated from West Point. He was a veteran of both World Wars- he was in the Army in WWI and the Naval Reserves in WWII. We are unsure what brought him to downtown Shreveport, but once here, he made a name for himself. He opened his downtown dealership in 1931. A prolific businessman, he also owned the Lee National Life Insurance Company and Louisiana Bank and Trust Co. Over time, the car dealership expanded, and finally moved to a larger location on Texas Avenue.
That could have been the end of the Art Deco building on Crockett Street, but luckily, there will be more chapters in this story. At the suggestion of the DDA, local businessman Jim Malsch began considering the building for the ‘next chapter’ in his life. His time with the Shreveport computing company he co-founded- Enterprise Computing Services, ECS- was coming to an end, but a life of leisure sounded decidedly unappealing. He had spent several years on the board of Cohab- a Shreveport coworking space whose goal is to give entrepreneurs the skills they need to be successful long-term. During this period, Malsch became what you might consider a ‘serial investor’ in start-ups with a smart business plan, drive and determination. He now has ownership stakes in Red River Brewing Co., Whisk, Fat Calf Boucherie and several others. He saw the value Cohab brought to businesses and entrepreneurs and thought about how to create a ‘Cohab-type’ experience for creatives and artists. From there, the Andress Artist and Entrepreneur Center was born. The new company logo, designed by Cohab graduate Luke Lee of Fusiform, gives a nod to the colors present on the original facade of the 1929 Andress Building. The Andress Artist and Entrepreneur Center, will cater to talent and creativity of many types. Office space upstairs will house some of the businesses Malsch has mentored. The downstairs will have artist studio work spaces and a gallery managed by the tenant artists. The entire building will hum with ideas and interests and goals, both conceived and realized. It will be a place unlike any other, and that is just the way Malsch wants it. It is a prime new chapter for a onetime bassist for the reggae band Killer Bees whose computing career was never a childhood dream, but rather, through happy twists of fate and much hard work, occurred. Malsch is fond of easy and expressive words like ‘cool’ and ‘excited.’ He is both. He loves talking to people and telling them his vision over cups of hot Rhino Coffee, another business he has helped mentor. His eyes twinkle with excitement
about the new logo, about his plans for the building, about being downtown, about all that can happen in this ‘cool’ space. We’re pretty excited, too.
All the environmental and structural testing is complete, the team of construction professionals has been chosen, the State Historic Preservation Office has approved his plan of action; all that’s left to do is start writing the checks. Jim believes the Andress Artist and Entrepreneur Center will open its doors in late 2020. It could come none too soon for the artists are already calling, wanting a space. As Jim might say, ‘That’s cool.’