Justin Boot buildings Sold

Paul Sidio, left, of Spokane, stands with Theresa Stumpff, middle, and Donnie Stumpff, right, after closing on the Justin Boot property on April 12. Sidio aims to renovate the facility and bring in a new manufacturer and jobs to Cassville. Kyle Troutman/ktroutman@cassville-democrat.com

BY KYLE TROUTMAN ktroutman@cassville-democrat.com

Nearly four years after closing its doors in 2020, Justin Boot factory in Cassville is now under new ownership.

Paul Sidio, a Spokane businessman, worked with local Auctioneer Donnie Stumpff to purchase the pair of buildings on County Farm Road from Justin Boot and Berkshire Hathaway, closing the deal on April 12.

Sidio said the opportunity came one day as he was visiting Cassville and took a wrong turn.

“I went the wrong way and drove by the buildings, and I knew Donnie, so I called him to see what was going on with it,” he said. “He researched it, talked to local people, communicated with vendors and wrote the offer to the buying agent.”

A previous buyer of the buildings, who had intended to turn the building into a poultry processing plant, backed out of the sale, and the building has remained vacant since.

“We are getting estimates for repairs to the HVAC and fixing the roof where it’s leaking,” Sidio said. “I bought the building with its contents, through my wife’s and I’s 401K. There was some other interest, but they had six months of contingencies and I had cash.”

Sidio said his goal for the property is to bring manufacturing jobs back to Cassville, highlighting that the main reason he wanted the contents of the building was because of a photo in one of the conference rooms.

The 8×10 photo is from the Fields archives and is an aerial shot of the plant in its early days, the parking lot filled completely with employees’ vehicles.

“I want to get some manufacturing back in here — whatever works,” Sidio said.

First, though, months of renovations will take place.

“We’re clearing out the low-hanging air lines, and there was not one working HVAC system in the place,” Sidio said. “The HVAC equipment they said would be 2-3 weeks, but now they say it will be 16 weeks. I was hoping for 60 days, but there will be some delay.

“We’re also cleaning out the asbestos in the clay on the pipe fittings, and I’m clearing out the brush behind the secondary building. There’s a significant amount of repairs that need to be done.”

The property holds 104,000 square feet of buildings, 60,000 in the main building and 44,000 in the adjacent building across County Farm Road.

“Being 28 miles from Rogers, Ark., this could be a great area for companies to come to,” Sidio said. “My goal is to bring jobs, preferably manufacturing, and I think I can do that at half or a third the cost of rent as in northwest Arkansas.”

One other issue possibly standing in the way of a deal for the building is an environmental contamination, for which a determination has been made.

The property utilized the Brownfields Voluntary Cleanup Program, with phases in December 2021 and October and November 2022. The study found hexavalent chromium, selenium, lead and arsenic in the site soil and shallow groundwater at the site. Shallow groundwater is at a depth of about 14 feet, compared to public drinking water wells drawing from a depth of about 325 feet.

According to Mike Washburn, environmental specialist with the Program, only one soil sample was above residential target levels for selenium, and the lead and arsenic levels were within the norm for Barry County and not a concern.

The hexavalent chromium did exceed residential target levels, but only east of the building, and there is no concern for an impact on the aquifer for local drinking wells.

To eliminate any concern for injury to humans, an environmental covenant was placed on the property restricting it to non-residential use and prohibiting the drilling of wells into the shallow groundwater, which is unlikely to support a well anyway.

Sidio said he was aware of the contamination and had no intention of drilling a well, as the facility is serviced by city utilities, and he has no plans to convert the factory to residential living.