A for-sale banner went up Feb. 2 on the Pendleton Nonprofit Center at 335 South Main St., but the four nonprofits operating there will remain open while the building’s owners seek a buyer.

“Being a small nonprofit having to maintain a large building while providing services to the community has become difficult financially and physically,” said Amy Pendleton, who is executive director of the building’s Franklin County Perinatal Education Center (FCPEC) and co-owns the property with her husband Charles. “It saddens me to sell the building because renovating it has been a passion of my husband’s and mine.”

Changes in tax laws and competition for local fundraising dollars have made operating the building alone challenging, she continued. FCPEC will use funds from the building’s sale to sustain its pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding education and support programs. FCPEC also provides child seats, clothes and equipment for qualifying families.

Billy and Julie Kingery of ReMax are listing the 7,240-square-foot space for $425,000.

FCPEC purchased the building in 2007 after an anonymous donor contributed the funds. Pendleton said lots of “sweat equity,” along with donated time and funding from local businesses, contractors, community members, friends and family made the building a gathering place for nonprofit organizations and their clients.

Pendleton said she hopes to find a smaller site from which to operate FCPEC – one that also includes space for tenants Franklin County Faith Network and Community Partnership. Habitat for Humanity of Franklin County currently occupies the building’s basement and will remain there as long as possible, she said.

A volunteer group dedicated to town revitalization, Community Partnership is the group behind the annual downtown Rocky Mount festival “Come Home to a Franklin County Christmas,” now in its 16th year. Faith Network provides emergency housing for the homeless and a mentoring program that helps clients avoid future crises.

Habitat for Humanity continues its search for a new retail space, said Vice President Joe Ferrara, with the hope of moving by year’s end. However, he added, Pendleton requested as a condition of sale that the building’s buyer continue renting to Habitat.

The site is steeped in history.

The site was first home to a livery stable in the early 1900s. R.F. “Dick” Rakes Sr. constructed the original building – the Rakes Building – and opened Turner Motor Co. The Chevrolet dealership was destroyed in a 1930 fire after an overheated car loaded with liquor pulled into the garage bay.

Local accounts published by The Franklin News-Post in 2008 tell of how a Buick driven by a “traveling salesman” pulled into the garage after a police pursuit. The Buick had a fuel pump problem and came in extremely hot.

Mechanic Reedy Dillon shut the garage door, left the car to cool off while he helped a stranded motorist, and came back to a burning building. Those who remember the event speculated that the car overheated and its liquid cargo fueled an explosion that set fire to the wooden garage bay.

The remnants of three burned-out car chassis, an engine block, motor parts and axles remain in the basement to this day. They likely fell through the burned-out wooden floor. Reports show 34 new and used vehicles burned and the building was reduced to rubble. Rakes rebuilt the property and opened as Rakes Pontiac Shop.

The building’s next incarnation was a general store called Helms Farmers Exchange. Other tenants to the building included Renick Tire Company and a political campaign headquarters; and one small part of the building served as a taxi stand.

Pendleton did extensive renovation work on the building, which now boasts offices, meeting rooms, a kitchen, four bathrooms and storage space; much of the space showcases the original brick. Three office suites have separate entrances.

Since Pendleton first began offering services in 1989, FCPEC has attended to thousands of families. The center accepts payment from those able to pay, and provides free safety seats, clothes and equipment to eligible families. At least 80 percent of the clients receiving services are at or below poverty level. The staff is comprised of interns, retirees and volunteers.

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