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What's a Kansas City pastor doing with a pastoral old building in Marion?

Staff writer

Despite living in Kansas City, pastor Robert Fugarino fell in love with the Flint Hills.

“I’d never really been out there before, besides driving on I-35, until just a few years ago,” he said. “There’s beautiful natural preserves not that far from Kansas City.”

To indulge his interest, he and his wife bought 210 E Main St. in Marion when it went on the market in 2019.

“We were looking around towns and had a chance to visit Marion and really liked the feel of the town,” he said. “We loved the two different water features nearby — the lake and the reservoir — and enjoyed the people we got to meet.”

A large, one-bedroom apartment had two storefronts beneath it, the larger of which had been a jewelry store. The building became the Fugarinos’ getaway for themselves, friends, and other Kansas City residents who needed a break.

“There’s a cool Mexican restaurant right next door; it’s a fun little place to visit,” he said. “We enjoyed the hotel and the thrift store, it was fun seeing the renovation that happened to Main St., and it was fun to connect to the town when we popped out there.”

J. R. Hatter’s owner Josie Reid approached the couple in 2019 about using one of the storefronts downstairs.

“We worked out an agreement with her,” he said. “It was fun incubating a business for someone who had roots in Marion.”

Now that J. R. Hatters has moved and the work schedules of both Fugarino and his wife, also a pastor, have changed, he is thinking of different possibilities for the property.

“We’ve had a lot of life changes, a lot of different jobs, and COVID is a really weird factor in how far we’ve gotten out there,” he said. “We’re kind of thinking, ‘What’s the next era of this property?’.”

With a 15-year-old student artist daughter and a love for the visual arts, Fugarino has considered opening the bottom storefront as an art gallery for local youth.

“This is a vital small town,” he said. “I know it has a school district that the people really have a lot of respect for. We were thinking if we’re just occasional people who pop up in this community, what might be a way where this space that we have could be a blessing to local students and also be encouraging to people doing visual arts?”

Fugarino could retain the upstairs apartment. He said that if he were more artistically inclined, he might live in the building permanently.

“It would be kind of fun, if I were a different person, an artist selling my work online or something: living in Marion could be an affordable place,” he said.

Opening the space for rent or purchase is another option, although that would mean relinquishing the getaway.

As it stands, Fugarino has no confirmed plans for the old building.

“We are exploring what the next chapter in the building could be or would be, and what our involvement could or would be in that,” he said.

Last modified Sept. 16, 2021

 

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