Station 39 in Deer Park is looking more like a fire hall today than when it actually operated as one.
The decommissioned building that once housed firefighters is now home to SurePath Group insurance business and some rental offices. Turning the formerly peach-and-white structure with fire truck bays and a clock tower into a bricked grey and red commercial space was the Vision of SurePath owner John Ponto.
He purchased the former fire hall in 2019 and has since completed $1 million in renovations to reinforce the firehall theme. He and his business partner and daughter Teighan Malloy finally moved in with their staff members in June.
The most challenging part, says Ponto, was getting Red Deer city council’s approval to make the transformation.
Council initially voted against allowing a commercial enterprise into the space at the Davison Drive entrance to the Deer Park, feeling the neighbourhood would not approve.
But Ponto says the city heard a lot of public push-back over this decision, reconsidered and gave his renovation project the green light. He’s thrilled to have given the well-built structure new life as commercial digs.
So far, public feedback has been positive. Ponto says residential neighbours have been asking for tours and seem happy with what he’s done to preserve and expand upon the fire hall’s theme and history.
By working with a general contractor, a decorator, and his wife’s input, Ponto came up with a redesign that changed the main entrance to face 39th Street. He added arched brickwork and archival black-and-white photos of Red Deer firefighting crews.
As well, there are steel barn-style sliding doors and a specially designed boardroom table that repeats this industrial theme in the building that has 10 offices on the main level and another 10 upstairs.
Even the brass fire pole, which had to be taken down for safety reasons before the building was sold, will be set up once again just off the reception lobby. Ponto admitted it will only serve an aesthetic purpose, since no one will actually be able to slide down the pole — the second storey hole is already enclosed with Plexiglas.
By moving into this space, Ponto said he’s only a five-minute drive from home. “I’ve had this business for 38 years and now my daughter will be taking over, and she will hopefully have it for 38 more…”
Ponto started SurePath with only one employee and now has a staff of ten. The business handles everything from life, mortgage and disability insurance to retirement planning and investments. Its specialty is selling high-risk health insurance for out-of-country travel.
While customers predictably dropped off after the pandemic started in 2020, Ponto said people have lately been anxious to travel — especially snowbirds with properties in the south.
“Since July 1, it’s been crazy… I’ve had snowbird clients say, ‘I don’t care (about COVID-related border restrictions), I’m travelling to Palm Springs.’” Other people have been booking European cruises.