Any Job Worth Doing Is Worth Doing Well

There it is — that sigh of comfort when we recognize something familiar.


We all love a good remix of a favorite oldie. There’s just something about the predictability of things we’ve known for a long time mixed with a fresh and unexpected twist. When I stepped across the threshold of the Old Firehouse, that feeling of ‘old meets new’ flooded over me. The building dazzles with southern light pouring in through the enormous updated windows. Visitors are welcomed by the interior’s clean lines and organic textures. The warm and fashion-forward entrance lounge made me feel right at home. It was easy to picture myself settling in among the cushions of their fabulous couch, sipping ice water while scanning my Instagram or flipping through a magazine. I resisted the urge and made my way through the rest of the newly renovated building.

In 1948 the structure was originally planned to serve as the Memorial Service Building. However, when it opened in May of 1949, the Old Firehouse would not only serve as the fire station but would also be home to the Heber City offices, Heber Light and Power, a meeting place for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and a ballroom. The people of Heber packed it all into this building from the get-go! They also touted, in a 1948 newspaper article, restrooms, and a kitchen. Over the years, the facility’s uses have been vastly diverse. It has been a credit union, an optometrist’s office, a dance and exercise studio, a police station, and an engineer’s office. Everyone in the valley remembers it as something different.

Today, the Old Firehouse building is owned by Rodrigo and Natalie Ballon. Positive energy exudes from the couple, and they make me laugh out loud! They’ve had quite an adventure with this old charmer. Rodrigo’s booming voice and personality convey his passion for the new office spaces. His enthusiasm is contagious. Looking around, I can see he has a lot to be excited about. The space is gorgeous! He beams as he parades me around the carefully designed space that feels like a modern home. I’m so comfortable. I just want to kick off my shoes and settle in for a light-hearted chat. I realize they’ve nailed it when Rodrigo tells me, “We want to make this not just a place where you’re comfortable working, but we want a place that’s inviting where we can bring clients for seminars or weekends.”

Natalie’s quiet and knowing smile makes you want to pry more from her brilliant brain. Natalie Joy Ballon, and her sister, Madison Jean Blackburn, make up the dynamic duo of Jean and Joy Interiors, now housed in their very own masterpiece. Rodrigo’s space as Executive Vice President of Cross Country Mortgage sprawls the west wall. In his suite, Natalie and Madison worked with an old, weight-bearing, exposed brick wall to evoke that industrial feel, marrying the old and the new. Natalie speaks to the essence of this historic building, “It has history and great bones. It just has character! I love the brick. We didn’t want to change the look of it. We were attracted to it. We wanted to give it a little facelift; make it look nicer and more functional. We wanted to create some nice, classy office spaces for the community. I think it’s a great addition to the area.”

Madison chimes in, “It was important to develop something that wasn’t a new development. To take something in the community that was beautiful already and give it life. There’s so much new building going on, and I just think it’s important to clean up what is already here. New construction just doesn’t tell the story of Heber like this does.”

The story of the Old Firehouse building is one of a community coming together to create a space for all. In the 1940s, the initial construction funds included a “special memorial tax levied for years by the county,”2 funds from the city, and “donations of the veterans organizations and other groups.” Even the construction was a group effort. An article from that time told how “a competent foreman will be employed and the work will be done by contributed labor as recruited by the veterans’ groups and the volunteer firemen.”
That may explain a little of the hodgepodge nature of the old build; however, the new build is far from a hodgepodge.

Although Natalie and Madison’s business specializes in residential design and development, the sisters are thrilled to have spearheaded the Old Firehouse’s entire remodel, reconstruction, and complete design. Both Natalie and Madison felt it was important to not only keep the outside as original as possible but to ensure that the building harmonized with Heber’s current Main Street redevelopment.

Jean and Joy Interiors is centrally located on the main floor, along with Christine Sara Photography and Ambienti AV Architects. Perhaps one of the most exciting spaces on the ground level is Kevin Kehoe’s gallery. It is the first fine art gallery in Heber City. Ten years ago, Kevin transitioned from 30 years as a marketing creative director to a fine art painter and photographer. Kevin created his studio in Heber’s Old Firehouse and has been here ever since. The studio, located on the top floor, is where each of Kevin’s masterpieces found life. Kevin speaks with reverence of the blessing granted to him and his work when Rodrigo and Natalie arrived in his world. When the building went up for sale, Kevin was on pins and needles regarding his fate. Relocating to his home wasn’t a possibility, and finding a space on a second floor with a nearly unobstructed view and southern exposure lighting would be almost impossible to replace, not to mention a place with the same vibes. When the Ballons purchased the building, Kevin not only kept his recently beautified and updated studio, but he now has a floor-level gallery.

As Kevin coins it, “This building was restored to attract people with a creative heart.” His neighbors upstairs include Milkcrate Development, Robison Home Builders, Northwestern Mutual, and a couple of offices yet to be leased. The updated space stands in drastic contrast to its previous state. The Ballons and Kehoe get quite animated when they share the details of the full demo renovation. Kevin, who remained onsite working through the entire process, describes it as almost a war zone. “They didn’t tear the outside walls down, but everything else got turned on its head. There were days in the thick of it when they would have to shovel a path for me to get to my door. There were several of those days when it was knees to waist deep! It was messy! It was noisy! It was dusty!”

Kevin muses about the path he has been on in tandem with the Heber Valley and this building where his artwork has emerged. “We’ve been like kindred spirits, and I’m very grateful for that. I’m like the building. It is changing just like I’ve changed myself, reinvented myself. I can’t believe I get to walk in here every day and do what I get to do. That is not lost on me, not for a single day — ever.”

Kehoe wraps it up perfectly. “You know when you walk into an old building that’s been given some love? That’s a good feeling. A brand-new building doesn’t speak to you that way. I think this building is the coolest in Heber now because it does have a story to tell. Rodrigo and Natalie did keep the integrity, and it has a soul, but there’s a new guard in there now. There’s new blood, and it’s exciting for the town.” The history of Heber marches on as people in the community continually work to unite and make space for one another in their lives. Go take a peek at part of the new narrative of Heber in a feel-good, familiar old place.

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