Building owner Mike Kelly

ALTON - After losing much of its top floor to a devastating wind storm, the Cracker Factory building on Broadway is up and a running. 

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The building's owner, Mike Kelly, has converted the building into apartments for short-term or extended stays. The Cracker Factory now hosts four such upscale apartments, each with different flavors and themes. Each apartment hosts a fantastic view of the Alton riverfront, featuring the Clark Bridge and the Liberty Bank Riverfront Amphitheater. Each floor also has a deck, with the third floor penthouse suite featuring the best view of them all. 

"We wanted the apartments to match the view," Kelly said. "That's why everything in them is high-end and upscale." 

The upscale furnishings and devices include bathrooms tiled with actual tile or marble instead of cheap plastic finishes. Real stained wood is used in place of particle board with plastic veneer. The televisions are "smart," and the lighting includes dimmer switches. Each apartment is fully-furnished and includes dining ware. Many of the items in the apartments are sourced locally.

"It has all the stuff you would use to stay here for as long as you need," Kelly said. "We try to be mutually-supportive of the our neighbors and other local businesses."

That "mutually-supportive" spirit can be seen in the dining ware from Mississippi Mud Pottery in the studio apartment, an empty growler of Old Bakery Beer Company waiting to be filled in the penthouse suite, a piece of art purchased from Jacoby Center for the Arts and the Cracker Factory logo, which was created by Buffalo Jump Designs on Market Street in Alton. 

Kelly brought his stories of success over struggle and mutual support to the "What's Up Downtown?" forum sponsored by Alton Main Street. At the forum, held at Jacoby Center for the Arts on May 17, Kelly described coming back from the storm damage and why he wanted to preserve the building, despite the damage and cost. 

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"I didn't want it to be another empty space," Kelly said. 

He described seeing old photos of Alton presented at Hayner Public Library, and realizing his building, which he purchased in the late 1990s, was in many of them. Other buildings in the photos were long since demolished. 

Previous to his ownership, the Cracker Factory building started as an actual cracker factory, circa 1864. Kelly said some of the ovens, allegedly used to bake those crackers, are still in the basement of the building. It has since been utilized as a doctor's office, an appliance repair store and an antique mall. 

"In the 1970s, this place was apparently the core of the Alton antique district," Kelly said. "The very well-known owner and tenant at that time was one of the founders of the antique district, Sam Thames." 

Kelly said the second floor of the building once housed an antique mall full of various shops. 

Since being open to temporary tenants, Kelly said the Cracker Factory building has hosted a professional tennis team playing in tournaments in Edwardsville and Lewis and Clark Community College, a couple bicycling from the Canadian border to the Mississippi Delta, a travel writer from the United Kingdom and many others. He said the response to their accommodations has been exceptionally positive. 

In the future, Kelly said he would like to utilize the ground floor of the building, which is currently a construction work in progress, for commercial space. He is inviting potential entrepreneurs to contact him with ideas for the space's potential. 

The rooms in the Cracker Factory can be rented from as low as under $100 to below $300 a night. Rates vary based on days of the week as well as holidays. Inquiries can be made by calling Kelly at (618) 917 4466. The Cracker Factory building is located at 205 E. Broadway in Alton. 

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