KINGSPORT, Tenn. - Across the country we've heard of cities and towns struggling to bounce back after the Great Recession; but in Kingsport, city officials tell us the retail market is now stronger than ever.
The Nutty Java on Broad Street in downtown Kingsport was busy all day on Friday, according to owner Carl Matherly.
He told us that's becoming a normal day for their café. "Probably on most days we sell out of our soups in the first two hours," said Matherly.
The Broad St. location is Matherly's newest Nutty Java restaurant. He has another Nutty Java location in the Kingsport Town Center. He said opening a downtown café six months ago was a no-brainer. "Downtown is so alive," said Matherly.
City officials told us that in the last two years, the city has experienced its highest retail sales in history, bouncing back from the most recent recession.
They told us since 2002, the city has had about a 19 percent increase in retail sales. Assistant City Manager Jeff Fleming said that's due to a couple of things, one being that leaders have developed more retail space. "In a five-year period, we added about a million square feet of shopping opportunities," Fleming said. "That includes Target, Kohl's, and all of that really occurred on redeveloped sites."
Fleming told us they plan to keep growing with 400 acres of land being prepared for retail development at the Interstate 81 and Interstate 26 intersection.
Fleming told us the city has also invested more than $20 million into the downtown area to help businesses like the Nutty Java. "We don't want to grow one side of town at the expense of the other," he said.
Another piece of the puzzle is promoting higher education, Fleming told us. "That raises income levels, which in turns gives money to spend locally," he said.
Fleming told us they've also had to look at who's moving to Kingsport. Right now, he said, it's mostly retirees, so they're trying to also attract more young professionals.
We talked to Paul Bellamy, of Paul Bellamy's Furniture in downtown Kingsport. He told us he hasn't seen the economic boom that the city has noticed. Bellamy said he's experienced more growth at his Johnson City location.