Main Street Kingwood's business district stays busy - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Main Street Kingwood's business district stays busy

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CYNTHIA McCLOUD / The State Journal CYNTHIA McCLOUD / The State Journal
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By CYNTHIA McCLOUD
For The State Journal

Business is booming again in Kingwood's downtown business district.

"Businesses are coming back to Main Street," said Robyn Hess, director of Main Street Kingwood. "I don't know why. I don't know if it's the economy. I'm hoping it's because of Main Street."

Kingwood doesn't charge a B&O tax, which may make the city an attractive business location.

Hess said MSK focuses on businesses in the downtown historic commercial district, which is largely South Price Street. 

"That's our main focus, but as a Main Street director in a small rural town, I help the whole county," Hess said.

She said she can think of only five storefronts in all of Kingwood that are vacant right now. Last Halloween, 44 Kingwood businesses gave out candy as part of MSK's trick-or-treating event. Not all were located in the downtown historic commercial district.

"Probably over the past 13 years there have been three times the street would look bare and then it would come back," Hess said.

Today, there is a medical equipment supplier where Western Auto used to be. Further up the street there's a physical therapist, a lawyer, insurance agent, photography studio, tattoo shop and the offices of Friends of the Cheat and Catholic Charities. Dianna's Closet, a longtime clothing consignment shop, moved down the street to occupy the space vacated by a longtime office supply store. When Kingwood Floral moved to a new location in town, Sally Ann's Dance Company, another fixture on the street, moved into its building. 

That's only a few of the changes within the past couple of years. Some of the new businesses have opened in recent months.

"One of the things Main Street Kingwood is starting to do, what a lot of Main Streets do, is what's called incubation," Hess said. "A Main Street might own a building like we do and we have office space or retail space or a restaurant we can lease. 

"A lot of times people don't realize what start-up costs are like for a small business." 

MSK lets new entrepreneurs get their feet wet without a large investment by leasing space in their building to them for a short term, such as six months, in hopes the business is successful enough the owner will want to sign a longer lease. 

"It also gives them the opportunity to say this has grown so big I need help in finding a bigger spot," she said.

Main Street Morgantown boosts start-ups in a similar way.

Assistant Director Barbara Watkins said MSM rents small offices in its building on High Street to businesses in the hope they'll expand and make way for a new start-up.

"WV Living magazine started out here in a one-room office here on the third floor and it has expanded," Watkins said. "(Marketing and advertising business) Asayo Creative did the same thing as did IT Mindshare," an information technology and security firm.

When the businesses outgrow the MSM offices, they don't usually move into the downtown.

"Our downtown has very few open storefronts," Watkins said. "We don't have a lot of turnover with our businesses. 

"They're usually here for a long time before they decide they want to sell or move on."

Main Street Kingwood's current renter in the Brown Building is a barbecue restaurant.

Timothy Hyre and his daughter, Kimberly, opened Hyre's Hog Heaven BBQ on March 10, serving a dry-rub barbecue the family learned to make when they lived in South Carolina for seven years. Hyre makes the sauce that he applies after the meat is smoked. 

"We thought it was a good location, especially located right where the (Preston County) Courthouse is and there's a coffee bar across the street and the school is kinda close and some doctor's offices," Hyre said.

The Hyres are Preston County natives who've returned after moving south 10 years ago.

"People who live in Kingwood are opening shops now," Hess said.

Tom and JoAnn Peterson and Sharon Corbin are two more examples.

The Petersons purchased a three-story, 17,000-square-foot building across from the courthouse in 2010 with the intent of creating a center for the arts. Tom is a certified registered nurse anesthetist at Preston Memorial Hospital and JoAnn operates Mountaineer Country Tours. Both have been very active in the arts, mainly as actors and singers, their entire lives.

The building now houses Preston Community Arts Center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit which runs a gallery/gift shop and offers classes and performances, among other businesses, including Foxfire Coffee.

"Since we held our first concert on May 21, 2011, our gallery, theatrical productions, artists' shows, and concerts have brought nearly 4,000 people into downtown Kingwood, from as far away as Ireland, Texas, and California," JoAnn Peterson said.

During the Preston County Buckwheat Festival in the fall of 2013, the Petersons opened Foxfire Coffee to offer high-quality freshly ground coffees and desserts. Now they also serve a lunch menu of homemade soups, paninis and cookies. The coffee shop also offers meals and refreshments during events at the arts center.

"We hope and believe that the energy, excitement, and thereby foot traffic generated by the Preston Community Arts Center and Foxfire Coffee will draw more people to downtown Kingwood so that it will once again be a thriving, welcoming downtown with many successful businesses," she said. "A place where tourists want to visit and where locals will become regulars, bragging about their vital downtown to their family and friends so that they'll want to come see what it's all about."

In November 2013, Sharon Corbin opened S C Studio & Gallery at 137 S. Price St., in a building she and her husband own across the street from her brother, Bruce Wiley's, barbershop. Corbin offers painting and other classes and sells original paintings, artwork and handcrafted items by local artisans.