By the early 1990s, downtown Johnson City wasn’t exactly thriving with business potential.
Most of the major department stores that had operated in the downtown area for decades were long-gone, as most of the business had moved to north Johnson City.
Despite the challenges of locating downtown, Dan and Jan Numan still wanted to bring their successful restaurant — the Chucky Trading Company, located on the Nolichucky River — to Johnson City.
“We wanted to open a place in Johnson City and the Chucky Trading Company was a 100-year-old building that we had, and we were looking for something in downtown that we could rehab,” Dan said. “Most of our venue has always been a destination spot. Yes, I think north Johnson City would’ve been a better spot at the time. We just like the old downtown and thought we could do well down here.”
What began as the Chucky Trading Company Downtown in 1993 before changing names to Numan’s Cafe & Sports Bar has grown into one of downtown Johnson City’s best-known businesses.
Numan’s, 225 E. Main St., has just renovated its second floor, complete with new bathrooms, flooring, carpeting and a music stage.
“We learned that we couldn’t accommodate people properly, so we made a decision last year to rearrange everything up here and do this,” Dan said of the second floor’s renovations.
The new space will be reopened Monday with a week of activities, including champagne specials, beer tasting, live music and a pool tournament.
The renovation of the second floor is the first major project the downtown business has undergone since the upstairs space first opened in 2004.
The growth Numan’s has experienced since it opened didn’t happen overnight.
When Dan purchased the building in 1991, it was in a state of disrepair after operating for decades as McLellans department store.
“It had been abandoned. The floors were terrible. The ceiling in certain places had just caved in. There was a lot of water damage from the rain,” Jan said.
It took two years before the Numans were able to open the downtown location of the Chucky Trading Company.
The original Chucky Trading Company continued to run until 1998 at which point the downtown location changed its name to Numan’s.
“Our main emphasis at the time was a pool room. We had a bar and a restaurant, which actually came almost a year later. That was our main emphasis,” Dan said.
Since opening, the Numans have seen their investment in a run-down building pay off.
Business has grown just about every year, allowing the couple to put their money into keeping the business up and running.
“We stayed pretty steady, then we started expanding the restaurant and the bar portion of it and they started growing. In 2002, we have run 10 to 20 percent growth every year and some years we’re in the 25 percent growth, so we’re continuously growing,” Dan said.
As part of the downtown business community, the Numans have also experienced the highs and lows of the ever-changing downtown area.
The renovation of the King’s Centre was the major catalyst in downtown revitalization, according to Dan.
Although more businesses are setting up shop in the downtown area and the city is working toward fixing the flooding problems, the Numans said there’s still plenty of work that needs to be done in order to see downtown Johnson City really bounce back.
“The downtown has been improving. There have been several factors with the JCDA and other things like that helping. It’s not where it needs to be yet but it is gaining. Every year it’s gaining,” Dan said.
The couple is very excited about Northeast State Community College’s move to its satellite teaching site at the Downtown Centre, and they already have plans on how to cater to that crowd.
“I’m really looking forward to Northeast State Community College coming. We have plans to open up early with breakfast and lunch. We’re planning on going non-smoking. We’ll open up the restaurant during the day and it’s a good possibility we’ll go 24 hours a day since we’re here till 4 a.m. anyway,” Dan said.
For more information on the week of activities at Numan’s, visit their page at www.facebook.com or www.numanbilliards.com.