The Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia has accepted a bid for the purchase, renovation and future use of the Old Sweet Shop building in downtown Jonesborough.
The 108-year-old building located across the street from the county courthouse was given to the alliance earlier this year by two of the town’s best known preservationists, Audrey Kaiman and her late husband, Bernard, who died Saturday at age 94.
Considered a founding father of the Heritage Alliance, Bernard Kaiman’s efforts to preserve and revitalize Jonesborough’s historic district dated back to the mid-1960s when he helped conduct the building survey that resulted in the downtown area’s being placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969. The couple purchased the East Main Street building from the Jonesborough Masonic Lodge in 1970 and operated the seasonal ice cream shop there for many years. The Kaimans have since leased the building’s lower level to the Old Sweet Shop’s current owner and in February gifted the building to the nonprofit Heritage Alliance with the agreement they would retain ownership until the property is transferred to a new owner.
Deborah Montani, executive director of the alliance, said the sale is expected to be finalized later this month. Proceeds from the building, which has been appraised at about $116,000, will be used to ensure the future of the alliance and to perpetuate its work to preserve the region’s historic architecture and culture, she said.
“We don’t want to use it all on operations or spend it all in one place. We want to use it to continue the viability of the Heritage Alliance. We want to make sure the alliance will be around for a long time, which we feel would please the owners.”
On the winning bidder’s request, the alliance has agreed not to disclose the identity of the building’s new owner, its purchase price or the plan for its use until the property transfer is completed sometime around Memorial Day.
Montani said provisions for a “tenant relationship” was one of four primary criteria on which the wining bid was selected and the alliance board hopes the Old Sweet Shop will continue to do business.
In addition to a tenant provision, the board’s criteria for selection of a winning bid also included the purchase price, plans for restoration and preservation of the building and a viable business plan for its use with potential for long-term success.
Montani said the winning bid fits the alliance’s vision. “We were happy. We had three strong bids. It required some thoughtful conversation. But we’re confident the bid we chose is the best one for everybody involved,” she said.
The alliance selected the winning bid at a board meeting on Thursday and Bernard Kaiman, who helped found the Jonesborough Civic Trust that merged with two other organizations to form the alliance, died during the early morning hours on Saturday.
“We are as saddened by his loss as we are grateful for the life he lived and the contributions he made to Jonesborough.” Montani said.
The Heritage Alliance was founded in 2001 through a merger of the Civic Trust, the Jonesborough/Washington County History Museum and the Historic Jonesborough Foundation.
The alliance administers the Chester Inn State Historic Site in Jonesborough and owns and operates the 1840 Duncan House that houses its offices, the neighboring 1886 Oak Hill School building which serves as an educational facility for visiting school groups, and a warehouse on Depot Street in Jonesborough where donated architectural pieces of historic value are stored and sold for use in building restoration projects.