Jeff Gurley, owner of The Lollipop Shop, stands in the doorway of the Sweet Shop with his wife, Candy, and son, Jac. (Tony Duncan/Johnson City Press)
The Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia will sell the 108-year-old Sweet Shop building in Jonesborough’s downtown historic district to Jeff Gurley, proprietor of The Lollipop Shop and a leader of Jonesborough Merchants Association.
The sale’s closing is expected early next month.
While Gurley and Heritage Alliance Executive Director Deborah Montanti both declined to disclose the purchase price until the sale is final, Montanti said the amount is less than building’s appraised value and less important to the alliance than Gurley’s plans to restore the building and open both its upper and lower levels for business.
“The main thing is Jeff is an asset to Jonesborough’s business community and he had a really good plan,” Montanti said of the board’s decision to accept Gurley’s bid.
The building was given to the nonprofit alliance this spring by Jonesborough preservationists Audrey Kaiman and her husband Bernard, who died soon afterward. In keeping the Kaimans’ wish for the building to be preserved, its alliance’s board of directors voted to offer it for sale through a bid advertisement that included key stipulations for a plan for its restoration and a business plan with potential for long-term success.
Citing Gurley’s commitment and contributions to Jonesborough’s business community, Montanti said, “I think Jeff owning the building is something that would have made Bernard smile.”
Gurley said he was surprised the board’s selection of the bid submitted by he and his wife Candy, and excited for their opportunity to become the owners of their own retail space in Jonesborough.
The Gurleys’ plans for the building’s restoration include a new roof and the repair of separated bricks on the back side of the building to begin as soon as the sale is final.
Inside, drop ceilings and some walls on both the first and second floor will be removed. New wiring, floors, ceilings, lights and restrooms will in installed on both levels. And hopefully sometime this year, Gurley said, The Lollipop Shop will move to the building’s first floor and the second floor will open as a party room with 1950s decor available for day and evening event rentals.
“It will be a three- or four-month process once we get started,” he said.
“It’s a beautiful building. ... And when the drop ceilings are out, those ceilings are going to be 15 feet high.
“The upstairs that’s just been used for storage overlooks Main Street and has a really beautiful view of the town and all the trees and the hill. It will have its own intimate setting away from the shop with a retro-1950s style. And when it’s dark and all the lights are on, we think it’s going to be really nice to look out over downtown Jonesborough. And it will give us an after-5 p.m. opportunity to contribute to more stores and restaurants in Jonesborough extending their hours.”
“We feel really fortunate to be chosen as the winning bid,” Gurley said.
“It was fortunate for the Heritage Alliance the building was donated and fortunate we had an opportunity to bid and submit a plan. We just can’t wait to get started.”