“My wife and I, we’re blessed to be right where we’re at in Johnson City,” said Hess, who bought Bradley’s Machine & Welding, 118 Water St., in 2016. “I love everything about it, everything that’s going on, and I knew that I was part of a community that was growing and developing.”
He and his wife Kristine also operate Sea Biscuit Metal Designs, a creator of custom metal artwork, out of the same building, a recent enterprise that is currently selling a series of Christmas ornaments recognizing Johnson City’s sesquicentennial celebration.
There are five ornaments in total plus a limited inventory of books made to store four of the five ornaments. The fifth ornament was available for sale at a black tie gala at the King’s Centre on the evening of Nov. 30, which was one of the capstone events organized to celebrate the city’s 150th birthday this year.
The ornaments range in price from about $13-$19 and are available on the company’s website, seabiscuitmetaldesigns.com. The full book, which includes four ornaments, costs $75.
The book’s cover shows Santa Claus climbing down the chimney in front of the Johnson City sign, which in real life overlooks King Commons Park. The inside of the book includes a handful of old photos showing bygone Christmases of Johnson City’s past.
The ornaments include a detailed depiction of the front of an old locomotive. Another ornament shows a train pulling into a station and a third shows the state of Tennessee’s tri-star logo with the words “Johnson City TN; Happy 150th” etched around the outside. Hess said Michael McKnight, an employee at Sea Biscuit Metal Designs, designed the ornaments, and Jacob Higginbotham with DS Smith helped with the book.
Hess, who’s 55 years old, moved to the Johnson City area in 2012. He and his wife went to high school together in Pennsylvania and saw each other at a reunion years later.
Hess, who employs 11 people, said his businesses have produced work for downtown establishments, including Holy Taco, and for local businessmen like Brent Long and Ernest Campbell. Hess said his companies have the flexibility to take on jobs like fabricating interior metal decorations, like hand railings and spiral staircases, and performing work for local manufacturers and construction companies.
“There’s really no project that we won’t address and tackle,” he said.
In June 2019, he purchased a 3k fiber laser, a significant investment that allowed Hess to diversify his company’s services and launch Sea Biscuit Metal Designs. It also brought a process in-house that Hess had previously been outsourcing at an expense of thousands of dollars a year. Hess said he wants to acquire more of these cutting machines in the future.
“There’s not a business in Johnson City we can’t cater to,” Hess said.