When Gabe Eveland opened an email from cable channel Lifetime asking him and his Gabriel’s Christmas shop to decorate the set of an upcoming Christmas movie, he thought someone was playing a prank.
It was no prank.
“The request came through our generic email, and so that’s truthfully why I kind of thought it was a hoax, because you don’t normally expect that type of request to just come in through your generic email inbox,” Eveland said.
“It’s typically more personalized or somebody calls the store, but they sent it in and I thought, ‘OK, this is a little bit crazy,’ but I replied to them and sure enough, we connected on the phone and talked through a lot of the details of what they were looking for and it just ... it truthfully was such a whirlwind how quickly it all happened.”
In a matter of days, Eveland and his team were in Nashville for location scouting before returning to Jonesborough to pack supplies, props and anything else they thought they might need to decorate movie sets. They remained in Nashville for two-and-a-half weeks, decorating a 19th century estate outside of Nashville, Massey Concert Hall at Belmont University and the five-star Hermitage Hotel in downtown.
And while Eveland and his team are experienced decorators — having worked on homes, municipalities and businesses — they’d never worked on a Christmas movie before.
“We used every single thing we took,” Eveland said. “It’s definitely one of those moments where you dream of kind of doing something fun like that, and you don’t really ever know if it’s going to happen, right? And then the next thing you know it’s right in front of you and it’s this very surreal moment, like, ‘Is this really happening?’
“I came back, and it took me a couple of weeks, really, to just let it soak in,” Eveland said, calling it “an incredible experience.”
He said Gabriel’s Christmas popped up on Lifetime’s radar while they were searching for Christmas decorators: “They did quite a bit of research on us.”
The movie, titled “Christmas in Tune,” stars Reba McEntire and John Schneider and will be released in December. The movie tells the story of a young marketing executive who’s in jeopardy of losing her job, and sets out to reunite a famous singing duo for a charity Christmas concert to save it.
The duo, however, are her parents who haven’t spoken to each other in years, but put aside their differences to help their daughter get her life back on track.
Linda Talcott, a decorator and sales associate with the store, called it an amazing experience in a press release from the town of Jonesborough.
“It was an opportunity of a lifetime to not only be able to decorate for the movie, but also to actually see how a Christmas movie is filmed,” Talcott said in the release. “Working alongside Reba McEntire and John Scheider, my childhood crush, was an amazing experience. They were both so down to earth, so friendly, and a genuine pleasure to be around.”
Eveland is already planning a watch party/livestream event to celebrate a “very proud” moment for Gabriel’s Christmas, and will host decorating classes this fall, including one on how to make your home look like it’s in a Christmas movie.
“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” Eveland said. “It was just a super fun experience being with that team of movie professionals who are all coming in from California and the Los Angeles area — it was just a really special experience, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
After nearly two decades working in information technology, Rich Rogers wanted to focus on his next chapter.
Knowing he’d have to do something after he left his job, he started roasting coffee on a whim, “and, man, it changed my life.” That spur-of-the-moment decision to roast his own coffee 20 years ago led to him starting a business selling his beans, naming it Mason Joe, 12 years ago.
“The more I gave it to people, the more they liked it, and then they asked, ‘Well, can you make coffee for me? Can you serve it?’ And I would do weddings and we kind of got into that mode of serving coffee and making it instead of just selling beans,” Rogers said. “And what I discovered was the reward for me, obviously the money was a reward, but the real reward was the fact I could hand somebody a cup of coffee or a cold brew ... I loved the fact that I could hand a cup of coffee to somebody and get their immediate response to whether it was good or bad.
“And, obviously, with us roasting coffee, the responses, the majority were good — people were like, ‘Wow, I’ve never had coffee this good’,” Rogers continued. “And that kind of planted that seed and that feeling of, ‘Oh, this is something I could do.’”
Once the business was viable, Rogers left his IT job and moved back to Tennessee from St. Louis, Missouri, and bought a more than half-century “old, rotten old camper and literally gutted it and built a little portable coffee shop on wheels.”
“And from that point forward, I just knew this was probably what I was going to do until I die,” Rogers said, letting out a chuckle.
Rogers is also the owner and operator of the popular Trucky Cheese food truck, which he bought from the truck’s original owner who decided to sell the business. Rogers said he wasn’t looking to get into the food truck business at the time, but said “if there was ever a food truck I would operate, it would be something like this.”
And so when the opportunity presented itself, Rogers jumped at the chance.
The pandemic, however, took its toll on Rogers, who is looking to sell Trucky Cheese to somebody who can carry it into its next chapter while preserving the things that made Trucky Cheese a local favorite — a business he wants to see continue.
Because the COVID-19 pandemic eliminated most large-scale events, Rogers had to bring his businesses to much smaller, less lucrative events and neighborhoods to make ends meet. Rogers said he and his employees had to work three times as many events for only a fraction of the pay.
Though he never had to lay off any of his employees — who he said are a critical part of their success — and actually hired more staff during the pandemic, Rogers got burned out.
“The reason behind it is, honestly, I’m 57 and I’m tired,” Rogers said of his decision to find a buyer for Trucky Cheese. “It is a lot of work. Anybody that runs a food truck will tell you that.”
As for Mason Joe, Rogers said the only reason they didn’t go under after shutting down the mobile trailer during the pandemic was the drive-through location in Elizabethton that opened in January 2020. But as the region continues to try and recover from the pandemic, Rogers said he’s looking to make some big changes at Mason Joe, including an expanded menu and outdoor seating, which would be a nice addition for a business located near the Tweetsie Trail.
“We look to expand,” Rogers said of Mason Joe, noting that they’ll be expanding their menu to add food items, a necessary move to keep his business alive. “We are expanding our menu, we’re going to start lunch, we’re going to keep it very coffee shop-ish, we’re going to do nice spring salads and things like that, some typical sandwiches, paninis.”
Rogers said he’s hoping to appeal to those people who want to support small businesses over the bigger chain stores.
“If you want to try something new, seek out the small businesses,” Rogers said. “Get online and find a place called streetfoodfinder.com, that’s a place where local food trucks can post their schedules, and you can look at a map and see where all the food trucks are.”
The drive-through Mason Joe location is lat 304 Legacy Drive in Elizabethton, and you can frequently find their trailer at Farmers Markets and other events. To keep up to date on where the trailer will be, you can follow its Facebook page, @MasonJoeCoffee. If you’re looking for one of Trucky Cheese’s classic cheese sandwiches, you can find the schedule at streetfoodfinder.com/thetruckycheese.
“I just fell in love,” Rogers said of the food truck business. “I’m even an introvert, believe it or not, by nature, but something about me needed that and this interaction with the public and this gratification you get when you’re serving good food or good coffee and getting an immediate response back — it’s almost like a drug, once you get a taste of it you kind of have to have more.”
A plan to move the Washington County Election Commission’s offices to the George P. Jaynes Justice Center is fueling a disagreement between election officials and county government leaders.
Members of the county’s Budget Committee said last week they are weighing the remodeling costs and expediency of moving election offices from the third floor of the Washington County Courthouse to the justice center in time for the May 3 primaries.
Elections Administrator Dana Jones said she, too, is concerned with moving into the new space before the county’s busy 2022 election season begins. Even so, Jones said she has serious concerns with how the county plans to remodel the space.
Jones is pushing a floor plan, at an estimated cost of $90,000, that she said will provide the walls and the security she believes her office needs.
“I need space to run an election,” she told committee members on Wednesday.
Moments later, the Budget Committee voted to forward a proposed floor plan to the County Commission on July 26 that calls for minor alterations to 1,750 square feet of space that was formerly occupied by the district attorney general’s office in the justice center.
That remodeling plan, which Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy said has been estimated to cost a little more than $8,500, could be accomplished with inmate labor and without the county going through a cumbersome and time-consuming bid process.
Under state law, local governments are allowed to bypass the bid process for such projects that cost less than $10,000.
Jones told the Budget Committee she is not happy with the idea of the Election Commission sharing a reception area and other common space with the county’s veterans services office. Jones said the preliminary plans prepared by architect Ken Ross would reduce her floor space and are not ideal for securing her office.
Grandy said going with Jones’ plan would likely result in the Election Commission not being in its new space until the middle of the 2022 election cycle.
“This can’t continue to be a moving target,” Grandy said.
Commissioner Freddie Malone agreed with Grandy, and told Jones that her only other option is to remain on the third floor of the historic courthouse in downtown Jonesborough.
“It’s a moot point,” he said of the proposal from Jones. “The option you want is not possible in the time frame you want.”
Commissioner Jim Wheeler said the difference in the cost of the two floor plans was also a major concern to him, noting election officials have stressed the importance of lowering the cost of elections for taxpayers.
“We are talking about a significant amount of money for what I thought was going to be a two-year temporary space,” he said.
Wheeler was visibly surprised when Jones told the committee she would like to see the justice center become the Election Commission’s “permanent home.” Wheeler and his colleagues on the Budget Committee directed County Attorney Allyson Wilkinson to work with Jones and state officials to deal with the issues that might hinder the Election Commission from using the justice center as a temporary office space.
Washington County commissioners approved a resolution in May allowing the Election Commission to move its offices to the justice center, and to lease event space behind the Food City in The Heritage, 161 Molly Grayce Lane, Jonesborough, for nine weeks to accommodate early voting.
Commissioners have also discussed the idea of building offices for the Election Commission on the grounds of the justice center.
Malone said $1.4 million has been added as a “placeholder” in the 2022 fiscal year under the county’s capital projects wish list for the construction of such a stand-alone building for the Election Commission, which would include an early voting site facing U.S. Highway 11E.
Meanwhile, Gary McAllister, the chairman of the Washington County Election Commission, said his board has scheduled a meeting for 2 p.m. Friday to talk about new office space.
“We have some things to discuss,” he said last week.
Crews searching Boone Lake recovered a body believed to be that of David Schreck on Saturday, according to information released by Washington County Sheriff Ed Graybeal.
Schreck, of Johnson City, was last seen going into the water near the 300 block of Carroll Creek Road on Tuesday morning.
Members of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and Washington County EMS found the body at about 10 a.m. in the area where authorities had been searching for Schreck.
The body was sent for an autopsy and positive identification. The investigation continues, but foul play is not suspected.