Loss of son prompts business owners to sell, open new diner in his honor
KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – A simple, lighthearted listing on Facebook marketplace shows that the Kingsport Wheeler’s Bagels location is up for sale, but the story behind the Bishops’ choice to downsize is one of heartbreak.
“I built it from the ground up,” Brian Bishop, owner of the location, said. “Every nail, every screw. And I did everything for months and months to get us ready to open. And I’ve run it every day since.”
Every business owner will tell you that their particular venture has taken its toll, but for the Bishops, it was more than just an income stream.
“Our son worked with me at the diner for a time,” Brian said. “So there’s a lot of memories there.”
Brodie Livesay, Jessica’s Bishop’s 17-year-old son and Brian’s stepson, passed away in February from sudden cardiac arrest. His condition was genetic, they said, and completely unknown before his death.
“He passed in February,” Brian said. “Since then it’s just been a process. And anybody who’s been through the death of a close family member will tell you that. Unfortunately, most of us have. But over the months it just kind of put us in the process of looking at what we do want to do next, and how hard we do want to work at what we do.”
Without Brodie, Brian said there was just too much heartache for him to continue running the shop. Instead, they’ve opened The Just Bee Diner in Jonesborough to pay tribute to the impact Brodie made on everyone around him.
“After Brodie passed, we wanted to have a reminder to take a minute just be happy, just be kind, just be generous, just be understanding,” Brian said. “Because when you’re in a grieving process that hard and that deep, it’s easy every day to wake up and not be happy. And so we want everybody who comes in the diner to get that message. And that was the message that Brodie carried too.”
Always an avid football player, Brodie was set for his Fall season with the Science Hill Hilltoppers before his passing. One of his gameday hallmarks was a pair of neon green shoes. Now, that color means you can spot the diner’s sign from a mile away.
The Bishops are taking lessons away from their loss as well, and are shaping their business to make sure they can help others.
“Sudden cardiac arrest is very different from heart failure,” Jessica Bishop said. “It’s not a plumbing issue, it’s an electrical activity issue. So the AED is the most important thing that you can do.”
AEDs, or Automated External Defibrillators, are crucial pieces of lifesaving tech that can restart a heart on their own once a bystander installs the contacts. For Just Bee Diner, an AED will never be out of reach. October is Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month, and the Bishops hope their story will help others learn to spot potential trouble early.
“If somebody goes down near you, go to them,” Jessica said. “Check them. If they have a pulse, call for help. If they don’t have a pulse, start CPR. As soon as you get that AED, that’s going to change their life.”
While their new business is a fresh start, Brian said the Bishops still plan on being patient with themselves as they grieve.
“Work, and business and money is not the most important thing,” Bishop said. “I know we all hear that all the time, and we all believe that’s what we adhere to as individuals. But if I could put that message out again to anybody, somebody needs to hear that. Hug your kids.”