JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — The revitalization of downtown Johnson City has been a hot topic for many Johnson City leaders, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of the once-thriving businesses downtown are having to close their doors.
“The local restaurants and coffee shops all of those are just taking a major hit,” said Joel Kavanaugh, who works at one of the businesses downtown.
Downtown Johnson City sidewalks are seeing less foot traffic and many businesses are permanently closing their doors because of it.
“With COVID-19 I think it kind of freaked some people out, fair enough you know, it’s a big deal and so it got pretty iffy there for a couple of months,” said Taylor Hodge who is originally from Johnson City and was back in town to visit family.
Now staples like the Willow Tree, What the Scoop?, and Silverball City are having to close due to the decrease in foot traffic due to COVID-19.
A vibrant downtown is now struggling.
“Things were really booming,” said Hodge, “It’s became kind of like an Asheville, North Carolina in a lot of ways especially with all the breweries the live shows kind of the bluegrass feel.”
However, Shannon Castillo, an affiliate broker with Mitch Cox Realtor and who has her name on most of the buildings for sale or lease downtown, said it’s not as bad as it looks.
“I kind of thought that when this hit I thought leasing would be done for,” explained Castillo. “I probably won’t do any leasing and that is not the case. We are still selling buildings, we are still leasing buildings, and we’re still doing leases.”
Castillo said though some of the businesses are moving to new locations outside of downtown Johnson City, rent was not a reason as to why they moved.
“The ones that are here in downtown that have closed it’s just been a matter of they were spread too thin,” she said.
Though many businesses are closing, it’s just a matter of time until new businesses show up in their place.
“We’re just looking ahead and there are some amazing things, some new businesses that are going to be opening downtown soon,” said Castillo.