BRISTOL, Tenn. (WJHL) – Downtown Bristol really is a tale of two cities. State street may divide Tennessee and Virginia, but it does not divide businesses located in its downtown, in fact, a number of local shops are working together this holiday collecting toys and clothing for kids in need.
The 5th annual ‘Toy Drive on the Line’ is underway and hosted by Bristol Tattoo Company. Shop owner and event organizer, Justin Brown told News Channel 11’s Kelly Grosfield this event is close to his heart.
“With us being able to do this, at least it puts a smile on their face and takes a little bit of the stress off the parent or the mom or the dad or whatever the situation may be and it just gives the kids a nice day,” said Owner of Bristol Tattoo Company, Justin Brown.
He said he and his wife wanted to do something for the community and this was the perfect way to do so. While his shop opened in September of 2016, the toy drive has entered its 5th year and is engaging other local shops as well.
Brown described it as a “win-win” because if you donate $30 worth of new or unwrapped toys and clothing for children age 17 and under, and bring the receipt to any participating downtown merchant, you can receive a gift card or coupon in return.
Here’s a list of the participating vendors and deals:
–Bloom Cafe: $30 gift certificate
–Bristol Tattoo Company: $50 tattoo gift certificate
–Cranberry Lane: 20% off purchase
–Lost State Distilling: $10 gift certificate for tasting room
–Lumac Rooftop Bar: $10 gift certificate
–Quaker Steak & Lube: BOGO appetizer
–The Southern Churn: 20% off purchase
–Vivian’s Table: $10 gift certificate
All donations will be delivered to ‘Abuse Alternatives‘, an agency that provides emergency shelter to abuse victims and their children who need safety from violence in the home.
The drive is underway now and goes through the 16th but Brown said they will accept toys and clothing through the holidays. While it’s a great way to give back to children in need, it also supports visiting and shopping at local stores.
“There’s so many things to do and places to shop down here and you’re supporting local businesses. I know that’s repeated so much and it’s so redundant but this is how all of us put food on our tables and feed our children,” said Brown.
Speaking of local shops, after being forced to close in the Spring due to the Coronavirus pandemic, many shops are back and better than ever. One of those shops now re-opened is Bloom Cafe and Listening Room.
After having to shut down, owner Em Fehr decided that would be the perfect time to start renovations. She said they closed in April because of the pandemic and started the renovations in June.
Fehr said renovations were already planned but this was the perfect time to conduct them as well as make adjustments specific to COVID-19 CDC guidelines.
Fehr wanted the space to be welcoming and warm, but most importantly, safe. Booths were added and are easily and frequently sanitized, along with the addition of new lighting and kitchen equipment that helped staff expand their menu.
Bloom Cafe recently re-opened about two months ago following these renovations.
“To be able to renovate and come back in pretty strong it meant a lot and luckily Bristol and the Tri-Cities are just so supportive of local businesses,” said Fehr.
Along with those changes made during renovations, a mask policy has also been enacted and the cafe is operating at half capacity by choice in order to promote social distancing and keep customers and staff safe during this time.
The cafe serves brunch and specialty coffee and offers dine-in and curbside to-go.
Another local shop to check out is Lost State Distilling, located right next to the Bristol sign.
The business called Bristol home in August of 2019 and experienced a steady incline until COVID-19 happened, that’s when business plummeted but according to owner and distiller, Nick Bianchi, they’re slowly coming back.
With six bourbons, a vodka, rum and a gin, the plans to expand continue for this hopeful distiller.
“It’s one of those things where we’re always expanding our product lines as well. We’re planning on doing some absinthe and we’ve got some rye whiskey coming and brandy. You name it, we’re going to make it at some point,” said Bianchi.
Lost State Distilling was recently voted “America’s Best New Craft Distillery“, a great accomplishment for Bianchi and his family who run the business.
However, Bianchi said his greatest accomplishment is keeping his product as local as possible.
“We get all of our grain in Tennessee, in Greeneville actually, and we donate all that back to farmers in Southwest Virginia and Greeneville and we try to work as much as we possibly can with everybody local,” he said.
He said they’ve had to make changes with COVID such as constantly sanitizing, social distancing, and minimizing the number of people inside at a time, but they’ve made it work.
They’re open Tuesday through Saturday from 12 to 5 p.m. and he encourages people to stop by.
Overall, downtown Bristol is a prime location with a lot to offer in terms of local shops and stops.
“Downtown has really grown, even in the last 10 years. Right now, more than ever, local businesses really need support so I would say come visit and be safe while doing it, as best as you can,” said Fehr.