JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Downtown Johnson City is full of opportunities for development. That development can be seen up and down Main Street where there are a number of empty, or already under-construction storefronts with landlords prepping their spaces for new business.
One building where construction can actively be seen is the old Masengill’s property, an iconic spot on the corner of Main Street and Roan Street that’s stood in downtown Johnson City for over a century.
According to Shannon Castillo, an affiliate broker with Mitch Cox, Masengill’s opened to the public as a department store in 1911. For the past few years, the building has sat empty following the historic store’s closing.
However, the space will soon have new life. With plans for apartments on the upper levels and a general store on the first floor of the property coined as “The Generalist”.
Lora and Brad Eshbach are the new owners of the 4,500 square foot shop that will soon be known as The Generalist.
“When we first announced that we would be taking over this space, the response from the community has been amazing. This space has so many memories of people who have lived in Johnson City for a long time or people who have just been here the past decade,” Lora Eshbach said.
Brad grew up in Johnson City and told News Channel 11 he has fond memories of the property as a young boy. He said he was close with the Wilson family, who used to own the property and even had his tie for his senior prom picked out on the second floor of the department store, a memory he’ll never forget.
“It’s been amazing to have the opportunity to come in here and take this place that was so iconic and cool from my childhood, and breathe some new life into it,” said Brad Eshbach.
Brad and his wife Lora have big plans for the space and hope it serves a number of purposes.
“You’ve got stuff for the people that live downtown and need a place to get quick groceries, we’re going to have the best gifts for anyone that’s downtown visiting any of the shops or the restaurants or the bars and stuff like that,” Brad Eshbach said. “So it’ll be a general store, really like a miniature department store, with everything for just about anybody that’s in the community.”
It’s a special piece of real estate that will soon be empty no more, however you can’t say that about all of downtown. There are quite a few properties on the market, properties Castillo hopes investors look into once The Generalist opens.
“When you have one good thing happen like all those buildings getting sold, then you start seeing renovation and new apartments come in, and new retail comes in, it makes other investors think what else is available there and it kind of makes a little synergy,” said Castillo.
Available properties include:
- Former JC Penney Downtown- 309 East Main Street
- Miller Arts Building- 316 East Main Street
- Former Hands On! Museum- 313 East Main Street
- Walnut Street Former Bank- 426 West Walnut Street
- Retail/Office space- 116 Buffalo Street
- Retail/Office space- 219 East Main Street
- Retail/Office space- 207 East Main Street
- Retail/Office space- 501 South Roan Street
However, for the Eshbachs, they feel that they’ve found their perfect place to plant roots downtown. Lora said she’s mostly excited to revitalize this piece of history and work alongside local makers and artists who they can showcase in the space.
Brad Eshbach said the timeline for completion is early spring. While it’s an ambitious goal, he feels hopeful they’ll reach it.
“If you would’ve told me a year ago that we were going to be doing this, I would’ve told you that you were crazy. So the idea that we’re going to have this store open in about 3 or 4 months, doesn’t seem that wild,” he said.
While the plans for the space are for the most part hammered out, the Eshbachs said community involvement is important to them. With that being said, they’re asking the public to weigh in and let them know what they’d like to see in the space.
You can submit your ideas or start a conversation by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.