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Old 09-09-2019, 08:50 AM
 
Location: Gate City, VA
294 posts, read 262,190 times
Reputation: 186

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I have to say I've lived in the Kingsport area all my life and it's never been that great but it's been decent and for a number of years things improved but man it just seems like retail/restaurant wise that it's dying. Especially this year. I just found out Which Which closed, which I quite enjoyed. Today I got an email that Pie Five is also closing, which I even liked more. Best Buy is closing and I just heard a rumor that Dick's Sporting Goods may be closing as well, that one I don't care about but this city is just losing too much! That plus a struggling mall isn't helping. Seems like JC and Bristol is going strong but Kingsport is just becoming a ghost town! I really hope this city gets some replacements. I don't want to have to go to JC or Bristol to go out to eat or shop although it looks like it's gonna be that way.
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Old 09-09-2019, 12:09 PM
 
Location: Brooklyn, NY
6,714 posts, read 10,135,281 times
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Yeah, I agree, unfortunately.

The city is attracting in new residents and growing population-wise, so it isn't a dying city in that regard. But it is dying with its marketing game, and is dead last in the tri-cities, and arguably falling behind Greeneville, TN too.

I think it's the city leaders who have really been asleep at the wheel for the past decade or so, who have allowed developments to bypass the city, and choose Johnson City and Bristol.

Kingsport is a city that has to compete for new restaurants and new retail. If it sat alone as the "primary North East Tennessee city" over 50,000 in population, then everything on a national retail/food scale would locate in Kingsport.
But, that is not the case.

Kingsport has Johnson City 20 miles down the road, a thriving, 67,000 person city with a major university and younger demographic, as well as Bristol, a modestly growing 43,000 city (including VA side) that has tended to trend younger with its demographic and marketing lately, with it being a country music birth capital, NASCAR capital and having the rhythm and roots festival there each year.

Kingsport, as-a-result, has tended to let its status as the Eastman HQ speak for itself, and "sell" the city.

This has not worked, and is not working. Competitively, retail and restaurants will consistently bypass Kingsport without a targeted campaign to lure them in, because Johnson City is just so attractive for the area, demographics-wise. And Bristol is attractive as well, since it has that newer marketing angle and that unique "2 state" feature too, which is cool.

Kingsport has been asleep and will continue to be known as a conservative city that embraces only Eastman, while the cool & hip, and younger-focused retail and restaurants skip the city entirely.
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Old 09-09-2019, 12:57 PM
 
Location: Tennessee
28,282 posts, read 21,198,685 times
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Pie Five is already closed. I drove by there today and it was gone.

When I was growing up, Kingsport was close to equal with Johnson City in terms of amenities, and Bristol was clearly way behind. Kingsport has really been asleep at the wheel for at least a decade now in terms of attracting retail and restaurants.

Years ago, Kingsport had a Sam's Club out at exit 63. I think that closed around 2005 or 2006. That left and moved to Bristol. I think that was the start of the slide. Kingsport then missed on landing Bass Pro at The Crossings, which led to The Pinnacle. That was a once in a generation miss. Malls are struggling nationally, but a lot of the stuff at The Pavilion would have helped keep the mall going. The mall was basically run into the ground by the previous owner, and now it's no longer even on the radar of younger people. Short of something innovative like a Publix in the Sears spot, I don't think much can be done to save the mall. Kingsport leadership really needs to figure out why any new retailer to the area is almost always landing in Bristol or Johnson City and basically bypassing Kingsport altogether. Is it an income problem? Can Best Buy somehow not do enough business in Kingsport to warrant keeping the store open? Is it a cultural issue? What's so different between Kingsport and Bristol that would see all these stores locate to Bristol and exit Kingsport?

The restaurant thing is a good question, and I really think it stems back to Kingsport's culture. Kingsport has had good restaurants. Mockingbird Cafe was excellent, but was in a weird location and not really supported. Kingsport Grocery Company closed a decade ago, but was ahead of its time and pretty good. There used to be an Indian restaurant in Colonial Heights where Crazy Tomato now is. Almost anytime Kingsport gets something out of its steakhouse/burger/Mexican/chain dining wheelhouse, the locals do not support it and the restaurant fails, but restaurants like Rush St. and Giuseppe's that have been stagnant for years thrive. I don't understand it, but it is what it is. I'm really shocked that Main St. Pizza is continuing to hang on in Kingsport.

The city keeps trying things, but none of it seems to stick. They closed Legion Pool when the Kingsport Aquatic Center opened, but there's no outdoor pool for adults at the KAC. Hunter-Wright stadium was given a facelift awhile back, but there is no shade to keep yourself out of the sun. For me, it's often the little things like this that are the most frustrating.

All these new apartments have opened around town, so the "supply" of housing for younger people is there, but where are the improved amenities and livability that will actually make people want to live in Kingsport? If you're coming from out of the area and have an offer from some Kingsport employer, Kingsport isn't going to make a favorable impression, especially if you're a white collar professional. Johnson City and even Bristol are just far more livable.

I live in Town Park Lofts and I'm closing on a place in Bristol this week or early next week. I work in Kingsport and it's more of a hassle to commute from somewhere else, but I'm tired of living here. There's really no social scene outside of church, and almost nothing for the under 40 crowd. The city doesn't seem to care about this either.

Like jjbradley said, Kingsport has relied on Eastman to sell the city, but that's not sufficient these days. I don't know what the answer is, but I don't think Kingsport's leadership even understands the issues and I don't see things changing anytime soon. Kingsport has basically no identity outside of Eastman and the city has no idea where it wants to go and the leadership is largely inept.
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Old 09-09-2019, 01:35 PM
 
Location: Memphis
459 posts, read 1,183,964 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jjbradleynyc
The city is attracting in new residents and growing population-wise, so it isn't a dying city in that regard. But it is dying with its marketing game, and is dead last in the tri-cities, and arguably falling behind Greeneville, TN too.
If Greeneville had a major employer like Kingsport does, there is no question that G-ville would be ahead of Kingsport. It still might be now. There has been lots of new development in Eastern Greeneville that Kingsport lacks. I would actually live in Greeneville over Kingsport, although that is a topic for another day.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Serious Conversation View Post
When I was growing up, Kingsport was close to equal with Johnson City in terms of amenities, and Bristol was clearly way behind.
I agree with this. The Fort Henry Mall was arguably even better than Johnson City's.

I would be interested to see how many employees from Eastman live outside of the city.
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Old 09-09-2019, 04:33 PM
 
Location: Gate City, VA
294 posts, read 262,190 times
Reputation: 186
Yeah I found out Pie Five closed last night at 8 PM for good, it was so sudden. The location is already off their website and Google searches. Plus they've already taken down the Kingsport, TN Pie Five Facebook page as well.
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Old 09-09-2019, 05:35 PM
 
Location: Brooklyn, NY
6,714 posts, read 10,135,281 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sprintuser2014 View Post
Yeah I found out Pie Five closed last night at 8 PM for good, it was so sudden. The location is already off their website and Google searches. Plus they've already taken down the Kingsport, TN Pie Five Facebook page as well.
Kingsport just doesn't cater to a demographic that likes variety, or "risks" with food.

Anything outside of steak, burger, pizza, chicken, or "americanized" mexican is an absolute no-go in Kingsport.

What's very telling, yet also very odd for a city the size of Kingsport, is that I don't think Kingsport has had a new fast food or new fast casual sit-down restaurant built in what, 8 or 10 years? The only exception I can think of is Popeye's on Stone Drive.

Where are the local restaurant folks who want to set up a new restaurant in Kingsport? That is a telling sign there that support in the town is weak for new comers.
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Old 09-10-2019, 06:47 AM
 
Location: Tennessee
28,282 posts, read 21,198,685 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jjbradleynyc View Post
Kingsport just doesn't cater to a demographic that likes variety, or "risks" with food.

Anything outside of steak, burger, pizza, chicken, or "americanized" mexican is an absolute no-go in Kingsport.

What's very telling, yet also very odd for a city the size of Kingsport, is that I don't think Kingsport has had a new fast food or new fast casual sit-down restaurant built in what, 8 or 10 years? The only exception I can think of is Popeye's on Stone Drive.

Where are the local restaurant folks who want to set up a new restaurant in Kingsport? That is a telling sign there that support in the town is weak for new comers.
I don't think it's been quite that long - Panda Express isn't that old. There's been a new Mexican place start up in the old Stone Drive Pizza Hut. I think the spot where Pie Five and Five Guys are is newer than that, though Five Guys was off Jack White Drive forever.

But I agree - unless it's a very safe dining choice, it's just not supported. There are some better eateries (Stir Fry, Main St. Pizza), but there seems to be "just enough" support there to keep them viable. When Kingsport gets something different, no one seems to want it.

Ultimately, I'm not sure that city leadership or even a majority of Kingsport residents seem to see what we don't like about Kingsport on this board as a "problem."
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Old 09-10-2019, 07:49 AM
 
Location: Johnson City, TN
168 posts, read 223,364 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AppalachianAngler View Post
If Greeneville had a major employer like Kingsport does, there is no question that G-ville would be ahead of Kingsport. It still might be now. There has been lots of new development in Eastern Greeneville that Kingsport lacks. I would actually live in Greeneville over Kingsport, although that is a topic for another day.



I agree with this. The Fort Henry Mall was arguably even better than Johnson City's.

I would be interested to see how many employees from Eastman live outside of the city.
Two points I'll touch upon here.

1) This is anecdotal at best, but every Eastman employee in my circle lives in Gray/Boone's Creek/JC. That's roughly 10 white-collar and two blue-collar employees - and not a one would ever consider living in KPT. One in Gray even feels like they're too close, as they get "the stench" when winds are right.

2) Greeneville is absolutely running laps around Kingsport at the moment. It has its issues, but it's on the upswing while Kingsport continues to trend downward.
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Old 09-10-2019, 08:32 AM
 
Location: Tennessee
28,282 posts, read 21,198,685 times
Reputation: 34671
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blue Ridge View Post
Two points I'll touch upon here.

1) This is anecdotal at best, but every Eastman employee in my circle lives in Gray/Boone's Creek/JC. That's roughly 10 white-collar and two blue-collar employees - and not a one would ever consider living in KPT. One in Gray even feels like they're too close, as they get "the stench" when winds are right.

2) Greeneville is absolutely running laps around Kingsport at the moment. It has its issues, but it's on the upswing while Kingsport continues to trend downward.
Just wondering, are most of these people under 55 or so?

I grew up outside of Kingsport in the Sullivan County schools in the 1990s and 2000s, and my parents still live in the house I grew up in. Back then, a lot of even the white collar staff lived in Kingsport or Sullivan County, and had their kids in county schools. I think that has substantially changed.

A good friend of mine had both parents working at Eastman in white collar roles. Tim left the area (after making less than half as an Eastman contractor of what he makes in his Midwestern state now) in 2014/2015, and his parents left earlier this year to follow him. My late best friend's dad was also an engineer (though not at Eastman) and has family left the area too. I talked to an old high school friend a week or two ago whose dad was an IT manager at Eastman, and they moved to near Nashville. I could probably name half a dozen others like that of white collar people at various local Kingsport employers who either left the area altogether or at least moved to Washington County.

Kingsport is in a tricky spot with Eastman and Domtar. Those are huge employers in the city and the city doesn't want to do much to antagonize them, yet the attendant pollution and sights/smells turns people off. Kingsport and the surrounding areas of Sullivan County are losing the white collar presence they once had, and instead the area seems to be turning more retiree/working class to even poor depending on where you look.

Virtually none of the white collar people I know around my age who work in Kingsport live there if they can avoid it. Most live in Washington County and just commute back and forth.

Kingsport needs to find something that makes the city more livable and attractive. I've done the commute between Kingsport and Johnson City both ways in the morning and evening on I-26. If you're coming from north side JC to Eastman, that's easily thirty minutes at rush hour. I used to live on the south side of JC and commuted back to an office near Indian Path. That was roughly 45 minutes each way. One of the selling points of the Tri-Cities is that it doesn't have significant traffic, but the I-26 commute can easily get you into larger city commute times.

That's why I'm moving to Bristol. I didn't think the I-26 commute was worth it, and I've done it from living in Kingsport to working in JC, to living in JC and working in Kingsport. Living in Kingsport isn't an option for me long-term. The 11-E commute is a lot better than 26. I think Bristol has some upside, enough for me to do, and the prices/taxes are better.
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Old 09-10-2019, 08:59 AM
 
Location: Johnson City, TN
168 posts, read 223,364 times
Reputation: 196
Quote:
Originally Posted by Serious Conversation View Post
Just wondering, are most of these people under 55 or so?

I grew up outside of Kingsport in the Sullivan County schools in the 1990s and 2000s, and my parents still live in the house I grew up in. Back then, a lot of even the white collar staff lived in Kingsport or Sullivan County, and had their kids in county schools. I think that has substantially changed.
Most are in the 24-40 age range. A couple are 55+. In fact, one of the 55+ is a chemist and perhaps the most adamant about not living in KPT.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Serious Conversation View Post
Virtually none of the white collar people I know around my age who work in Kingsport live there if they can avoid it. Most live in Washington County and just commute back and forth.
I'm racking my brain, but I think the only KPT-centric employees in my circle are either employed by or for Eastman. Perhaps some distant acquaintances were shuffled to KPT during the Ballad transition, but I'm not certain. Oh, and I believe one still works for Holston Medical Group - and I think they commute from northern Unicoi Co. So that's at least 0-for-15 on KPT employees who live outside of Sullivan Co.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Serious Conversation View Post
Kingsport needs to find something that makes the city more livable and attractive. I've done the commute between Kingsport and Johnson City both ways in the morning and evening on I-26. If you're coming from north side JC to Eastman, that's easily thirty minutes at rush hour. I used to live on the south side of JC and commuted back to an office near Indian Path. That was roughly 45 minutes each way. One of the selling points of the Tri-Cities is that it doesn't have significant traffic, but the I-26 commute can easily get you into larger city commute times.

That's why I'm moving to Bristol. I didn't think the I-26 commute was worth it, and I've done it from living in Kingsport to working in JC, to living in JC and working in Kingsport. Living in Kingsport isn't an option for me long-term. The 11-E commute is a lot better than 26. I think Bristol has some upside, enough for me to do, and the prices/taxes are better.
I commuted from Downtown JC to Exit 7 for a bit. It wasn't the best commute, but certainly not the worst. In fact, the worst part was on 26. The 81 portion was smooth sailing. I grew so sick of the delays along 26 that I abandoned it in favor of 11E. It turned out to be quite similar time-wise and much less stressful.

I would pick Bristol over Kingsport all day, every day.

As for Kingsport's issues, I honestly think Kingsport needs to accept its fate and rebrand itself - pronto. If leadership refuses to embrace change and insists on the conservative, corporate feel, go all-in on that. Tailor everything to the corporate-industrial complex and rebuild around it. There's nothing inherently wrong with that. The efforts to innovate have fallen flat and I simply do not believe the city is in a position to compete with JC and Bristol.
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