In a virtual presentation on Feb. 11, Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce CEO Charles Hardin emceed the organization’s 34th Annual Awards Ceremony.
After acknowledging the stresses and challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic have imposed on area businesses, Hardin said, “Today is about celebration. It is a celebration of the Blowing Rock vibrant and engaged business community. … It is a time to cheer on our fellow business owners in their pursuit of excellence.”
Appalachian Regional Healthcare System CEO Chuck Mantooth presented the “Business of the Year” award to Foggy Rock and Sunny Rock restaurants on Valley Boulevard. The other nominees were Neaco and Tanger Outlets. On behalf of husband, Burt Myers, and son, Andrew Myers, in accepting the award, Yvonne Myers said, “This year has truly been a challenging one, but without a doubt we owe everything to our great staff. They masked up and have worked through COVID-19 like champs. We also want to thank our wonderful and loyal customers, because without them we could not have succeeded this year.”
Ali Brochardt, general manager of the Meadowbrook Inn presented the first award, for “Best Commercial Renovation” to Blowing Rock Ale House, with owners Jeff Walker and Todd Rice accepting the award, virtually. The other nominees were Holiday Inn Express and Speckled Trout Restaurant and Bottle Shop. In accepting the award, Walker and Rice acknowledged the work of 4 Forty Four Construction and Sketchline Architecture for their work on the renovation project, as well as their customers. “Without our patrons, we would have a reason to embark on this remodel,” said Walker.
Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce board chairman Ronnie Mark, who also is general manager of the Tanger Outlets, presented the award for “Best New Construction” to the Main and Pine Building for short-term rentals and retail. The other nominee was Allen Tate Realtors (the Boone office on King Street). After thanking the engineers, architects and construction professionals who worked on the building, Steve Hetherington, the developer of Main and Pine said, “We had a goal to build something that organically grew in the town of Blowing Rock. I hope that we achieved that.”
The “Best Customer Service” award in the service industry was presented by Karen Diamond of Diamond Properties to First Citizens Bank. The other nominees were the Blowing Rock Medical Park, Skyline/Skybest, and Studio M Salon.
Ronnie Marks returned to the virtual podium to present the “Best Customer Service” award in the hospitality industry to Camp Coffee Roasters. The other nominees were Meadowbrook Inn and Mountainaire Inn and Log Cabins. Alan Monk, manager at Camp Coffee Roasters said, “We try to have everyone come in with a smile and leave with a smile, with coffee in hands!”
Chetola Resort’s Kent Tarbutton presented the “Best Customer Service” for Sales to Monkees of Blowing Rock. The other nominees were Allen Tate Realtors and Village Builders. On behalf of owners Jessica and Ken Wehrmann, Monkees’ Cara Kidd accepted the award.
In presenting the award for, Jim Pitts of Blue Ridge Mountain Club said, “I am never tired of talking about community. Building community for us is a very intentional mission.” He then presented the “Leadership and Service to the Community” award to the Blowing Rock Women’s Club. The other nominees were Tim Hilton and Ronnie Marks. Janet Stout accepted the award on behalf of the Women’s Club. “The club started with a small group of women dedicated to help with and further education in Blowing Rock. In 2019, we opened the Village Thrift Shop on the 321 Bypass. Last year we awarded $32,000 in scholarships to Watauga High School students and we are on track this year to increase that amount.”
Mayor Charlie Sellers is also the proprietor of The Blowing Rock attraction and presented the Jerry Burns Ambassadorial Award to Pam Vines, co-owner of Jenkins Realtors. The other nominees were David Rogers, Irene Sawyer, and Jim Pitts. In accepting the award Vines said, “I was one of the lucky ones to grow up in Blowing Rock. I worked beside Jerry and know what he meant to Blowing Rock and to think that I am this year’s recipient of an award in his name is rather overwhelming. I love Blowing Rock and being a part of Blowing Rock. May there be many, many more Jerry Burns recipients because he represents the ‘heart’ of Blowing Rock.”
Skyline/Skybest’s Karen Powell presented the “Economic Impact” award to the Village Foundation for its work in launching the Rock United Relief Fund initiative to help area businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic lockdown and stay-at-home orders. Powell reported that the fund gave 33 grants of up to $5,000 each to help save the town’s small businesses. Powell acknowledged the special work of Jim Pitts, Tim Hilton, and John Aldridge in leading the initiative. Hilton accepted the award on behalf of the Village Foundation, saying, “When the COVID-19 situation unfolded, we started thinking about the impact that it might have and has had on the tourism industry. The immediate thought was what would happen to Blowing Rock (because of its dependence on tourism). The Village Foundation was extremely open to the idea of a relief fund and jumped right on it. … It was extremely heartwarming to see the reaction from the community.”
The virtual presentation of the awards ceremony was filmed at the Blowing Rock Art & History Museum. Tracy Brown served as videographer with Suzy Barker serving as event coordinator.
BLOWING ROCK — A dozen members of the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce and town officials met at the Tanger Outlet Center on Monday, Feb. 15, to greet the Trading Shoppees into the local marketplace with an old-fashioned “ribbon cutting.”
The grand opening showcased a new concept of retailer for the outlet mall, which historically focused on large, “brand name” manufacturing tenants such as Gap, Polo/Ralph Lauren, Sunglass Hut, Banana Republic and OshKosh B’gosh, among others. The Trading Shoppee is multiple, smaller “stores” inside one large store location.
“We have 63 small businesses featured here under one roof,” Trading Shoppees business partner Tabitha Estep said. “Some are from the Tri-Cities, some are from Charlotte, some are from Winston-Salem, Knoxville, all over, really. The small businesses come in, rent a space, and we sell their products on their behalf.
Estep said that the Blowing Rock store is their fifth location, with earlier established Trading Shoppees stores in Bristol, Abingdon, and Tazewell in Virginia, and Jonesborough in Tennessee. She explained that when they were in conversations with another Tanger outlet center, the Blowing Rock managers heard about it and reached out to them, too.
“Plus, I went to school at App State,” she added with a smile, suggesting that she was very familiar with Blowing Rock and the High Country market.
“This is a great market,” Estep said. “We have been treated very well, so far. There are a lot of local artisans in the area, which helps, too.”
In explaining the Trading Shoppees business model, Estep said they charge a percentage commission on every sale in addition to a small rent charge to each vendor.
“This is a very unique venue,” said Blowing Rock Mayor Charlie Sellers after the ribbon cutting. “It allows artisans to display their goods and sell their goods without having their own brick and mortar. We have so many artisans in the High Country that need places to display and sell their wares, so I think this may be a great opportunity for them to consider.”
In an earlier interview with the Tanger Outlets general manager, Ronnie Marks explained that many outlet malls around the nation are exploring different combinations of stores for their shopping centers since their traditional tenants, the large brand manufacturers, are migrating an increasing amount of their sales and distribution to online platforms and away from brick-and-mortar storefronts.
In the case of the Blowing Rock center, Marks said they are looking to feature more local businesses. Village Pharmacy, a unit of Boone Drugs, recently moved to Tanger from its previous location at The Foley Center, and Doc’s Rocks gem mine and its sister attraction, Appalachian Fossil Museum, opened in January after several years at a smaller, Mystery Hill location.
BLOWING ROCK — Despite four months in the doldrums because of the COVID-19 economic lockdown and stay-at-home orders issued by the governor, the real estate market activity in Blowing Rock’s 28605 zip code was robust during 2020, according to a report obtained from Scott Macintosh, broker-in-charge for the Blowing Rock and Boone offices of Allen Tate Realtors. Total sales in 2020 inside the Blowing Rock zip code totaled $156.55 million, a 16.34 percent increase over 2019’s $134.56 million.
In 2020, the largest transaction was $4 million, the list price, for 183 acres. The average transaction was $480,229 (the sold price), while the median sold price was $387,500.
The largest transaction in the 28605 zip code during 2019 was an 81-acre parcel listed at $2.999 million that sold for $2.79 million. The average sold price per transaction was $450,040, while the median price was $365,000, according to the Multiple Listing Service derived report.
“There are many factors that contributed to this robust growth in the Blowing Rock market,” said Pat Riley, president and CEO of Allen Tate Companies. “First, interest rates remain at historic lows. Second, the virtual workplace allows professionals to work from anywhere, including more rural and what have been regarded as resort communities, like Blowing Rock. Third, a lot of buyers who might have been on the fence about a decision to purchase a second home, made that decision. And fourth, record-low inventory in the Blowing Rock market creates a buying frenzy for new listings, especially those priced below $500,000.”
Macintosh added that compared to more urban settings Blowing Rock offers larger homes with greater living space.
“And relatively speaking,” Macintosh said, “our homes are priced low compared to other resort areas in the U.S. New construction can be purchased for less than $300 per square foot.”
Blowing Rock is not unique, explained Riley.
“What Blowing Rock is experiencing is being replicated across the mountains and beaches of North Carolina and South Carolina,” Riley said. “We are blessed with these beautiful areas in the Carolinas; it is our challenge and opportunity to keep them special.”
The Allen Tate professionals also acknowledged the role the pandemic has played in the real estate market’s uptick.
“COVID-19 also played a significant role in the increased market activity,” said Macintosh. “The High Country has had very low rates of infections compared to more populated and urban areas, and people want an escape. Of course, there is a lot more space to roam and not be in close contact with others in the mountains and national parks.”
BLOWING ROCK — The Middle Fork South Fork New River may sound odd as names go, but the significance of the river’s origins on the grounds of the Blowing Rock Country Club golf course was not lost on one member of the town council.
Although he has chosen to remain anonymous, it was his initiative and financial largesse that led to recognizing the New River as it crosses under Sunset Drive in Blowing Rock, with special signage.
With most of the watershed in North Carolina flowing east and south, the New River is an outlier, running almost due north into southwestern Virginia and beyond. Eventually, it hooks up with the Gauley River to form the Kanawha River at the town of Gauley Bridge, West Virginia.
The New River’s approximately 320-mile length runs north until it becomes the Kanawha River, its waters eventually flowing into the Ohio River and then the Mississippi River. The “Mighty Mississippi,” of course, winds up emptying into the Gulf of Mexico near New Orleans, La.
Geologists with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries have labeled the New River as one of the oldest rivers of the world.
Curtis Andrews and Melissa Pickett, members of the Blowing Rock Appearance Advisory Commission, joined Mayor Charlie Sellers, and commissioners Doug Matheson, David Harwood and Albert Yount on Thursday, Feb. 11, to celebrate the signs’ installation on either side of the street.
“What I like about the design of these signs,” said Pickett, “is their simplicity. In their simplicity they are elegant and very appropriate for this location.”
Sellers spoke about the history of the New River, including the Middle Fork South Fork’s headwaters in Blowing Rock and path through town before joining the South Fork in Boone and the eventual coming together with the North Fork in Ashe County.