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Business & Technology

New owners returning downtown landmark to '20s facade

February 9th, 2007 11:21 pm by Rick Wagner



Shawn and Jessica Sutterlin are working to restore the facade of 207 Broad Street to its appearance in the 1920s. Contributed photo.


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KINGSPORT - A vintage retail facade familiar to post-World War II downtown shoppers is back, at least for a while.


But the new owners of the old Betty Gay, 207 Broad St., plan to take the facade further back in time to the building's 1920s origin.


Shawn and Jessica Sutterlin, southern Californians who relocated to the Tri-Cities, closed on the 7,000-square-foot building Jan. 31 and on Feb. 3 had workers tear off an old aluminum facade to reveal, among other things, the second-floor red-brick facade and tile Betty Gay sign.


The building is next to Wallace News, and the Saturday removal of the aluminum facade took about eight hours.


"We're putting in an application for the Facade Grant Committee. Our plan is to completely restore that facade," Shawn Sutterlin said Friday afternoon.


The facade grant program is administered by the Kingsport Office of Small Business Development and Entrepreneurship and funded by the Kingsport Economic Development Board.


Eligible projects can include window replacement, brickwork, signs and other improvements, but all have to meet city codes.


The grants, for which $17,500 of $50,000 in initial funding remains, will pay up to 50 percent of facade costs for qualifying projects. Single facades can receive up to $5,000, while corner buildings can receive up to $10,000. No more than 50 percent of the cost can be covered by the grant, which is given only after the work is done.


For more information about the facade grant program contact KOSBE Executive Director Aundrea Wilcox at 392-8801 or by e-mail at awilcox@kosbe.org or contact NETWORKS – Sullivan Partnership Director of Business Development Betty Martin at 279-7682 or by sending e-mail to bmartin@networkstn.com.


The couple's plan for the building, which Shawn Sutterlin said was constructed in 1920, is to turn the upstairs into loft apartments. The Sutterlins, who live in Johnson City, have talked about living there themselves but haven't decided for sure, he said.


The downstairs plans are still fluid, but he said some sort of retail or other commercial use are possibilities.


Before housing Betty Gay from the late 1940s until that business moved to the Fort Henry Mall in 1976, a business called the Sandwich King occupied the building, according to Sutterlin and a Feb. 7 Vince Staten column in the Kingsport Times-News.


Betty Gay ads appeared as early as the May 6, 1947, Kingsport Times. A May 16 ad offered gowns at $4.99 and slips for $1.59.


The Oct. 10 and Oct. 20, 1943, classifieds in the Kingsport Times listed Hillenberg General Insurance at the address, and Doane Furniture Co. was listed at that address in a May 10, 1933, classified.


Sutterlin said he was not aware that according to the 1933 City Directory, Martin's Barber Shop and Billiard Parlor operated in the building, and a May 10, 1933, Times classified ad puts Doane Furniture Co. at that address.


Sutterlin said he and his wife are trying to bring the building back to its 1920s appearance on the exterior, although he said they might not be able to recreate some of the architectural detail, based on early photographs of the building.


He said one plan is to remove the Betty Gay sign tiles from the facade.


"We'd really like to preserve those tiles," Sutterlin said, adding that he and his wife hope to have them cleaned, repaired and reapplied to an interior brick wall as a memorial to retail times past on Broad Street.


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