Joyce and Bob Grills, who have been married for 60 years, get foot traffic from Kingsport's downtown academic village and numerous out-of-town people looking for deals. (Photo by David Grace)
KINGSPORT — In 1964, Bob and Joyce Grills decided to take the chance of a lifetime.
Joyce had migrated to Kingsport from Southwest Virginia, while Bob was a Kingsport native. Both had jobs at the old Kingsport Press. That's where they met and began a marriage that's lasted 60 years. Joyce worked in the photographic department. Bob was a bookbinder.
But Bob had an idea to start a business.
Fifty years later, Haggle Shop Antiques is still going strong at its Broad Street and Commerce Street locations. The Grills held their annual "Sale-A-Bration" on Saturday.
They've seen good and tough times, and remain believers in downtown Kingsport.
Bob and Joyce Grills began their family business on Fairview Avenue and continued to keep their Kingsport Press jobs as the business got a foothold. They eventually moved to Five Points during a time when retail businesses — Dobyns-Taylor, Sobel's, Jewel Box and Nettie Lee — still ruled downtown, although the Kingsport economy appeared to be in a transition period. Joyce Grills said many apartments were located downtown, but Kingsport was decades away from renovating building lofts into living spaces.
"At that time there wasn't antique malls," Joyce Grills recalled. "Bob just always loved old record players, magazines, movies — the older things. It wasn't my thing at that time. He started it, I think, to help his hobbies and the things he enjoyed doing and eventually I grew to love them, too....For a long time we did not rent spaces (inside the Haggle Shop). As malls began opening, we saw an opportunity to grow. "
Other antique dealers saw what was happening and opened up downtown.
"A lot of Main Street was just about closed up or up for sale," Joyce Grills stressed. "People were either closing or moving one at a time. It was slow but little by little, retail kept moving on...I think we kind of kept the town alive. It was hard. We did a lot of advertising. I don't think downtown Kingsport ever died. We complain about parking today. Back then we would pray for a parking problem."
Memorable moments for the business include furnishing the house for the 1984 movie "The River," a drama shot in Hawkins County and featuring Mel Gibson and Sissy Spacek.
"We also did the auction scene (in the movie)," Joyce Grills said. "Plus Bob and about 17 other dealers were in the movie."
Today, the Grills get rent from more than 100 booth dealers inside their Haggle Shop locations as well as selling their own merchandise obtained through estate sales and auctions. They also conduct estate sales for various clients.
Anyone can find memorabilia from the past, including old trunks, vintage clothing, fine furniture and antique furniture. Collectors will find retro furnishings, crystal, depression glass and many other items.
There are also pieces of Kingsport's history inside the store that are not for sale, such as a menu from the old Kingsport Inn.
The Grills get foot traffic from Kingsport's Academic Village, while out-of-towners walk up looking for deals.
"The clientele has changed," Bob Grills noted. "It started out with Kingsport people...We would advertise in Big Stone Gap to bring people down from Southwest Virginia...Now we see people in here from California and Florida."
A new kind of antique consumer, Bob Grills said, has been influenced by TV shows such as American Pickers.
"A lot of them come in and say 'I saw this (item) on American Pickers and it's worth so much,' but it wasn't," Bob Grills remarked. "They want to sell their stuff for what American Pickers say they should be selling it for...Today people do not understand a lot of items aren't worth for what you paid for them 85 years ago. We all think everything we own is worth more than it is, I guess."
The Grills pointed out son Robert and daughter Kim have always supported them, and they have no intention of retiring.
"I just enjoy this so much, and I enjoy the people that we've met," Joyce Grills said. "We've met people all over the world and that's been a fun experience. "...We both love downtown...I would like to think our type business is going to grow again. We have seen changes and will continue to see changes."
For more about The Haggle Shop visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pages/Haggle-Shop-Antiques/404701649542760.comments powered by Disqus