Editorial: Wallace News will be sadly missed by many

Editorial Board • Jul 5, 2018 at 2:58 PM

For nearly as long as Kingsport has been a city, Wallace News has been a downtown fixture offering a wide selection of newspapers, magazines, drinks and snacks. For many city residents, it has been a tradition, perhaps begun by a parent, to start the day at the newsstand with a coffee and a newspaper, and to chat with friends.

But time marches on, and with it, most things come to an end. We grieve most when we lose an institution like Wallace News, which has closed its doors after 80 years in the same location.

Wallace News Stand began as Broad Street Fruit and News in 1936. Mr. and Mrs. Wallace Crum purchased it in 1941 and began operating as Wallace News, offering magazines, paperback books, fruit, candy, snacks and popcorn. The Crums retired in 1974 after 33 years in business, and Marty Mullins continued operating the site as Wallace News, as did Tom Throp when he purchased the business three years ago. But even as more people than ever are consuming information, they are consuming much of it online, and Wallace News has become another victim of the Digital Era.

The profits just aren’t there, Throp says. “I made $892 of profit in March. I can’t do it,” Throp said. The death knell began tolling in January, he said, when the compensation rates for magazines changed considerably. Where previously he was making $3.89 for a magazine he sold, it dropped to $1.68 in January. “For newsstands, that’s just impossible,” he said.

Over eight decades, Wallace News was best known for its popcorn and snowballs, magazines, cigarettes, tobacco and pipes, drinks, snacks and newspapers. Years ago, the newsstand carried a larger selection of magazines and comics and sported a small arcade in the back — a few video games and pinball machines.

For Throp, operating it for only three years was the most enjoyable time of his professional life, he said. “I loved being there every day and I loved the people, the camaraderie. And that’s what I remember as a kid, and I think we continued that wonderfully. I made great new friendships and strengthened old ones, and it was a great place to be. I hope something similar can happen.”

Bill Moss, who owns the building where Wallace News operated, said he hopes to either lease the space or sell the building. “I had hoped we could keep it as a newsstand, but a lot has changed, like with digital media. It’s been tough,” Moss said. “If someone would like to run it similar to what is was, I’d like to find someone to get in there. I don’t know if that’s possible.”

Throp still has the popcorn and snowball machines, and they might just reappear downtown at some point down the road. No promises, though.

“We continued traditions that had been there a long time, potentially started some new ones and provided a place for people to go to know they’d be welcomed and cared about,” Throp said. “It’s a shame because we don’t have places like that anymore. It’s just a changing of the times.”

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