KINGSPORT — The Banq building in downtown, which was once the First National Bank, holds memories of weddings and long ago banking ventures throughout its massive marble-clad structure.
Now, Jaime and Kathleen Joaquin are ready to add to that history.
The building now serves as an event venue, Fusion at Banq, which hosts weddings, birthdays and other special occasions. Jaime and Kathleen Joaquin also own and operate Fusion, the multi- cultural, casual dining restaurant located on East Stone Drive. Recently, when the two business owners decided to also take on the downtown venue, they knew they wanted to take the same approach they did with their restaurant.
“It’s not just coming in and eating,” Kathleen Joaquin said, referring to Fusion. “It’s a dining experience. We want the same thing to carry over here in Banq. We want to make sure each event is one you’re going to remember.”
The downtown venue will not serve as a second restaurant for the married couple, but as an event venue for which the restaurant will serve as the exclusive caterer. Though the Joaquins are busy running Fusion, they opted to start the venue operation after customers kept requesting private party space at the restaurant.
“This is kind of the next stepping stone for people who were requesting private parties or outside dining or seating for a large party,” Kathleen Joaquin said. “It was kind of perfect.”
The three-story building first opened as the First National Bank in 1927. The venue, located at 255 Broad St., offers a grand hall, an executive hall and a rooftop overlooking Broad and Center streets with views of Bays Mountain and Church Circle.
The business owners said they felt the building is the perfect place for upscale events with a unique setting.
“There are lots of barn venues that are fabulous and lots of warehouse venues, but there weren’t a whole lot of upscale venues like this,” Kathleen Joaquin said. “This was kind of a niche that needed to be filled. There are a couple of extremely high-end (venues) so this one is not low-end, but not as high as some others.”
For Kathleen Joaquin, the history sets the building apart. The building was renovated in 2009 by John and Angela Vachon, but hints of the building’s bank history are evident in the large, arched windows and intricate ceilings and moldings. An old vault was even added to the second floor grand hall, serving as homage to the building’s banking history.
For Jaime Joaquin, the building also offers an op- portunity to help revitalize downtown Kingsport.
“We need to have the dining and entertainment sector in Kingsport,” he said. “That’s what generates the excitement of a town and gives life to a town. With this being a multi-purpose venue, I’m hoping we kind of fill that gap.”
The Joaquins moved to Kingsport three years ago, after living in San Antonio, Texas. Jaime Joaquin worked at Stir Fry Cafe before the pandemic and, around that time, became interested in helping create jobs through a new restaurant.
“The thing I kept hearing from everybody was ‘Kingsport is dying, there’s not much local support.’” Jaime Joaquin recalled. “Well, this is my community. This is what I love now. Let me show you guys what can and will be possible.”
Jaime Joaquin opened Fusion, which features Tex-Mex, Italian and American cuisines, on Aug. 4, 2020. Since then, the business owner has dedicated himself and his business to elevating the level of interest in the Model City.
“What I’m really loving to see is we’re having people from Johnson City and other places coming out saying, ‘Wow, this is what we’ve been looking for.’ That was exactly my big focus when we did this,” Jaime Joaquin said. “Let’s make Kingsport beautiful, let’s highlight it for what it really is. Let’s get other people to talk about what Kingsport has to offer.”
Kathleen Joaquin is originally from the Midwest, though she and her husband both spent many years in San Antonio and Jaime Joaquin is from Mexico. The two first came to visit the area, not thinking Kingsport would pique their interest. Now, two businesses-deep in the Model City, the two are ready to keep serving the community with the same mindset they had when the Fusion dream came to life.
“It’s a place where you have diverse people, attitudes, personalities, but people who are passionate about food and wine,” Jaime Joaquin said, referring to the restaurant. “This is the place for them. And (the venue) is going to be the same thing. It’s going to be quality over quantity.”
And if Jaime Joaquin has his way, it will only add to his new home of Kingsport, Tennessee.
“It feels like it’s been our home all along,” he said. “In a place of 50,000, it pretty much feels like a neighborhood. It’s a community. Everybody knows everybody. It’s so great.
“This is my final resting spot. This is home now.”