A New Address | Over The Blackheart

A New Address | Over The Blackheart

Published by: David Cate
May 13, 2024

A city is more than a mere location; it unfolds as a drama through time.

It was time to venture into unexplored territories. After months of scouring for the perfect place, I finally found it: Over the Blackheart.

My new address, Over the Blackheart, sits in a building dating back to 1927, once known as the Betty Gay. The Blackheart Salon—a hip hair salon with a distinctive facade and quaint outdoor garden—occupies the ground floor. It's right next to Wallace News, a historical Kingsport landmark currently undergoing renovation, and across the street from Macado's, a local bar and restaurant. This is where my 25-step climb leads to a 1,300-square-foot loft, perched perfectly above Downtown Kingsport, providing a front-row seat to Broad Street, the heart of East Tennessee.

This isn't my first rodeo on Broad Street. During high school, we would "Cruise Broad" on weekends. My brother and I kickstarted our media careers around the corner on Commerce Street at WKPT. Not too long ago, we also had our Times Digital Group offices just a couple of doors down. Before that, I had the pleasure of working from an office on the corner of Main and Broad in the historic Bank of Kingsport building.

Downtown Kingsport has played a pivotal role in my personal and professional journey in East Tennessee for decades. This new loft marks an entirely new chapter, allowing me to fully immerse myself in the city's pulse.

John and Angela Vachon breathed new life into this building not too long ago, emphasizing its broad windows, soaring ceilings, and exposed brick walls. Their renovations brought renewed vitality to these historic structures, with their distinctive signatures evident throughout.

It was as if destiny had paved the way to Broad Street because I was immediately captivated by this opportunity. I viewed the loft on a Friday, signed the lease on Monday, and moved in by Friday. Settling in took a couple of weeks, but the new month of May begins afresh.

Downstairs, Wallace News awaits a new tenant to its left, while a tattoo studio occupies the corner. The Clinchfield Railroad still signals long-haul trains at all hours, as it has for generations.

To the right, there's a cupcake shop, a game room, an espresso bar, and Christian counseling services. Church bells from Broad Street ring on the hour.

While my urban loft isn't tangled in the complexities of a large city, Downtown Kingsport remains vibrant. Nearly 3,000 people reside in Downtown alone, while Kingsport as a whole encompasses just eight to ten blocks and serves as the heartbeat for over 55,000 residents.

My family always enjoyed "people-watching" at the grocery store, and we'd often sit and observe. Perhaps that's why this new loft intrigues me so much—there are endless stories unfolding right before my eyes.

From this vantage point, I can see parking spots shuffle throughout the day like a time-lapse video. Hundreds of brief conversations float up like echoes.

It's rowdy at times, too. Outsiders ride into town most evenings to see what's happening, drawn by the allure of the city. While Broad Street cruising has transformed, it retains its parade-like quality, now featuring monster trucks, roaring Harleys, and screaming crotch rockets. Macado's attracts a loyal crowd with karaoke tunes mixing with the wail of sirens and the clamor of train couplings, creating a unique soundtrack.

Yet, when the city lights dim, Downtown becomes tranquil from midnight to late morning until the street cleaner makes its rounds at sunrise.

A few things stand out to me.

First, Downtown remains a lively hub of activities, entertainment, and community. After spending a year on a farm, surrounded by the occasional coon dog and roaring jet engines, Downtown's vibrancy is refreshing.

Second, Kingsport's working-class roots are evident. Despite the antique shops, most people frequenting the venues—about six out of ten—are under 40.

I start my mornings and end my evenings by the window, enjoying the accelerated pace of my reading. It's better than any coffee shop, with the city waking up and winding down like clockwork.

Families with dogs, music lovers, and weekend shoppers bring the city to life. Meanwhile, the homeless community navigates its routines, often relying on local organizations and ministries for support.

From Glen Bruce Park to the foot traffic, people are living their lives in Kingsport. A young woman regularly searches the streets for cigarettes, familiar faces stroll through town, and many more backpacks dot the sidewalks. Each city's challenges give it character, and Kingsport's diversity keeps us grounded.

The warm weather opens the door to Downtown's best. Friday night concerts will soon start, and regular festivals will fill the weekends. My loft is ready to welcome friends and family to share in the festivities.

Farewell to country life. This new chapter is set for compelling stories, with rumors of new businesses, comedy circles, and the growth of Commerce Street promising a dynamic narrative.

My favorite quote above this pirate's loft is from Jack Sparrow...

"There's more to treasure than gold and silver."

Let the drama unfold.