Tell Me I’m Not Wrong About The ‘Band of Brothers’ on Main Street

I tend to romanticize things on Main Street…..I offer no apology. This tendency explains how I came to believe there is a Band of Brothers changing the scene in historic downtown. I love meeting and writing about individuals from various walks of life and backgrounds investing their time and resources. It is these people saving and repurposing Rocky Mount’s commercial architecture who provide a necessary economic driver.

When Troy White’s building came tumbling down in an 80 mile an hour wind, it felt like someone slapped me upside the head with some of the comments left on Concerned Citizens; a group of important voices who try to serve as watchmen on the tower. While reading, I thought, “Wait a minute, this isn’t right!” What happened to ’We few, we happy few, we band of brothers?’ -from a speech in Shakespeare’s Henry V.    

The King proclaims….But we in it shall be remember’d;

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother…

As fate would have it, Troy and the team arrived an hour before the storm hit. They were there to assess the next steps in bringing the building back to life. Engineers were involved with the necessary procedures to save the building. Then the wind took the structure into its own hands. Troy White, has already demonstrated how vested he is in the mission of saving downtown’s future. He could have used some support that at least said, “Your loss is our loss.” For the record, Mr. White paid for any and all clean up that was necessary. There are now design plans in the works for a new building, which will be sensitive to the continuity of the historic downtown setting. 

When we lost this building, I was certain of the downtown Band of Brothers. They would offer help. Maybe drop water bottles off because of the heat. They would bring encouragement with their ‘one for all’ attitude, perhaps bring a push broom or shovel? With little, if any, sign of these Brothers, coupled with the comments that followed, we are damn lucky Troy White didn’t give us the famous Duke basketball gesture when opponents foul out – – SEE YA 

This ‘all for one’ attitude is imperative. Everyone who is involved in creating the new emerging downtown scene deserves respect and shall have a turn leading the Main Street Parade. If you doubt the necessity of this investment money, think about the majority vote on the City Council who have served 20 years or more. Under their watch, statistics show a decline in homeownership, a loss of jobs, higher crime, and commercial and residential housing boarded up and deteriorating.  

The City Council Chambers

We need individuals who are vested in the historic collection of architecture on Main Street, and beyond. The real issue behind the smokescreen-cry of racism, is the “My Will Be Done” agenda. Anyone that does not support this agenda will have to endure intimidation, the threat of losing a job, actually losing that job, or threats concerning their businesses. People are hired and fired according to their willingness to serve this agenda. It is no longer a carefully held secret. The names of the usual suspects are spoken every day. Should you need further evidence of what this so-called leadership has accomplished, go, and look at the shameful decline in the neighborhoods. It is obvious that nothing comes from nothing. It is new investment that is saving Main Street.  

It may be a Chicago thing, but are you familiar with the expression, no tickey, no washey? There is an economic imperative at stake here. Vested individuals are essential. Those profiting from the “My Will” agenda have tried to sabotage the word investor. “These ‘carpetbaggers’ are taking away what belongs to us.” Don’t believe that for a moment. Instead, believe that all those vested in building a future for Rocky Mount deserve our thanks and prayers. 

The “My will Agenda” is the real issue. The plan we already have, bought and paid for, doesn’t support “The Agenda,” so we need a new one. The Main Street program is dismissed for the same reason. Think about The Carlton House that was sabotaged for the sake of a new hotel and parking garage. Does anyone doubt that the usual people will line their pockets with that deal?  The Band of Brothers faces this agenda every day. If these people would accept the notion that alone we can do so little, but together, accomplish so much. it is a reality that should be embraced. We need black and white-owned businesses scattered throughout the historic downtown. Together, the obstacles that the agenda mandates can be addressed.

Ben Braddock at Station Square- A Main Street Campion

When The Stars Align – Whit and Robert Barnes Appear – Sons of Rocky Mount

It suits my romantic inclinations to write this Sorsby’s Tale after spending time with Whit Barnes. This tale is my favorite kind of Main Street news.I love generational novels that cover family history. In this case we have the family that founded Bullocks Furniture in 1901 unto the 5th generation that rests in a tall, dark, handsome fellow…. that would be Whit…. the nicest of young man that will one day appear on the genealogy pages of this grand family.

Whit graduated from Rocky Mount Sr. High where his mother Martha Kincheloe Barnes and father, Russ Barnes, met and started dating after graduation. Whit went on to  Wake Forest and graduated in  2013 in Business Management. His grandfather, Bill Kincheloe, who lived on Wildwood in West Haven, started making lamps in the warehouse behind his grandfathers retail furniture store, Bulluck Furniture Company in downtown Rocky Mount, the year 1969. Whit is now the Sales Manager for Wildwood. The company used to be called Wildwood Lamps and Accents, but now the name is  “Wildwood” because they make all types of home decor such as furniture, mirrors, lighting, decorative accessories, and artwork.

Whit has come home though he still has his New York apartment. He tells me he knows of at least 25-30 others moving back to Rocky Mount. This return is HOPE personified. These sons and daughters of Rocky Mount will join those already here; the future leadership providing a moral compass, and integrity we badly need. If any of them are like Whit, who is a bright, enthusiastic, and a energized, young gentleman, then hurry and get here.

Robert and Whit Barnes have bought the fabulous building on Sunset – Sorsby’s Place. The entire building may be leased or the two floors leased separately. The second floor has its own entrance. You may remember the building when it was Rocky Mount Chamber Paint, (1910.) Or, Barnes Tin Shop (no relative), or Carols Dress Shop. The restoration of this building is another preservationist dream and much more. When I visited with Whit, the joy on his face is evident over owning Sorsby Place with his brother, Robert. This joy includes home and family, taking part in the revitalization of Main Street, and putting a stake in the ground for past and future generations of their family.

I think of these young men standing quietly outside their building making room for their memories growing up here; the voices that have gone before them that they now honor. It is spectacular when one reaches the September of their life as I have, to stand beside a young man who wants to make a difference. It is my prayer that ‘all will be well, all manner of things will be well,’ when I am gone because of people like Whit and Robert. They are putting their life experience, their education, creativity, and love of place and family towards a future for themselves and others. Thankfully, they are joined by young people who are doing the same thing along Main Street and beyond. The leasing of this building will become an economic driver in the Rocky Mount Downtown Historic District.

**Wildwood Lamps & Accents Inc is a small business with 20 to 49 employees. Categorized under importers & exporters, Wildwood Lamps & Accents Inc has an annual revenue of $10 to 50 million. Wildwood Lamps & Accents Inc is a public business located in Rocky Mount, NC.

Architectural Plans for Sorsby Place

Beautiful brick walls on two sides each floor

2nd floor, beautiful floors. Window at far end faces Sunset and across to Howard St.

View of Howard Street out the second story window

The restored beams on both floors



Stepheny Sings A Joe Cocker Song to Troy White – A New Face on Howard Street

I often sing a few lines from a Joe Cocker song when I think of those I am grateful for, love, and admire.  I haven’t met Mr. White, so it is unusual to connect a song with a stranger. There are exceptions. Mr. White is another ‘angel unaware’ that has come to Main Street. You will understand when you see the evidence provided below that what we have hoped for and needed, Mr. White is providing.  Listen to these lyrics: You are so beautiful to me…….

Looking at the saved facade on Howard Street

Two buildings on Howard Street needed Mr. White. He is exactly what we hoped for. Troy White is from Durham but is moving to Rocky Mount. He has eyes to see and bought two neglected and deteriorating buildings that were being ignored locally. He has saved the historic facades and is repurposing these buildings in this wonderful location.

When history is written about this chapter of the revitalization of Rocky Mount it will have a list of the ‘Repairers of the Breach’ who believed in the future of Rocky Mount. The list will have Troy White’s name as part of those ‘angels unaware’ that showed up and preserved, restored and repurposed Main Street. They join those born and raised here that have stepped to the sunny side of the street and will no longer be run off regardless of obstacles. Main Street, in the throes of revitalization, has a cast of characters who will be remembered for saving downtown. It is the larger story that takes us beyond those who contributed to the deterioration of our beautiful commercial architecture through a lack of leadership, by neglect, lack of enforcing the ordinance, and codes. For Mr. White and the growing list of new entrepreneurs, new businesses, and those who have been pioneers downtown: You Are So Beautiful to Me! You are everything I hoped for, and you’re everything Rocky Mount needs. You Are So Beautiful To Me.

Approved brick for rebuilding the back of the buildings. I put my hand on it…wonderful!

The restoration of a Howard Street building


Look closely at the treatment of brick between the two buildings

The removal of the interior fallen to the ground

An Amazing Sight

These great guys are a hoot. When I asked to photograph them they said, “Okay guys, look busy!”

142 Howard St Facade Rendering


170/174 Howard is the grey bldg
Once was home to Kellibrew photography
164/168 is the red brick

They Say, ‘A Good Man Is Hard To Find’ But I Found One

“We will make caring more contagious than this virus and we will come out on the other side a much stronger community.” -Charles Roberson

His name is Charles “Verb” Roberson, a small business owner and an investor in downtown Rocky Mount. Charles thinks of the entrepreneurs investing in downtown as pioneers who have been willing to risk their dreams to be a part of the new emerging scene on Main Street and the surrounding areas. I call these talented, creative people, “Repairers of the Breach.” With great economic recovery, high employment due to job growth, we were sailing along with a smile and a whistle until this virus closed the doors of what are called non-essential businesses.

After brainstorming ideas during a downtown stakeholder conference call, Charles “Verb” Roberson jumped into action, summoning the downtown business participants, creating the Downtown-Cares website, and producing a video to promote the Downtown Care Project. Charles explained he’s carrying on the tradition of his grandfather, James Nelson McNair who took him to rest homes as a youth to feed and care for our precious seniors. He explains, when times get hard, you show your heart. This is exactly what the stakeholders are doing with the Downtown Cares project.

Charles says he is happy to see people making the effort to go downtown to help patronize as many restaurants and other open businesses during this crisis. He likes to create win-win situations that Downtown Cares epitomizes. The project has created a care package supplied with products we buy from local small businesses, then allowing the public to buy these Downtown Care Packages to gift to our seniors and essential workers.  “I am propelled to live by the name that my friends call me, Verb, which is an action word. I had to Walk The Talk in honor of my late grandfather. Jame Nelson McNair taught Charles, “You have to do the work and that your work will talk louder than you ever could.” Right now, Charles is in a work mode. He and the stakeholders involved invites the community to join this Downtown Cares project and make it a success.

Kimberly Thigpen
The Bath Place

Kevin McLaughlin- Larema Coffee House









Watch This Great Video

How It Works:  DOWNTOWN CARES creates Downtown Care Packages stocked with items bought from local downtown small businesses. “Downtown Cares” packages will include a hot meal prepared by a downtown restaurant, hand sanitizer made by The Bath Place, and a locally made face mask. These care packages are then gifted to some of our most vulnerable citizens, seniors, and medical workers. Phase Two of this initiative will supply police, firefighters, and truckers with care packages and include more vendors.

We are asking our big businesses that have made Rocky Mount their home, to sponsor, donate, and buy our seniors and healthcare workers lunch thru We will grow this initiative to include more downtown businesses and to feed even more of our frontline heroes.

Current participating businesses are NABS, Larema Coffee House, D Chill Spot, Moe n D’s, The Bath Place, and Blanche’s Bistro. Melanie Griffin Wallace from Celebrate Living Local has stepped up lending her expertise in organizing the distribution of packages and sales. Sarah Mesh has donated locally made face masks to the Care Packages. Our mission is to include even more merchants in our Phase Two rollout. We will deliver “Downtown Cares” packages free of charge to the heroes at Nash UNC Health Care and other frontline healthcare workers.
Downtown-Cares has created a GoFundMewhere you can donate to keep the hot meals and care packages going to seniors and frontline workers. You can also go to the website and easily buy a “Downtown Cares” package and donate to the cause.

Go to select the meal you want to order or make a donation. You can specify if you are ordering for a senior or essential worker.

Process your order or donation

Orders for care package registers every Tuesday at 5pm. These orders are then sent to our participating local small businesses. On Wednesday all those orders will be delivered to seniors and frontline workers. Go to for more information.

Main Street Thanks Charles and all the Stakeholders for Believing in Rocky Mount and coming up with this win-win plan.





Relaxing With “Seek” On A Sunday Morning – Vernon Franklin Sechriest – Journalist

Vernon Franklin Sechriest

Vernon Sechriest was associated with The Rocky Mount Telegram for 55 years. Back when journalists were a special bred, Mr. Sechriest’s influence on aspiring writers and newspaper associates was said to be inspirational. A long-time editor and as a weekly columnist, he captured my attention when writing his bio for the program at the recent Hall of Fame Induction Event. His column was first titled “Main Street” and then later called “Relax.” I wish I had known about this when I first created this blog, Main Street Rocky Mount. I would have paid tribute to him then and there. Believing that it is never too late for most things, I am paying that tribute now.

Born and raised in Davidson County, he was a Duke graduate with a degree in English and history. He joined the Rocky Mount Evening Telegram staff on June 6, 1930. Mr. Sechriest’s column appeared one day in The Telegram with no introduction. While reporters were busy writing big stories, he felt that the truly interesting stories were overlooked. Mr. Sechriest said, “It is sometimes highly interesting news even when a dog bites a man.”

Here is an excerpt from one of the earliest Main Street column to be found. Chief of Police Oliver P. Hedgepath, seeing as how he had heard tell of big-time gangsters’ invasion in smaller towns and cities, is reported to have made one of his most infrequent excursions to New York last week, first to see his son, Clayton, who is well established there, and second, to find out more about big-time methods…Unfortunately, Main Street is forced to depend a great deal upon hearsay and can’t pin its information upon any individual, but, well, what’s the use of worrying about details anyway?

Growing up an only child, I’m not always happy about having to follow rules. The Kornegay Room of Braswell Memorial Library offers a substantial genealogy and local history collection focusing on the history of Rocky Mount and Nash and Edgecombe Counties. I’m not allowed to take home a small volume of Mr. Sechriests’ columns called, Relax. I thought about making a run for it so I could read this charming collection at my leisure, but Tracy, who is in charge of this research heaven, always generous with her time and knowledge, must be obeyed. I will have to come back another day to read more.

There are good things about living long enough to be able to say, I remember! In another life, this kind of column was featured in the weekly, Cadiz Record, published in Western Kentucky where I lived. They wrote about who was visiting, and what lace adorned the brides’ dress, and what the high school football team ate for breakfast on game day. It was all endearing and wonderful. It was said of Mr. Sechriest at his induction into the Hall of Fame, Class of 2019, that he lived a satisfactory life. I was moved by that simple statement. Isn’t that what we all hope for? Not only is there a golden age of detective stories, but Mr. Sechriest worked in what I think of as the golden age of journalism; a proud and honorable endeavor. I’m sorry I missed his Main Street column each week.  I will now think of him fondly, pipe in his hand, as I continue to write about Main Street as he once did.

I hope you will FOLLOW this blog and the new Facebook Page by the same name. See the side column for the buttons to hit. You never know what you might miss. I don’t smoke a pipe like V.S., but I hope he would approve of the content and writing.

Entrepreneurs and Rocky Mount Go Together Like Pooh Bear and Honey, Like Travis and Kristi, Brandon and Etaf

Etaf Rum and Brandon Clarke

From the back seat of my car, a 3-1/2-year-old child reacts to a familiar place. “Grammy!!! there is Barley and Burger where Daddy and I have our date nights. They have french fries!” Spoken by a decerning french fry expert. Annaclaire has recently put together that there are four places in Rocky Mount where you can eat french fries. She will tell you: Sonic, Central Cafe, The Club, and Barley and Burger. There is a lot to love about Barley and Burger besides the menu and date night and waffle fries. It signifies something important to the community.

Located at 2921 Zebulon Road, it offers the atmosphere of a drop-in neighborhood restaurant where everyone knows your name. I can stop by on my own and feel comfortable sitting on a barstool, talking to those behind the counter.

The owners, Travis and Kristi Ellis, Brandon Clarke, and Etaf Rum are important players in Rocky Mount’s revitalization story.  Ellis and his wife, Kristi, also own the Goat Island Bottle Shop at the Rocky Mount Mills. Author, Etaf Rum and Brandon Clarke have just opened Books and Beans, the restored and repurposed Mill Canteen. Only Brandon is from Rocky Mount, but in combination, these dynamic duo couples are helping to change the face of Rocky Mount.  Young, incredibly hard-working, friendly and smart, they believe!

Interior of Barley & Burgers

Rather than parking spaces reserved with their names, or being carried around on a silver platter as they deserve, Rocky Mount investors often have one heck of a time with a system that seems deliberately intent on discouraging their efforts to repurpose a building and open a business. Unlike the people running Rocky Mount Mills, who move heaven and earth to help you with your plans, the City Council and management seem to thwart investors. Look how quickly the world out at the Mill has come together with the will, leadership, and common purpose. Yet there is a struggle for every inch we gain on Main Street. The May Gorham building was going to open as an old fashion soda shop, interior intact, but the investors grew discouraged and backed off. The Carlton House is back on the market. It always comes back to the merry band of brothers and sisters with their self-interests. I’d like to think before the rapture comes, something will change. Knocked off their donkeys on the road to Main Street, the councilmen who are paying back taxes on empty buildings with an eye to taking them over, structures they own outright, plus the inner circle of friends who get special favors, will actually do something right and save these buildings.

In my active imagination, I see Rocky Mount as a stagecoach, and the passengers, the taxpayers, being ambushed by robbers. I see a newly elected sheriff Roberson and new posse members galloping over the rise. In my fantasy, they surround the bandits who are responsible for the deliberate foot-dragging that is catamount to sabotage and lock them up. If you haven’t already, add to your list of concerns, the treatment of these investors that have serious consequences. I believe Travis and Kristi, Brandon, and Etaf, Ben Braddock, Andrew Clarke and Jesse Gerstl have Rocky Mount’s best interests at heart. Thank you! They are the future in our midst now.

Books and Beans
Adaptive Preservation


Have you checked out the new Main Street Facebook page? I hope you will like and follow.’


Lindell Kay – Reporter for The Rocky Mount Telegram – Saying Adieu

I left for the University of Kentucky declaring I would major in journalism, that is until I came under the spell of my freshman advisor, head of the Sociology Department. I had grown up with the Chicago Tribune that loomed large over the city. I have had many a serious discussion about the state of journalism today or lack thereof. Not since the famous journalists of a bygone era populated the scene has there been a time like now–admit it, you have done it too– When Lindell Kay started his series of exposes on the City Council and Rocky Mounts leadership, night after night to this day, I look at the app on my phone in the middle of the night to see what Lindell has written.

I highly recommend Harold Evans autobiography, My Paper Chase-True Stories of Vanished Times for the most marvelous read about his career that led to the Editorship of the London Times and beyond. He knew everyone in the business when journalism was investigative versus today’s state of things; someone’s opinion! Here are a few lines for Lindell Kay’s move, much to his pleasure because now, “I can even meet my wife for lunch.” Harold Evans writes, So it was that in June 1961, Westminster chess master Fenby (the editor) designated me as the bishop to move diagonally north from Manchester to edit the Northern Echo…”

We owe a debt of gratitude that the Telegram saw fit to give Lindell his head, put his investigative skills to work, and let him have at it. Those under investigation were caught in the headlights of countless hours of work going through records, e-mails, making telephone calls, listening to numerous private conversations when people were emboldened to come forth.

Tom Rachman has written a delightful novel, The Imperfecionists. Set in Rome it is about the topsy-turvy private lives of the reporters, editors, and executives of an international English-language newspaper as they struggle to keep it and themselves afloat. I loved it. In saying adieu to reporter Lindel Kay, with our thanks for his contribution towards bringing the skullduggery of things to our attention, we hope he will remember his readers here as ‘a sort of fellowship’ who have wakened in the night just for him.

“For many, especially those in remote locales, the paper is their only link to the greater world, to the big cities they left, or the big cities they have never seen, only built in their minds. The readers constitute a sort of fellowship that never meets, united by love and loathed by bylines, by screwed-up photo captions, by the glorious corrections box.” Tom Rachman

Our Best, from your readers!

We Celebrate a New Downtown Business – NABS – May 20th, 2019

On Friday I attended the soft opening of the new Deli and Coffee Shop, NABS – (Never A Better Sandwich). I walked into the dream of Yalem Kiros. I had a wonderful experience and so will you. Yalem is a native of Ethiopia, one of the world’s leading coffee producing countries. We know this lovely woman and cheerleader for Main Street because she and her husband, Ed Riley own The Prime Smokehouse, a destination with great food, wonderful service, and hospitality. Now NABS has been created from the dreams of Yalem, with her spirituality and love of people. NABS is a new gathering space for those living and working downtown, and everybody else looking for a great atmosphere, location, and a place to just ‘be.’

NABS will be offering fresh baked goods in the morning, as well as eggs. After breakfast, the deli menu plans to offer club sandwiches, combo sandwiches, jumbo sandwiches, meatball sub sandwiches, Reuben sandwiches, and chili dogs.
NABS also plans to offer Caesar salads, chef salads, grilled chicken salads, tuna salads and more than half a dozen kinds of soups.


On the coffee shop side, NABS plans to offer cappuccinos, frappes and lattes and a variety of teas as well as hot chocolate and spiced apple cider.



Officially open for business Monday, May 20
For now, NABS will be open from 7 a.m. to approximately 3-4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 8 a.m. to approximately 2-3 p.m. on Saturdays.


“There is nothing like a dream to create the future.”
Victor Hugo, Les Misérables


Every time a new business opens dreams manifest themselves.  Welcome to this newest dream on Main Street, and to the historic Douglas Block. Thank you, Yalem for helping to build Rocky Mount’s future. See everyone there!


Help Me Write – The Story of the Kyser Drugstore Family

“It was frustrating to gather bits of disconnected information without understanding how it all fits together.”
― Wendy Percival, Author


I readily identify with the Percival quotation as I begin to write about the Paul Kyser family. Because I don’t know enough, the storyteller that lives within me wanted to create my own tale. With a fascinating historical backdrop, (the 1890’s when Paul Kyser moved to Rocky Mount, I could carry on from there. We have some idea of the manners and fashion of that decade. I could write a whole chapter about the 1890s through 1905 as part of the Edwardian era, also known as the Gibson Girl era. Dana Gibson created the iconic Gibson Girl look with extra wide puffy tops and blouses paired with a curved corseted waist, A-line skirts, voluminous Gibson hair topped with a large flower and feather hats. Men’s style was still formal from the Victorian era but growing more relaxed. You see how easy it is to set the stage for the beginning of our Kyser story.

Did you ever play one of my favorite games of making up the beginning of a story and dropping out, letting the next person continue on, and the next and next? It’s great fun with children, but this time I am going to play the game with you. I’ll give you some details about Paul Bynum Kyser (1856-1937) and his family, and from what you’ve been told, who you might have known, please help me understand how it all fits together. ThePaul Kyser family keeps on giving with multiple generations of interesting people who left a great mark on Rocky Mount. Connected by marriage in ways you may not have known or forgotten, this has the making of a long tale. Help me with it.

(Use the COMMENTS section below: to write what your contribution. Thank you!)

Recently I wrote about Andrew Clark, Investor, who is renovating two commercial buildings on Main Street. The Kyser Drugstore building is pictured here at 135 S.E. Main St. In 1979, Kate Meams wrote in a Central City Historic Buildings Inventory about this building.

“The Kyser Drugstore was established in the 1890s by Paul and Emily Kyser* and moved to its present location c. 1912. Mrs. Kyser has the distinction of being North Carolina’s first licensed woman pharmacist, though family tradition states that she never practiced. The building, altered somewhat over the years, retains two cast-iron pilasters manufactured by Mesker Brothers, a firm well-known for this type of ornamentation. The building also possesses one of Rocky Mount’s earliest neon signs, recently put back in working order.”  *Emily Royster Howell 

This photograph says: Main Street looking North, showing the Kyser Drug Co. Rocky Mount, NC. (Corner of Main and Tarboro St. )

The Kyser home at 219 Sunset Ave

Two notable chapters in this story are Paul Kyser’s son and youngest child, James Kern “Kay” Kyser, who became a noted entertainer, which included musical comedies. His daughter, *Virginia Kyser, who married Walter Carleton Noell. Walter became one of the first franchisees of Hardees Foods, and with his two nephews, Nick and Mayo Boddie began  Boddie-Noell Inc. The downtown Carleton House Motel and Restaurant were named for Walter Carleton Noel.   *Virginia Graves Kyser + Walter Carlton Noel

Below: This is what The Carleton House once looked like. An important place marker in Rocky Mount. It has been bought by Jesse Gerstl and his investment group and once underway will be saved. There are exciting plans and hopefully, it won’t be long until we are headed to the restaurant again as in earlier days.  We will raise a glass of sweet tea to Walter Carleton Noell and to his wife Virginia and the Kyser family.

After Paul Kyser’s death, one of his sons-in-law, James Stanley Pierce I (1897-1965) took over management of Kyser Drugs, which was probably the 135 Main St location.


Charles Dunn -Way Back When Provided This Clipping


Dang and Blast To The Tarboro Housing Street Project – Something Fabulous Is Happening – The Preservation of the First National Bank – Soon to Open Larema Coffee

“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about coffee at Larema Coffee Shop?”
A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh, and S.F. Houghtlin

I’m in the doldrums over this wrong solution for more affordable housing. When people have told me I can’t stop it, I refuse to believe it. Of course, I can! Can’t I? Move the cluster housing to Crossroads at 64,  In the now famous words of Lige Daughtridge, “We can build a grocery out there.” He is a much nicer person than I am. In the mood I’m in, I would edit his funny, logical, wonderful line to say, “We can build a damn grocery for heaven’s sake!” His reasoned line sounds nicer, BUT, I’m a  little? emotional when it comes to promoting what I believe to be the right solution. Save our neighborhoods by restoring the affordable housing we have that longs to be a useful and safe home to the singles, couples, workforce, retired, elderly and those new to the area.

The only thing that will help all of us in this moment of anger over another ‘decided upon and wrapped with a bow’ project is to celebrate together a great thing that IS happening on MAIN STREET. A gorgeous commercial architectural building has been reclaimed, history and all. I’m celebrating this investment, this new business, and the new owner, Kevin McLaughlin’s belief in the revitalization of downtown, which is the purpose of this blog. Though I can’t refrain from crossing the threshold into politics, political junkie that I am, my part in the chorus that we have talked about, is to proclaim the Good News of a coffee shop and community space in downtown Rocky Mount, North Carolina. The Coffee house is named, Larema, a word Kevin learned in Uganda which means, “my friend.”  Don’t you love it already?
Kevin says “The vision is for a safe, welcoming space for people to come together, see and be seen, hear and be heard, and enjoy delicious, hand-crafted beverages and foods. It is my belief that exposure to and appreciation of people and perspectives different than our own is essential to our growth as humans. This belief is what planted the idea in me over 10 years ago, and has caused me to seek out cafés everywhere my travels take me. I want to create a dynamic space which fosters these kinds of connections and conversations in Rocky Mount, a diverse city with a rich history – presently on the cusp of a rebirth.”


Constructed in 1910, the building housed First National Bank, prosperous furniture and undertaking businesses, and an underground pool hall speakeasy. Most recently, the building was used by Edgecombe Community College for classes prior to opening a new campus across the street.


I took these three photos when Jesse Gerstl (our investment her0 and really good guy) took me through this building. The other photos I lifted from the Larema Facebook Page. You are going to elevate off the floor when you see the interior of this building, What a place to gather. Saving this building is like winning the lottery for Rocky Mount. Here is FYI on THE VAULT: From centerpiece of the bank to the focal point of the coffee shop. The original vault’s interior space will be made available for the community to hold meetings at Larema. The vault was manufactured by Diebold Safe & Lock Co., founded in Cincinnati, Ohio (Larema owner Kevin’s birth city) in 1859. Made popular in the wake of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, Diebold vaults and safes have an unparalleled reputation for protecting valuables from threats like hurricanes, fires, and bank robbers. Once used to keep the money safe, the vault will now be a safe space for conversation and collaboration.

Glass blocks lining the sidewalk are not only beautiful and one of a kind in Rocky Mount, but they also allowed light to enter the basement for liquor production during prohibition. Kevin says this is something to think on – and sit above – as we share a cup of coffee outside. Don’t you think it would be ‘way cool’ to have a prohibition party once a year with appropriate clothing and music? Our coffee will be laced with the new friendships Kevin is serving.


I assume these are Kevin’s boots ready to take the step from the past into the future. It is a preservation dream come true for all of us. This is the kind of restoration that is a positive economic driver for Rocky Mount. Welcome, Kevin hardly says enough. Thank you is a good start.