Cheerleading for Rocky Mount, NC

MAKE IT A DOUBLE

I love writing this blog. WordPress is the platform I use. If I drank, and I don’t, whoever stays up all night figuring out how to make it harder and less sense, makes me say, “I’ll have a double sweet tea on the rocks!”

I was bummed because the number of followers WordPress showed remained the same for what felt like years. Not too long ago the person who keeps track of such things must have showed up for work because a new number appeared. 1331 – now that’s more like it. If you read the blog regularly you know that I write (and talk on the podcast: anchor,fm/stepheny-houghtlin) about saving the commercial and residential architecture of Rocky Mount, NC; the point being that the benefits of preservation, restoration and repurposing are economic drivers in the revitalization of Rocky Mount. If you are involved with the revitalization of other Main Streets, we are all facing the same obstacles. After a few years of writing this blog, Mainstreetrockymount.com, people began to introduce me by saying, “This is Stepheny Houghtlin, she is our biggest Cheerleader.” I love this designation.

I look at the platforms I use on social media: Facebook, Instagram, Podcasting and Blogging as a big game board. I asked a college granddaughter, who was taking a social media class, to help me download the free WordPress program. (Younger people are now hard-wired with all the technology involved in social media.) I took that first step into the unknown and trusted I could learn how to navigate, with plenty of help, the mysteries of this vast communication tool. It is great fun and I’m getting better at promoting the passion I have that Rocky Mount’s Main Street and beyond can be the light in the sky for Eastern North Carolina. This is not some place you pass through on the train, but a destination.

THE STAIRCASE AT THE ROOCKERY BUILDING

I grew up outside Chicago with its magnificent architecture created by some of the greatest architects in the world. I think of myself as your keen observer, your researcher, your tour guide looking at the shotgun and bungalow housing in need of a new life. I am enthusiastic so you will be too. I believe in the downtown stakeholders and write about them, so you come to know them and support their businesses. I know you get sick to death talking about the City Council and City Management mistakes, but political junkie that I am, I’m there for you. There are moments you might be proud of or embarrassed by what I want to say out loud, but don’t. Things like. “Give it a rest!”

I get hopping mad over the doggy business that goes on. I send my cheerleading uniform to the cleaners while I recharge, but I always believe. We need everyone, black, white, polkadot, purple, green, it matters not, believing together to have a truly successful revitalization. I admit to a point of view that is saying in the case of the city council elections, IT IS TIME FOR A CHANGE. You may hate politics but the reality in Rocky Mount is that if you are not involved in some way….join the organization Preservation Rocky Mount for $35 a single membership….. you get what you’ve got. We can all honor and respect the past, but it is TODAY that matters when building a future that is significant.

LOVE THIS FLAG ON A RESTORED BUNGALOW – ROSE STREET

What You Will Find at the Top of the Stairs: Emerson Esthetics and Medspa

What you will find is a beautiful space on the second floor of a restored building owned by Witt and Robert Barnes at 200 Sunset Street facing Howard Street. Witt & Robert are both natives of Rocky Mount, NC. who have a stake in the revitalization of historic downtown.

118 SUITE 200 SUNSET AVENUE
252.314.3920
ROCKY MOUNT, NC 27804
INFO@EMERSONESTHETICS.COM

Cortne Pope, born and raised in Rocky Mount, NC across from City Lake has opened a new business on the second floor of the Sorsby Building. This beautiful young woman graduated from Rocky Mount High School. She attended Howard University in Washington, DC and Shaw University in Raleigh earning a biology degree. She fell in love with nursing at Nash Community College and continues to work in that profession today. In 2020, she found the space and location she’d been looking for. Emerson Esthetics opened in May of 2021 in the Sorsby Place building.

“The International Spa Association defines a medical spa differently than a day spa. A medspa has a licensed medical professional on-site, able to provide services not readily available through conventional spa facilities. The majority of medspas take a more comprehensive approach to treatments while simultaneously offering the relaxation and wellness attributes found in a day spa setting.”

Emerson Esthetics provides advanced treatments such as I-V and immunity infusions. I’ve had a facial with Cortne who explained step by step as we went along. When I look in the mirror, the effects continue to reveal themselves with dry skin renewing itself. One facial doesn’t make you a beauty queen, but I do look ‘more better.’

Cortne said, “I could have opened my business elsewhere, but it was important to me to open the spa in Rocky Mount.” We have a building saved and repurposed, a new business created, with spectacular results, a team of wellness and beauty specialists are waiting at the top of the stairs to take care of you. You will make a lovely new friend as I have, Cortne Pope, who has planted her flag in historic downtown Rocky Mount.

I feel lucky to have experienced a moment in time that is the emerging downtown. Standing with Cortne, we looked out the impressive palladium window on to Howard Street. A man was working on his car. He looked up and waved. We waved back. Cortne motioned him to come over. What a blessing this turned out to be. It was Garland Jones, pastor of Mount Zion Christian Church on the corner of Sunset and Main, backing up to Howard Street. At least 45 minutes later we hugged goodbye. Filled with good Garland Jones stories and a few history lessons, I was having a Stepheny kind of day. I’m still smiling! It was a Spa day and the company of lovely and interesting new friends. My photos never do things justice, but iI will give you a look into the new wellness and beauty world of Emerson Esthetics. Way Cool!

The Gift Of Main Street

“If you know the art of finding some things in a quiet empty street, then you know the art of happiness!” Mehmet Murat ildan

On the last day of March, late afternoon, after more rain, I headed for Main Street with my new I-phone camera. At this time of day, the 100 block on both sides of Main Street, was a time of quiet and happiness. The reason: The commercial architecture! Below you see a photo of Main Street, Pella, Iowa. Settled by Dutch immigrants in 1847, it is a top 10 Main Street in Iowa. How can you not love these facades? The commercial architecture shown here is a 1st cousin to our own Main Street architecture. Take a few quiet moments and walk with me to find some things you have not noticed. Preserved, restored, repurposed, there will be no better Main Street in Eastern Carolina.

The commercial facades on the Nash side of Main Street starting with Virginia’s on the corner of Sunset and Main in the Kress building. Pull that metal off the front to restore it to its original facade. I love this red brick, great windows. Stroll with me and admire these buildings.

Crossing to the Edgecombe side of Main Street there is more to admire. Let’s look up at the Davis Furniture building and keep walking. Your eye will begin to recognize the original building, what has been added that detracts. In the 100 block of Main on both sides of the street we have a treasure of commercial buildings to save, restore, and repurpose in the on-going revitalization of Main Street. With eyes to see, you will renew your admiration and become a preservationist at heart, feeling protective, energized, and determined to be a voice that sees that no further deterioration is allowed. If you are looking for a group of like-mined people, join Preservation Rocky Mount for a single membership-$20.00. With new leadership, focus and a plan, preservation now needs you; your creativity, energy and ideas. Rocky Mount needs a preservation organization that is respected, counted on, and everyone wants to join. Take a walk downtown and these buildings will speak to you as they do to me. It takes all of us to listen and act.

Rocky Mount Is Becoming “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”

Main Street Rocky Mount and the surrounding streets (Tarboro, Washington, Thomas, Church to name a few) is the place to go for delicious food or a glass of wine, a cup of coffee, great Southern cooking. You can even have the ‘Best Sandwiches Ever’ on the Douglas Block. They all have their unique atmosphere and are welcoming. The restaurant choices continue to grow from the Rocky Mount Mill to the old standbys…Chew & Chat, The Central Cafe, The Shiny Diner, the area around Harris Tetter on Sunset Avenue. Covid knocked these businesses upside the head, but they survive to tell that story. Beyond ‘pick-up’ you can safely, park your car, and come on in.

With eyes to see and a heart for change, I hope you will acknowledge, that in spite of other things, SO MANY good things are happening each day. The preservation, restoration, and repurposing of the commercial buildings in the historic downtown area are becoming supercalafractiousexpalodous; a word we all learned from Mary Poppins.

Come downtown and enjoy the evolving scene. My dream has come true! Saturday, March 20, first come, first served at The Prime Smokehouse or Tap 1918 at the Mill. I can’t wait to have trouble finding a parking place during the week so I can say to the naysayers…..”See I told you so.”

Below: Lou Reda’s on Sunset, Blanches Bistro on Tarboro, Larema Coffee on Tarboro, Moe & D’s on Church, Traxs at Station Square and MORE.

No Need To Drive To The Beach For Great Food And A Beach Atmosphere – It’s Here

Not everyone has an opportunity or cares that much about driving to the beach, wherever that is for you. Eating out at the local restaurants is part of the fun of going to the beach, however. What about off-season when you’re dying for some fresh shrimp or you love crab legs and seafood in general? Oh, my goodness, have I got a place for everyone in Rocky Mount with a great menu and that beach atmosphere.

TASTY CRAB HOUSE -1545 Benvenue Rd. Rocky Mount -252-210-2942

I went to Suddenlink at Cobbs Corner a few days ago and two doors down I noticed a sign in the window, Grand Opening. Turns out the Tasty Crab House opened last May but has been carry-out food until now when dining-in is finally available. After taking care of business, I went in afterward and discovered a space that is tasteful, smart looking, inviting, and am I glad I had this adventure. The dining area is eye appealing. The women’s bathroom is a high-end tiled area, new and clean, with friendly young people greeting, serving, making things pleasant. Cheating on my gluten-free life, I ordered a shrimp basket with a choice of fries. Lightly breaded, it was delicious!! AND, the sweet tea made this girl happy.

Though the storefront windows keep the interior a surprise until you are inside, take a look at the slide show above and you will see how far from ordinary the Tasty Crab House is. Of course, plenty of parking in the mall parking area. THE ONLY regret is that it isn’t in the historic downtown Main Street area. Main Street has great food, or coffee, wine, sandwich places that are setting a high bar downtown for reasons to come and enjoy these businesses. This is essential for the revitalization of Rocky Mount’s downtown. It gives out-of-town guests places to eat, and for the rest of us to come downtown to love the architecture, streetscape, preservation, restoration, and repurposing of the significant commercial buildings.

My daughter and I had lunch at the Smokehouse on Saturday. A huge tournament was going on at the Event Center. A full parking lot. I counted 24 people that came in as groups from the Center to eat on a break in their playing schedule. Those in addition to people already there like ourselves. We talked on the street with a man and his son from DELEWARE that had a daughter playing. The younger son was not allowed in so they were headed to walk through town. They’d been to Nabs for lunch. We gave directions because they wanted to see the Train Station etc. We got complimented on being tour guides and on our cheerleading. They were headed to Tap 1918 at the Mill for dinner after the tournament. The success of The Event Center is SO IMPORTANT to the stakeholders downtown who are creating a place for all of us to enjoy. Though not downtown, The Tasty Crab House is an amazing addition to the food scene of Rocky Mount along with other destinations beyond Main Street. The Tasty Crabhouse is something else to celebrate, support, and enjoy!

Troy White: Progress On Howard Street

You already know that Howard Street is always on my radar screen. It suits my imagination to a tee because of its location, tucked away like your grandmother’s antique ring in a satin ring box. In the light it sparkles and greatly admired.  Troy White is the wind under the sails of the two buildings being restored and repurposed; the rendering of the outcome in the lead photo. The alley-like passageway down Howard Street still lacks a continuity. Continuing the methaphor, as you walk the block, it is like costume jewelry thrown in a box, a little of this and that. When these two buildings are complete, the energy and inspiration they will reflect, becomes a template for success.  Move to Howard Street, create a business, shine up what you have. As a Howard Street cheerleader, I say, give me a P, give me a R, give me a I, give me a D, give me a E.  Thanks!

I hope by now you agree that preservation is art. I’m grateful when it presents itself.  Here, the sun shines through the upper framing. I believe this light will remain within this building as a new life emerges for both buildings. I still haven’t met Troy White but when I do, I will hug him for all of us for this investment on Howard Street and his heart that believes in preservation, restoration and repurposing. I am thankful he is doing these things here.  

PS:                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Two large containers filled with seasonal flowers at each end of the street, would be a nice invitation to stroll, perhaps meet a few of the lucky neighbors that live along this special street. I also think box containers filled with herbs placed here and there would contribute to this neighborhood’s charm. Flowers, outdoor seating where neighbors could enjoy being outside. Possibilities, that’s what this street is full of.

I’m in Love With Another Building – It’s a Mess, But Wonderful None the Less 216 S. Washington

Those born or raised here, leave a comment below and tell us what you know.

   “I have often wondered what it is an old building can do to you when you happen to know a little about things that went on long ago in that building”.
Carl Sandburg

When you fall in love with an old building, look for                                                                                                                    the soul to that building, and the building will tell you how to save it.                                                                                                                                                  

(I edited a quote from Cameron Mackintosh to suit my purposes)





Ben Bradock, Andrew Clark, Troy Davis, Jesse Gerstl, Zack Poll, Troy White … Saving Commercial Architecture In Historic Downtown Rocky Mount – Part 1

Like beads on a rosary, I pause on each bead to add a name connected to the preservation, restoration, and repurposing of Main Street. I name the place holders like Virginia’s and The Bicycle Shop, that welcome new business, and the entertainment sector: restaurants, coffee shops, and bars. Part of this litany of names includes, Ed Riley, at The Smokehouse, the folks at Blanches Bistro, and at Trax Coffee. Javelin Guildford at the Secret Garden ll. Yalem Kiros at Nabs, a beautiful spirit in this new scene on Main Street. (She is pictured above.) Moe Deloach’s bead on the rosary is one of the large ones, not only for his restaurant, grill/bar but because he is a prism of light in Rocky Mount. (Click Here to explain what a prism of light is about)

Larema Coffe House has become a friend to everyone that passes through the door. Larema posted a wonderful tribute to Troy Davis on their Facebook page. “Our featured community partner of color this week is Troy Davis, Owner of The Davis Property Group! Local entrepreneur and Rocky Mount native, Troy is a visionary leader who is taking charge in the effort to breathe new life and beauty into many historic commercial properties and houses across our city. While many people talk about building a better community, Troy is literally doing it! A Larema friend and supporter since before our opening, we share Troy’s vision for a renewed vibrancy in historic downtown Rocky Mount – and believe in the many benefits this can have for the whole community. Of his many projects, Troy is particularly excited to soon open the Davis Lofts just around the corner from Larema on Main Street, a historic building preservation and renovation project which will bring more than 20 gorgeous new apartments and a restaurant downtown for all to enjoy. Also, Troy purchased the Carleton House last week, with plans to bring accommodations, a restaurant, conference spaces and a pool to the former 1960s-era motor lodge also located downtown. Troy, thank you for all you do to make Rocky Mount an even better place to live, work and play!”                                                                                                                             

LAREMA:  We’re open in Rocky Mount and Wilson! Weekend hours are as follows -RM: Friday and Saturday, 8am-4pm; Waffle Sunday 9am-4pm

Developer Troy Davis has been working to transform three side-by-side buildings in the 100 block of Southeast Main Street into the future Davis Lofts. When completed there will be 22 high-quality upstairs apartments, four ground-level storefronts for businesses, and a rooftop deck. City Council approved $300,000 in Housing Incentive Grant Program funds for his project. Davis’s overall purpose  is to attract young professionals. People living downtown ‘above the store’ is a proven concept in the Main Street Programs that surround Rocky Mount: Elizabeth City, Goldsboro, New Bern, Tarboro. The addresses of the three buildings are, 143, 147 and 149 Southeast Main. Some are leased already. The ramifications of this project will far exceed the grant money involved. Davis said, “The reason I chose to redevelop locations downtown is that the heart of Rocky Mount has great architecture and I want to be part of that.” An article in the Telegram by Bill West said that City records say the private investment in the project totals at least $1.75 million. Those records state that a condition of the funding via the city calls for three of the 22 units to be set aside for affordable housing. A condition that illustrates a lack of understanding of the ‘Living Above The Store’ concept in downtown revitalizations.  CLICK HERE: Further information about this project.

A project Ben Braddock is leading is the transformation of the former Music City & Lights — at 131 and 135 Southeast Main. Soon to be a combination of upstairs residential and ground-level commercial development. The former Music City & Lights location highlights the work of Andrew Clark and Nicole Kleinstreuer from the Raleigh-Durham area.   Watch for Part 2 – Follow this Blog so you don’t miss it.

Jay at The Secret Garden creating beautiful floral arrangements and wreaths like this one. A Magical Place on Tarboro St.

Andre Knight’s Best Role – Saving These Wonderful Buildings!

BEFORE
AFTER – 116 SUNSET

I have taken photographs of this building on Main Street many times because it is one of my favorite. On life support, I’ve been sitting by the bedside, so to speak, keeping a close watch on the patient growing weaker.  These are classic commercial facades, and when restored to health, will be two more stars in Main Street’s crown. Work has begun! Andre Knight, the physician on the case, has taken charge. It is an amen moment for Main Street. The restoration of the numerous buildings under Mr. Knights’s care is a heavy caseload, but I like him best in this role as the doctor saving lives. It’s important work, and done right, will leave a legacy among the other ‘repairers of the breach’ that will be remembered with thanksgiving.  

A BEAUTIFUL OUTCOME AT 118 N. WASHINGTON STREET
THE STAINED DARK WOOD ADDS TO THIS SUCCESSFUL OUTCOME OF THIS HISTORIC COMMERCIAL FACADE

“You can ignore a piece of sculpture or a painting hung on the walls of the Art Institute,                                         but architecture is the inescapable art.”   

Blair Kamain, architecture critic of the Chicago Tribune

Mercy, Mercy Me – What’s Going On?

Since Usher is my favorite, we have his rendition of Marvin Gaye’s song, Mercy, Mercy Me.  I know the song is about the environment, but he kept singing in my ear as I considered writing this post on the impact of crime in Rocky Mount. Click on the song link above, and you will agree that the song is a soulful reflection of what we are asking. What is going on?

I wrote about the Carlton House in the last post and talked about Knox White, the mayor of Greenville SC.  If the majority vote on Rocky Mount’s City Counsel would get their priorities straight, the city manager could honestly repeat this Knox White quote. “We implemented a strategy to attract developer interest. By ensuring that downtown was clean and safe with emerging entertainment and dining options, people began to see it as a place to live and not just visit.”

Troy Davis and others creating living spaces downtown, indeed, every business, should be all over the leadership about the crime problem that will impact their ability to sell the quality apartments they are creating.  It will affect other services available in the downtown area. 

My favorite expression when considering the ‘My will Be Done’ agenda is a certainty that it is always bass-ackward. A Hotel, a parking garage, and low-income housing on ECC’s parking lots are the definition of putting the cart before the horse. It is the preservation, restoration, and repurposing of the significant architectural inventory in the historic downtown area that is the prioritity; core assets that have been allowed to deteriorate. The commercial buildings have long needed emergency triage and immediate protection. Is it any wonder there is the outrage over selfish schemes that are served up as necessities and payback?

I think of the older lady I talked to in the middle of Pine St. She said, “Honey, nothin’ gonna change until you get the crime out of here.” That is her reality, and she encouraged me to get along home before dark. The hotel and parking garage takes priority over the people who live with neglect and false promises at election time. I include a video made in 2013, a powerful visual link that has surfaced. It could have been filmed today. The video has Usher’s cry all over it. Mercy, Mercy Me-What’s Goin’ on?

Unless personal gain is your priority, it is not difficult to see how important controlling crime in the neighborhoods and downtown is to a successful outcome. If the ‘My Will Be Done’ folks would commit to zero crime tolerance, the emerging scene downtown will bear fruit. Short of a Damascus Road conversion, it is like the AA premise: you can’t reason with a person who still drinks and you can’t reason with people who have learned how to rig the system and like it. Let us continue to work towards the next election, where four seats are available. Each of these seats must have a commitment to Rocky Mount’s basic needs: significant crime reduction, safe neighborhoods, restored housing, education, and jobs. 

 

Troy Davis is a long way down the road from these photographs I took early on. He is creating 32 apartments above street level in two buildings on Main Street that were allowed to deteriorate because ordinances weren’t enforced on cronies who owned the buildings. The renewed concept of living above the store is a great step forward. The accredited cities I mentioned in the last post follow the Main Street program. The apartments I have seen, and written about, made me covet the convenience, and the lifestyle. Without crime reduction, Troy and others will suffer the consequences of potential residents and customers with safety concerns. This must not happen. This financial risk and that of other brave-hearts helping to save Main Street are essential. Those who are planting their flags around town are heroes. We have confidence in the men and women in law enforcement. Let them do the jobs they are trained for. Forget the latest bright idea, a revised development agency and a new hire to further the personal gain skullduggery. What is needed is leadership and a will to declare crime will no longer be tolerated. Clampdown, concentrate within an area with known crime until it is driven out and kept out. Let law enforcement prevail.