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Changes sought by frustrated business owners

By Katie Lamb and Tamas Mondovics

“I love Mountain City and Johnson County,” said John Coolahan, Project Manager and Senior Operations Manager for many years, and owner of Antiques and Treasures of Mountain City, located at 107 S. Church Street.
Joined by Sylvia Silverberg, owner of Sassy Cats, and Silver Keys Bed and Breakfast both of Mountain City, Coolahan added that he is invested heavily in the area and that Mountain City needs change. “I just want it to be right,” he said.
The two share the street for their business locations and are hard at work to develop a concept appropriately named “Antique Alley” to honor the four antique shops lining Church Street.
While the intention of promoting the idea, which by all counts lacks no merit, achieving it will likely take more effort on the part of business owners and city officials.
Coolahan wasted no time expressing some of his frustration with the City, alleging inaction on the part of the ‘powers that be,’ which he said contributes to the town’s stifled growth.
“I want people to know what is going on,” he said, before listing what he believes has an affect not only on his business and nearby stores but the entire town.
Coolahan expressed his concerns that the County and the City have monies in the budget for tourism, but that no money has been spent on it in the last three years.
“They have not contributed to tourism, which is a necessity for local businesses,” he said, adding that public trash cans have also been removed on Church Street and have not been replaced, which resulted in people leaving trash on the sidewalks and the side of the road.”
As director and past president of the Johnson County Chamber of Commerce (JCTNCC), Coolahan also lamented on resident’s and businesses’ lack of excitement for the annual ‘Scarecrows on Main’ event, the participation of which he said has seen a huge decline since it came under the City’s supervision.
“When the JCTNCC was operating the event, there were thirty or more participants, covering every street corner,” he said. “Now we are lucky to see maybe six to eight at best.”
Neighboring storeowner Silverberg, agreed when she said, “The scarecrows brought a lot of people in.”
Coolahan’s wish list of improvements also included such items as “log trucks coming through here several times every day even though there is an ordinance against such activity,” as well as the “Chamber’s decision to cancel Christmas on Main that traditionally included “tree lighting, caroling, different displays on street lights and decorations throughout.”
The passionate storeowner said, “Main Street is made for hosting celebrations. That’s what you do on Main Street. No Christmas lights on Main Street? It is just sad.”
And when it comes to Main Street Coolahan made reference to the City reportedly receiving $60,000 in grant funding from the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) for fifteen sidewalk bump-outs ( a curb extension for traffic calming and beautification measure) to be located within city limits that “could have been beautifully landscaped and such an asset,” but claimed that the City gave the money back to TDOT, and built just the one bump out on East Main Street at the intersection.
Commenting on the concerns Mountain City Mayor Kevion Parsons did not hesitate to share his agreement with the need for change and many updates.
“I was actually the one that requested the installation of sidewalk bump-outs in 2010, but was unable to follow through after Lawerence Keeble became City Mayor in 2011,” Parsons said.
As for some of the other issues raised by business owners, Parsons expressed his own desire to see the changes in the City’s appearance and the promoting of tourism.
“I am working hard to address these concerns, which by the way includes a facelift or renovation of the old army surplus building, on the corner of Main and Church street,” he said, adding that he was not aware of the trashcans missing on Church street but that he will “follow up for sure.”
Joined by his fellow store owners, Coolahan is still hopeful that the idea of Antique Alley will maintain momentum and that bringing some attention to the issues will encourage city officials to act on behalf of the town, which is busting at the seams with potential for growth only to add to the beauty that surrounds it.
For more information, please contact Antiques and Treasures of Mountain City at [email protected] Or call Sassy Cats at 423-727-4774, or the Mountain City Welcome Center at 423-727-5800.