HAZARD—What has been said to be the oldest building on Main Street is getting a new lease on life after recent renovations have attracted new businesses there, helping to preserve the past and future of downtown.
The building, standing on the corner of Taxi Alley, was built in 1911 and has housed numerous businesses in its lifespan, including the Perry County State Bank, Fuller's Department Store, and the office of L.D. Gorman.
According to an article printed in The Hazard Herald in Oct. 1911, the building even helped stop a devastating fire from consuming the entirety of Main Street.
“The brick building of the First National Bank on the north end of the block, and the brick building of the Perry County State Bank, on the south, acted a barriers to the red tongues of flames and thus saved the entire business section from destruction,” the Herald reported.
Tony Vaughn, police chief for the City of Vicco and owner of the restaurant El Azul Grande, said he always wanted to own a historic part of Main Street, adding that since he is always in the market for real estate to bring new businesses to the area, buying the building fulfilled both of those wants. Vaughn is a co-owner of the building, along with Frank Childers and others.
“Even though I'm originally from Chicago, Hazard's been my hometown since I was in the eighth grade. This is where I have all my business at, this is the only place I'm ever going to be as far as business goes, and to me owning a piece of history on Main Street—I was so proud to get a piece of history,” Vaughn said.
Vaughn said after buying the building he settled in for what he knew would be a long process to renovate the building. After installing floors in the basement, which only had dirt floors before, and basically revamping the interior of the entire two-story building, Vaughn said he has spent around $40,000.
The next and biggest step, Vaughn said, will start in the spring when exterior renovations begin.
“It's going to be a totally different look than anything else on Main Street,” he said. “Main Street seems to have a lot of the same look.”
Now, he hopes to show the people of Hazard that Main Street isn't the bleak, retail wasteland that so many seem to believe it to be. This proof, Vaughn said, comes with the establishment of two new businesses in the building: Impact Originals, a specialty clothing and embroidery store, and Custom Creations Studio, a tattoo and piercing studio.
“Everybody's talking about how Main Street is not the place for retail … actually, Main Street's a great place for retail,” Vaughn said.
Jordan Palmer, owner of both businesses in Vaughn's building, said he was amazed at the difference in the building from when he looked at it before moving in and then after.
“When I first came down and looked at the place and saw what condition it was in I was like, oh my God,” Palmer said.
And even though Palmer said he did not originally want to open his store on Main Street, he said he attributes his success to his location.
“We're doing exceptionally well here,” he said.
Vaughn said he was proud to be able to offer real estate opportunities for local business owners to stay in the area and help support the local economy.
“More people need to be invested in Main Street and trying to get more businesses down there,” he said. “When I first opened the tattoo shop, I got a lot of grief about it and I'm like, 'What else is on Main Street? How many people are dying to get on Main Street?' Actually, I was dying to get on Main Street and I'm glad I actually did.”
James Moore, a tattoo artist at Custom Creations, said the location of the tattoo shop was perfect not only for the business but for Main Street and Hazard as a whole.
“A lot of people didn't have any reason to come downtown, so the more shops that we have like this and the other one that draw in younger people, the positive instead of the negative crowd. Walmart's not taking all of the business out of town,” Moore said.
Vaughn said he is always looking for more opportunities to invest in Main Street, and will continue to for as long as he can.
“I'd like to see more locals invest in Main Street and try to upgrade Main Street. The city's done a fine job, but the locals need to get more involved,” he said.