The vision of a Kinston business district – enlivened with downtown residents, restaurants, places for socializing, cultural opportunities and shopping – is becoming reality.
The opening of two new establishments on the heels of a huge Festival on the Neuse, plus construction underway at other properties, illustrates downtown’s growing attraction as a destination for locals and visitors alike.
• The Overland Gallery at 125 W. Blount Street attracted a large crowd of fans at its May 8 official opening. The gallery, owned by Dunn & Dalton Architects and being managed by Cynthia Dunn, an artist herself, contains work spaces and art works for sale by area artists. The Community Council for the Arts advises as curator.
• Ginger 108, a brand new Asian Fusion Grill at 108 W. North Street, opened its doors May 7 and became an immediate hit…attracting long lines of eager customers in its first week. The restaurant is a Stephen Hill project as part of the renovation of the Harvey-Brody building being leased from Pride of Kinston. The restaurant’s general manager is Bill Tsao. A second restaurant, due to open end of 2013 summer, is being built within the building with oysters and high end burgers as its featured fare.
• An urban garden has been constructed across the street from Ginger 108 to grow vegetables for use by the new restaurant.
• A revitalization plan for 201 N. Queen Street, sometimes called the “1903 building” recently purchased by the law firm Cauley Pridgen, calls for installation of an elevator, two one-bedroom apartments on the 3rd floor, the 2nd floor converted into office space for attorneys Jim Cauley and Brian Pridgen, and the 1st floor to be made available for a retail business. Mr. Cauley, who also serves as Kinston’s City Attorney, revealed the renovation plan week of May 6.
• A new and spacious apartment is being carved out of the old Square D Tire Store building at 300 N. Mitchell Street to be occupied by Susan Singer, mother of the Chef and Farmer’s Ben Knight. The apartment is positioned at the rear of the large structure so that it could overlook the Neuse River if the overgrown riverbank is cleared. It is also located adjacent to Pearson Park at the foot of North Street.
• Harriet Harper, owner of South Queen Barber Shop at 407 S. Queen, is buying three vacant storefronts adjacent to her business and converting them into one-bedroom apartments.
• Across the street between Shine and South Streets, a new entrance into historic Maplewood-Cedar Grove-Hebrew cemeteries is being constructed by Pride of Kinston with help from a large number of donors.
• And further down South Queen, a new park celebrating the multi-county African American Music Trail for which Kinston is the hub, is being constructed at the intersection of Queen and Springhill under the watchful eye of Sandi Landis of the Community Council for the Arts. A dramatic and colorful piece of public art will highlight the park once completed. Funding is being provided through a partnership between the NC Department of Cultural Resources, the NC Department of Transportation and the Golden Leaf Foundation.
• A business to be called Games Zone is being created at 209 N. Queen by two young entrepreneurs Gregory Dunk and Daniel Mitchell. The business is to be an arcade “to give young people something to do,” they say.
• The new CSS Neuse Center at 100 N. Queen is poised to open momentarily, pending completion of a State inspection of the new construction before handing it over to the NC Department of Cultural Resources. The museum, built to preserve the remains of the original CSS Neuse gunboat built and then scuttled near the end of the Civil War, will provide exhibitions to tell the story of the vessel and the Civil War environment in and around Kinston.
• And on the horizon is Pride of Kinston’s Sand in the Streets outdoor concerts which begin June 6 in Pearson Park. The concerts, held on the bank of the Neuse River, have attracted thousands of music fans from throughout Eastern North Carolina.
• A major billboard campaign along major routes leading to Kinston inviting travelers to “check us out” was launched last Fall and expanded in early 2013. The campaign, brain child of Pride’s Economic and Property Development Committee, attracted partners throughout the business and civic community and grew from 3 boards to nearly 20 by May. Kinston businessman Dan Sale was a major sparkplug expanding the initiative.
• The Red Room brought new life to 220 N. Herritage when Stephen Hill and Trent Mooring opened the music venue and eatery just before the Christmas season. The Dec. 1 opening attracted hoards of customers for the new venue as well as for its nearby cousin, Mother Earth’s Tap Room at 127 W. North Street which launched the company’s holiday brew.
• Kinston, a communications center: Clark Tutt, owner of Tutt Media Group, has purchased three eastern North Carolina stations: Channel 21 which serves Kinston, New Bern, Greenville, Washington and Goldsboro; Channel 41 which serves Jacksonville, Camp LeJeune, Sneads Ferry and Wilmington; and Channel 39 which serves Beaufort, Bayboro, Havelock, Morehead City and Atlantic Beach. Antennas to serve a potential market of 1.5 million viewers were being installed this Spring.
• Meanwhile Curtis Media Group purchased Kinston’s only radio station in November and has re-formatted the broadcasting capacity into three distinct units: WELS 102.9 FM classic hits of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s; WELS 1010 AM contemporary gospel; and WEQR 97.7 FM that plays today’s hits.
• 2013 BBQ Festival on the Neuse (May 1-4) was by all accounts drew the largest open air festival crowd in its history on Friday and Saturday. The festival, organized by the Kinston-Lenoir Chamber of Commerce, has become a May-time favorite destination for BBQ lovers from all over Eastern North Carolina and beyond.
• The Community Council for the Arts, with its year round series of cultural programs and exhibitions, has long been a destination for aficionados of art and culture. With the region’s largest collection of public art, the center adds immensely to the city’s quality of life.
• When one adds in long time merchants such as Tops-Bottoms-Soles at 135 N. Queen; and H. Stadiem Department Store at 124 N. Queen—each with a regional customer base—the notion that Kinston’s business future is bright indeed.
• The Run for the River 8K and One Mile Fun Run which attracts some 250-300 runners from here and across the State, an event which has become popular with local volunteers who are indispensable to the conduct of the event.
• J’s Place, a local club at 110 W. Blount Street, re-opened in November after extensive renovations.
• The Weeping Willow Boutique, a women’s store catering to young female customers, opened March 16 adding diversity to retail mix along Herritage Landing.
What Is Pride of Kinston?
The mission of Pride of Kinston, Inc., established in 1984, is to lead downtown revitalization in Kinston using the Main Street approach developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which promotes economic development within the context of historic preservation.
Pride of Kinston is one of 57 Main Street communities in North Carolina in a program coordinated by the North Carolina Department of Commerce, Division of Community Assistance. (www.nccommerce.com). For more information about Pride of Kinston, see About Pride.
Pride of Kinston • 327 North Queen Street • Kinston, NC 28501• (252)
Artist Bruce D. Ziegler has generously made available to Pride his portrait of