A pair of empty storefronts along Main Street in downtown Williamsburg apparently won’t be empty for a lot longer.
Williamsburg Mayor Roddy Harrison said Friday that the old Emby McKeehan building was recently purchased by a company named Webbed Sphere.
“They are planning to start renovation in the first quarter of 2020, which means we should see progress starting soon. I can tell you that after meeting the group, I’m very excited to have heard their plans. Trust me, it will be a great fit for our beautiful downtown,” Harrison noted.
In addition, Austin City Saloon Owner Josh Brock is partnering with Williamsburg attorney Adam Howard to open a third Austin City location, which will be located in the old Merry’s Flower Shop building that Howard owns.
Brock noted that it is extremely early in the process, and he has no idea when the new business, which will simply be called Austin City, will open. It will be a slightly scaled back version of the other two locations in Lexington and Corbin.
“Our mindset at this point is to try and bring something unique and different to small towns,” Brock said. “Just like Corbin, I think we can fill a hole. There is a gap missing down there for a mixture of just a good locally owned and operated restaurant that mixes in a little bit of entertainment as well.”
He added that the University of the Cumberlands is also investing a lot in downtown Williamsburg.
“We knew that was happening and wanted to be a part of it, but we also have to have some interest from the community,” Brock said.
“I think Roddy down there in Williamsburg is doing a phenomenal job of just trying to promote it and push business. I think once you get a couple of them (businesses) in there and they get going, then you will
see downtown liven up a little bit especially in the evening hours.”
Brock noted that he rents an office in Williamsburg above the Merry’s Flower Shop location. Howard, who owns the whole building, approached Brock about six months ago with the idea of putting in another Austin City location in Williamsburg in the Merry’s Flower Shop space.
Howard bought the building about three years ago when Merry’s Flower Shop was still in business. He had planned not to make any changes to Merry’s or Hollywood Video, which is the other longtime tenant in the building.
After Merry’s went out of business, Howard said he talked with a few people about thoughts for some kind of restaurant or bar in that space.
Howard knew Brock, who was a couple of grades ahead of him, from high school, and mentioned the idea to him.
“He loved it, so it kind of grew from that,” Howard noted.
Brock said that the Williamsburg location will be tweaked and slightly different as the space and city are both smaller than previous locations.
“We are going to scale it back. It is still going to have a bunch of cool stuff like we have in Corbin. We will incorporate some of the rustic stuff and the albums like we did on stage. We will incorporate some kind of truck or front end of a vehicle, and the whiskey stage. All of the stuff we did up here is going to be incorporated down there. It is just going to be dialed back a little bit” Brock said.
Tentative plans are not to have full bands every weekend, but instead to have other acoustic acts that have one to three people.
“We are going to try and pull it off without having to do any kind of cover charge ever. People will be able to come in there and always hear music,” Brock said adding that some singer-song writer things may also be incorporated. “Just where it is kind of a more laid back atmosphere.”
Brock noted that at this stage, they are still kind of sketching ideas for the business, and have no time frame for when it will open.
If the Austin City Saloon location in Corbin is any indication, it might be a significant amount of time before the Williamsburg location opens. Brock and another partner bought the Corbin building in fall 2017, and the opening of the business didn’t open until June 2019.
“It is in the very early, premature stages. As of right now, it is definitely coming, but we haven’t filed paperwork or applied for a license. It is just extremely early in the game,” Brock cautioned about the Williamsburg location.
Howard added that the pair are trying to keep some of the things that give the building character, like the tin ceiling. They are also hoping to incorporate the main cooler that Merry’s used for its flowers into the kitchen system some how.
“We are excited about it,” Howard added.