Thursday, June 22, 2017

Abingdon’s West Main Street sees changes with old sign, new businesses

June 22, 2017

Abingdon’s West Main Street sees changes with old sign, new businesses
83-year-old sign painter to restore a piece of Abingdon history

ABINGDON, Va.— New businesses are breathing new life to West Main Street in downtown Abingdon. The town has long been known for its unique historical character, with brick sidewalks and original brick buildings.  Now a group of businesses, old and new, are participating in a façade improvement project sponsored by Abingdon Main Street and the Economic Development Authority. As part of the project, a local business owner is restoring the original sign on the side of 280 W. Main Street – and he’s hired 83-year-old Carl Jessee to do it.

The fading and peeling paint of an old general store sign on the east side of the Market Place Building on West Main Street is getting new life from the 83-year-old sign painter. To achieve an authentic look for the sign, which is believed to have originally been painted in the 1950s, Lane asked Bristol Sign Company owners Carl Jessee and his son, JJ Jessee to oversee the restoration.

Bobby Lane, owner of the Market Place Building and Wolf Hills Antiques, wants to preserve a piece of the past on a block located west of Cummings Street, and improve his visibility at the same time. Wolf Hills Antiques is one of four new businesses to open on West Main Street in the past year, and curb appeal is at the forefront of business owners’ minds to bring in new customers.

New businesses on the same block include the bakery 149 Sweets, salt therapy center Salt of the Earth, and The Candy Shed. 

The Jessees’ and the Lanes’ goal to improve the facade the Market Place Building lines up with the goals of many business owners and community members in Abingdon, Va. The non-profit Abingdon Main Street in partnership with the Economic Development Authority is sponsoring a façade improvement grant program that will offset costs for local businesses who want to repair and upgrade their storefronts.

The non profit organization Abingdon Main Street is focused on making downtown Abingdon a place that people want to shop, dine, and stay. Abingdon Main Street has acquired grants and sponsorship for facade improvement, and will implement the grant program as a pilot in 2017, in anticipation of expanding it in years to come.

“One of Abingdon Main Street's goals is to help business and property owners preserve the unique and welcoming atmosphere of our downtown area and to also improve and update it when necessary. Part of our work is to direct resources to them to achieve this goal,” said President of Abingdon Main Street Scott Sikes.

Repainting the faded old sign will be in addition to basic improvements to repair, repaint and freshen up storefronts.

“We didn’t want to get rid of it,” said Lane,“ but it’s an eyesore. Since this is an antique shop, we decided to restore it. We don’t want it to look too fresh, though. We want to make it look old.”

Painter Carl Jessee has two signs in the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio. He carved the totem pole that resides in Sugar Hollow Park and has done sign work for the Bristol Motor Speedway.
Carl opened Bristol Sign Company in 1969, and has 65 years experience in the field. The Jessees have extensive knowledge about how wall signs such as the one on the Market Place Building are painted. Carl is now retired from the sign business and owns an art and frame shop in Bristol, Va.
For more information on the façade improvement project, email


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