By David Rogers. June 15, 2018. BLOWING ROCK, NC – Blowing Rock may not have pickles but Virginia Powell is, in a way, returning to her roots – and offsetting her family’s costs at the same time.
“I always wanted to live in town,” Powell shared after members of the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce helped the new owners of “the Holshouser house” at 945 Main St., in the central business district of Blowing Rock, with a ribbon cutting and open house reception on Wednesday.
“She grew up in Mt. Olive, North Carolina,” interjected husband Ben Powell, a professor in the Walker College of Business at Appalachian State University, “and her family home was right in town. Mt. Olive is nearer Raleigh, mostly known as the place from where pickles are processed.”
The Powell family is not moving in immediately, though. They have too many kids to downsize right now from their current residence in Blowing Rock and it will be a few years before they are all out of school and on their own.
So, in the interim 945 Main Street, dubbed, “The Heart of Blowing Rock,” is destined to become one of the prize vacation rentals in the village.
The Powells purchased the building after it had been left vacant and almost deteriorating for several years. When passing by this prime location across the big parking lot from Wells Fargo, across Main Street from Mellow Mushroom, next door to Footsloggers, and barely a stone’s throw up the hill from the U.S. Post Office, residents and visitors alike have wondered about its destiny — and neglect. For long stretches of time under earlier ownership, passers-by would notice open or broken windows that let the elements in, even in the rain and snow. Eventually, the windows were boarded up, but it became obvious that fixing it up was not high on the owner’s priority list.
The trend toward an in-town vacation or residential experience is broadly understood.
After buying the property for over half a million dollars and sinking six figures more into its renovation, the Powells are capitalizing on one of the strongest trends among tourists all over the United States. That is: an “in town” vacationing experience, with walking distance accessibility to shops, restaurants, museums, and nightlife.
This trend was most pointedly brought to the attention of Blowing Rock by Rob Pressley, CCIM, President of Charlotte-based Coldwell Banker Commercial MECA as he tried to get approval for conditional rezoning of the 0.94-acre parcel between Speckled Trout and Morningside Dr. It was a first and necessary step toward the planned construction of 16 townhomes on the property. Pressley’s project and a later, similar project proposed by the parcel’s landowner, Steve Barker, failed to gain approval from the Board of Commissioners or Planning Board because of increased density, building height, parking and other concerns requiring Land Use Code variances or waivers. But the major trend on which their projects were trying to capitalize on – offering an in-town vacation or residential experience – was broadly understood.
“We don’t have to worry about all of the Land Use Code variances, or even the restrictions in most of Blowing Rock regarding short-term rentals,” Virginia Powell observed to Blowing Rock News. The local realtor and elected member of the Board of Commissioners added, “This is a single residence that is already built in a central business district zone where short-term rentals are permitted. So we don’t have the density concerns of new construction nor the building height issue.”
Ben Powell noted that the couple probably could not have ended up with the comfortable, attractive finished product that is “Heart of Blowing Rock” even three years ago, before his wife got her real estate license and became a realtor with Blowing Rock Real Estate.
Because the house is already built and in the central business district where short-term rentals are permitted, the Powells don’t have to worry about variances from the Land Use Code nor whether short-term rentals are legal or not.
“A lot of the furniture and fixtures that you see in this home is stuff that Virginia took from our own home,” Ben said as he pointed to this and that. “Above all, she wanted it to be comfortable for our guests. A few years ago she may not have had the insights, but as a realtor she has learned to listen to people, what they want and like.”
Virginia was quick to credit one of her real estate mentors, Jerry Starnes.
“I have a few listings but mostly I am a buyer’s agent,” she smiled to Blowing Rock News. “You know how much I like to talk, but when I started as a real estate agent, Jerry Starnes pulled me aside and said, ‘Listen. Step back, shut up and listen to what your customers are saying. Remember that they are the ones doing the buying and this is going to be their house.”
A week ago, the Powells hosted the original family that owned 945 Main St., the Holshousers, who shared family moments captured in the house during a gathering in June of 2001 and a few snapshots from earlier. Looking at the images, the warm family feel of the moments is obvious. That’s exactly the sort of feel – and in-town experience – the Powells are trying to deliver to their guests, and to themselves when the time comes to downsize.