An Open Letter to Our Community Regarding 103 Spring Street: Soon to Be Vacant of All Tenants

Depending on your involvement in public affairs, you may or may not know that the tenants of 103 Spring Street have had some serious disagreements with the Industrial Development Authority of Bluefield, Virginia — a branch funded by the town which owns the building we lease downtown at 103 Spring Street.

Before we start, we want to thank you, our community, our team-members, our fans, and the blue collar “get it done” people who make Bluefield a special place to be. On November 15th, 2022 — we will begin vacating our building. Before we state the facts, followed by the emotions, followed by the proof, we want to convey that our exit from Bluefield is solely of safety, legal, and financial concerns with the building and the IDA, (and the conditions of our lease) not the death of an otherwise successful business.

Since the very beginning of this project, monumental pieces to the buildings puzzle have been left entirely incomplete or ignored, and we are now forced to address it after over a year of pleading for action. Firstly, we want to make it clear as to why the issues we are having are the responsibility of the IDA, and not ours as the tenants. Next, we will explain in detail the cost of the issues at hand and what we have done to address it. Then we want to thank those in a position of leadership who have been in our corner and tried to sound the alarm. Lastly, we will address the actions we are taking as we can no longer wait for anyone else to take action (nor should we).

  1. The Grind has realized since Fall of 2021 that something was very wrong with the power in our building. From underperforming commercial equipment, to equipment catching fire, to low voltage output plugs which also caught fire, and more, nothing has added up. The most stunning realization came after receiving increasingly expensive power bills, topping 1,500 dollars and even over 2,000 per month on more than one occasion. This past spring, it came to a head when we decided to further the investigation after falling on deaf ears. In Spring, the IDA informed us we had in fact been paying the Ax sides power bills since they originally opened. After the business owner on that side realized they hadn’t paid a single power bill (something they knew for quite a while) they vacated abruptly two days later. Following their vacancy, we wanted to know why the power bills were still so incredibly high. Working with another business owner in the building, an independent audit was done on power bills, which culminated in the realization that we (The Grind) were the only business in the 3-suite building paying any electric bills at all, and thus the realization that the power bills were so high because we were paying everyone’s power! — The finding that we were the only ones in the entire building paying any power at all was over 75 days ago, and still, we have since paid 2 more bills to keep the building “on”. We also want to make clear that this is not the fault of the third business owner, as we have discovered they use a 3rd party to pay bills and sincerely did not know. The lethargy by which the IDA believes they can act on such an unbelievably expensive and ridiculous issue is unacceptable, and for this reason we cannot in good conscious sign another lease agreement to our space and put in a 60-day notice to the Town, and the IDA at the most recent town hall meeting on September 27th, 2022.

With this information in hand, and in constant communication with the other tenant, we gave an incredibly emotional speech to town hall and the IDA to have our position held on record as we have in the past as shown below. The Grind is making the decision to close our Bluefield location effective November 15th, 2022, with hopes of finding a more suitable one, with a lease deal which allows us to actually operate a business successfully. Along with this, we have received word recently that the other tenant in the building will also choose to relocate, rather than sign onto a new lease agreement which would raise their costs 10% per square foot when the IDA already owes her significant funds for money spent repairing their side of the building and flooring in a situation which mirrors ours. We also want to stress that the issues at hand are not directly related to AEP, their hands are for the most part, tied, and it is the sole responsibility of the IDA to fix this monstrous issue(s). The building at 103 Spring Street never had to be empty or vacated, but due to incredible inaction and lethargy, we are left having to make the difficult decision after drawing a hard line in the sand.

An Unbelievable Emotional Toll

Talking to our team recently, we pondered how damn incredible it was to be able to make it through what we have so far. Setting up a successful business while in college, playing college football, and dealing with this monstrosity of a burden, it’s been a hell of a time. The hours, financial / physical / emotional stress that this has put on us unnecessarily has been truly unbelievable and left us in a state of semi- psychosis (is that a thing?) on more than one occasion. We are tired. We are done looking stupid, asking for someone to do their damn job, crying like we don’t have sense in front of town council — tears rolling down our cheeks, unable to articulate the next word, begging for immediate assistance to the point of such begging being beneath us as we ask for help dozens upon dozens of times. Without this line in the sand drawn on the time allotted to assist us and make right our situation, as well as a clear and concise consequence administered for such short comings, we are unsure if anyone in a position of power would have learned any lesson from this at all, and frankly still aren’t sure. We have worked 80 plus hour weeks on behalf of this business, and our beautiful community for well over 3 years, and it is nothing short of a damn shame that we have to say good bye for now…. but, just as we came into this town — we will go out with our heads held high, and in the giving spirit as we are planning an unbelievable charitable day as we approach veterans day, to give back one last time.

Wytheville’s Downtown

We will continue to operate as usual. Wytheville is doing great things and opened our eyes to what an ethical (non-governmental entity) lease agreement looks like. We are thankful for their constant work in improving their downtown and making it such an incredible atmosphere. Their IDA is unbelievably functional and is excited at the prospect of building something new, and the entrepreneurial spirit.

Bluefield’s Downtown

Is struggling beyond comprehension, and without immediate & significant investment, effort, time, and energy poured into it, we fear its future prosperity is in jeopardy. We urge all citizens to take a personal stake in the condition and business of their downtown.

Thank You

To Jim and Christine Justice, for always being in our corner, constantly sounding the alarm, and ALWAYS being an advocate as well as a mentor in our personal and professional lives. Your work on our behalf was incredible. We enjoy your bright and charismatic attitudes the second you open the door to come in, until the moment you leave. Despite what Chris might say, you could never talk our ear off Jim. Your business advice, counsel and personal achievements were and will always be giving as much time to listen to as is necessary, and you are an integral part of our time downtown. Thank you so much for all the things you all do behind the scenes to give back to your community, you’re both one in a billion.

To Councilman Mr. Chuck Presley, for always asking everyone what the hell is going on, and questioning everything, taking up both your personal time as well as personal finances to help us fix our building when you had absolutely zero fiduciary responsibility to do so. Your energy was a welcome sight in our building and we appreciate your constant advocacy on our behalf. Your disappointment and dismay is shared, but we will not give up — and you’re part of the reason why.

To Mr. Brad Ayers of the Industrial Development Authority. For volunteering to take the lead on our buildings issues recently, despite having businesses of your own to run, and for doing what should (and needs to be) a full-time position at the town in managing the IDA’s “assets”. For being the only person willing to look us in the eye, when everyone else was too afraid to face the music, or us, in person. And for sitting down with us when the conversation was not always comfortable by any stretch.

To Councilwoman Mrs. Cathy Payne — for always being a gentle voice of reason and wisdom, for always being willing to hear us out, and tell it like it is. Your straight forwardness and wise takes on the affairs of the town were always appreciated, and we are grateful.

To Mrs. Vicki Mahood of the Cornerstone gift shop. Never in my life have I come across a woman so cemented in her faith and wisdom. Her hug can cure you of any ailment and was a gentle reminder to just breathe every once in a while. Your counsel, positivity, and fortitude has been a saving grace and welcome addition to our philosophy and business, and I would choose no other business neighbor to enjoy our time with, you have been a ray of sunshine — to you we are so incredibly thankful.

To our team members, past and present. We could not exist unless you did. Your work, late nights, early mornings, smiling faces, and school driven exhaustion was a welcome refresh to downtown. Not in 40 years has this downtown seen such an influx of younger students come from all over to enjoy what you brough to the table. We also want to make sure you understand that this is not on you, you did not run an unsuccessful operation, you DID IT….YOU made us who we are today, and we are so damned proud of you. Thank you.

To those not mentioned here — if we forgot you during this emotional essay, we apologize. Lastly, we want to make sure you — the people, understand that not adding someone from a position of power is NOT to admonish them automatically. Not everyone shares equal responsibility, but equally are the consequences felt.

To our friends and family. We have work to do, let’s get it done. The Grind never stops.

Proof Is in the Pudding

We have attached links, screenshots, videos, and pictures of power bills to help people better understand the scope of what we are dealing with, show how bad this has become, and show how long we have been working on this for.

Video 1:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifmsFGp-4ys March 8th, 2022 (Our speech starts at 1hr:40min:50sec)

Video 2:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULji5f52Rs0 September 27th, 2022 (Our speech starts at 41min:31sec)

  1. A couple examples of recent power bills, which we typically pay 500 per month for in Wytheville, which is also in Virginia and has MORE refrigeration and electrical units than Bluefield.

2.

3. Conversations on how planned power outages mysteriously affected us when they weren’t supposed to, and explaining power issues — dating back to September, 2021

4. Corroboration of the timeline of the IDA proposing a new layout, with The Grind taking less space, showing the lounge was infact previously ours.

5. Evidence showing the concern with the rapidly deteriorating conditions of the community patio, windows, and building, dating back to August 2021.

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The Grind

U.S Army / OEF Vet, College Football Player, Small Business Start-Up Owner, Student