- Paris Flash
- Real Estate
The former Belk Department Store building at 21 S. Plaza, next to People’s Bank, will become the new home of a restaurant that will have wine and live dancing. Priest’s Emporium, which now occupies the building, will shut its doors Monday and will vacate the building by Aug. 31, after which the new owner will take over. (eParisExtra! photo by Charles Richards)
By CHARLES RICHARDS
Priest’s Emporium — in the old Belk Department Store building at 21 S. Plaza, next door to People’s Bank — will close its doors on Monday to make way for a major new restaurant downtown.
Sale of the building came quickly, said Chance Priest, who with his wife, Kerri, has sold antiques, comic books, collector cards, guns and countless other items out of the first floor of the four-story building for the past four years.
“I’m telling you, it happened like within a day’s period. It went from somebody saying, ‘Wow, I like your building. Would you ever sell it?’ to, all of a sudden, there’s a contract. I said, ‘Let me think …’ and then I said, ‘OK!’ ”
A Greenville woman is the new owner. She’s already put down money on the building, and the deal will close on Thursday, Priest said.
“We’ve got to be out of the building by the end of August. She’s got a lot of stuff to do in here. I don’t know what she’s doing, but I know it’s going to be a restaurant, that’s for sure, with live dancing,” he said.
“She apparently has experience in the restaurant field, and everything. I think she’s in love with the walls, and she loves this rustic appearance and everything,” he said.
When she came into the store and began talking to him, she was talking about downtown buildings, Priest said.
“We weren’t too busy that day, and I let my son give her a tour through the building. When she came back down, it didn’t take her no time. She was like, ‘I want this sucker,’ ” he said.
What people see when they browse through Priest’s Emporium is on the first floor, but there’s more than meets the eye, as will attest those who remember the days when the Belk store was downtown. The building has three other floors, each with 11,000 square feet, identical to the first floor.
“We’re full on every floor, and I was like, ‘If I were to sell it, I’d want this much, and it would take me three months to move out.’ The only thing I had to compromise on was one month to move out,” he said.
“It’s a massive undertaking. I mean, this is a 45,000-square-foot building,” he said.
Nearly everyone would agree that moving’s no fun, but Priest has been buying and selling merchandise most of hislife.
“I’ve done it all my life. I’m used to it,” said Priest, who grew up in Canton. He said this move won’t be as big as when he and his wife shut down a store in San Antonio several years ago.
“Our operation in San Antonio was 15 acres, and we moved it. So I can do it. I was younger then, though,” the 38-year-old Priest added, laughing.
“We’re going to move all this to a warehouse and have warehouse sales every month or so. Anybody will tell you this wholesale is where you do pretty good. When we sold our store in San Antonio, we went to pure wholesale and just about doubled our revenue.”
For Chance and Kerri Priest, it’s on to a new adventure.
They plan to build a Halloween theme park on five acres of land he bought on the west side of U.S.271 in Powderly, south of the Dairy Queen and directly across the highway from the Borderline Café.
Two old barns on the property, which appear not to have been used for decades, are being converted into haunted houses. There will also be a “haunted woods” and a haunted stage show.
Also in the works is a small roller coaster “that takes you through a mad house,” if Priest can get the ride delivered in time. It’s now in Corpus Christi.
Workers are busy with the early construction work on the theme park now, he said, with plans for an Oct. 1 opening.
“We’ll have it just on the weekends. Start slow this year. We’ve got about 10 employees right now. We’re going to need about 30. We’re probably going to open it Christmas, too, and again in the spring,” Priest said.
“More than likely, the majority of it this year is just going to be revolving around the two haunted houses where you can go through and get scared, and then a haunted woods where you run through and get scared.”
The theme park will have a stage show “where you go in and they perform a show in front of you. But it’s meant to scare you; it’s not for little kids,” he said.
“We are going to have areas outside for everybody, including little kids. We’re going to have all the ring toss games and all that stuff, just like the carnival. That’s going to be the crux of it.”
Priest says he’s seen a lot of haunted houses, but not like the ones he’s planning on. “I’ve got a guy helping me out of Antlers (Okla.), and so it’s going to be pretty unique.”
Asked about pricing, Priest said a ticket will be required for everything, just like at the fair. There will be a main box office where tickets are sold. People will be able to buy tickets for each ride or show individually, or pay one price for a ticket that will be good for everything.
The theme park will have enough to keep a person busy for two or three hours, Priest figures, although “you could buzz through it in a couple of hours, I guess.”
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