Walker Johnson’s face told the tale Thursday of a patriarch watching a family jewel slide into devastation, but he’s not about to let an unknown foe that’s gnawing at his family’s legacy get the upper hand.
The brick face above Brackins Blues Club in downtown Maryville collapsed onto the street early Thursday, just days after a smaller part of the facade crumbled, shutting down the business and temporarily closing the street.
“We decided to take down the bricks and redo it,” Johnson said. “It decided to come down all on its own. They were going to have to support it to work under it, but it’s still a total shock.”
Maryville Police Chief Tony Crisp told The Daily Times the department received a call from a citizen at another local establishment around 12 minutes after midnight Thursday. Someone had heard a loud boom and reported the rest of the building’s front wall had collapsed.
Crisp said no one was hurt and that law enforcement immediately closed East Broadway Avenue until daylight.
Later Thursday, the road was closed only for eastbound traffic, Crisp said, and the building owner is working with contractors to tear down remaining parts of the facade.
A large blue tarp now covers the building’s front, and crews were there much of Thursday.
Johnson arrived at the club around 2 a.m. and was still working at 3 p.m.
An analysis of why the building’s facade was unstable and the final cost is still incomplete, but Johnson said he is continuing to rebuild with the cooperation of city officials.
Paul Davis Emergency Services of West Knoxville has been contracted to help remedy the mess.
“We get people calling and asking us if we are opened yet,” Johnson said. “They say, ‘Man, we wanna come back,’ and we tell them, ‘We’ll come back.’ It’s going to take big money to get it back to where it was, but it’s worth it. This building has been in the family for a long time, and it’s been in Maryville for a lot longer.”
Johnson said his family purchased the site in the mid-1970s on a sealed bid from Maryville College, which auctioned the property after it was willed by the previous owner.
The front signage and the club will be the same, Johnson said.
Crisp said this is not the first time a Maryville business’s facade has collapsed and that, in this case, there is no immediate danger to pedestrians in the downtown area.
Johnson’s exhaustion didn’t dampen his spirits Thursday as friends greeted him on the street.
One woman asked if there was anything she could do for him.
“Yeah, can you lend me $100,000?” Walker joked with a grin. “I know you have it there in your purse.”