Friends, stranger help downtown business owners buy properties

When the property where they rented space went up for auction, a surprising turn of events helped two downtown business owners stay put.

Jim Creighton and Amanda Fitzpatrick went into a public auction last week knowing they might have to move out of the adjacent properties they had been renting for a few years in downtown Hopkinsville.

property that was up for auction, Heirloom Tables
The former Cayce-Yost Department Store building was among the properties up for auction last week. (Jennifer P. Brown photo)

Creighton, 69, does custom woodwork at Heirloom Tables, which he set up in roughly one half of the former Cayce-Yost Department Store building at 10th and Main streets. He dreaded the thought of getting moving trucks for his heavy equipment and finding another place big enough for his type of work.

Fitzpatrick, 42, runs Amanda’s Cupcake Café in the other half of the building. She was already calculating the cost of building a new kitchen in another location and wasn’t sure she could pull it off.

“A kitchen build is $10,000 minimum,” she described.

When the Cayce family decided to auction 11 long-held properties, including the two parcels that comprise the former department store, Creighton was prepared to buy his half of the building if the price seemed reasonable. Fitzpatrick was interested as well, but the timing was complicated. She would need to sell a rental house first to afford the investment in a commercial property, and that wasn’t going to happen in time for bidding at the Nov. 20 auction.

But that night, with the help of a few friends and one stranger, things turned in their favor.

Here’s what happened:

Creighton and Kirkpatrick said Hal McCoy had talked to both of them in the weeks leading up to the auction. McCoy, who owns commercial property throughout Hopkinsville, was considering buying the Cayce-Yost building and renting to them, they said.

Meanwhile, Hopkinsville electrician Chip Moss, who often stopped by Fitzpatrick’s café for marshmallow crispy bars, began talking to her about the auction.

Fitzpatrick and her two youngest children, teenage girls, had been living in an apartment they created on the second floor of the cafe. But several weeks before the auction, she became frustrated with the real estate agents showing the building on short notice to potential buyers. She and the girls moved into a rental house Fitzpatrick owns. With the loss of her rental income, Fitzpatrick started delivering pizzas for Papa John’s in the evening after she closed the café.

Even though Fitzpatrick had decided she wouldn’t be able to buy the building, Moss encouraged her to go to the auction anyway.

“Let’s just go and see what happens,” he told her.

On the night of the auction, about 60 people filled a room on the top floor of the Pennyroyal Building (another one of the properties up for sale) on Main Street. Auctioneers for Harris Real Estate took bids on each of the 11 properties individually and then gave bidders the options of combining properties.

Moss asked Fitzpatrick if she would stay in the property if he bought it and sold it to her when she was ready.

Fitzpatrick was shocked but grateful.

As different bidding combinations came together with several potential buyers strategizing around the room, Creighton began bidding on behalf of himself and Moss for the two properties he and Fitzpatrick rented.

Their hopes fell, though, when one of the few out-of-town bidders pushed the price to $140,000 – and Creighton decided to stop.

“I’m going to go talk to him and see if he’ll lease to me,” Creighton told photographer and downtown property owner Tony Kirves, who was at the auction helping McCoy watch bids as they looked for ways to help Creighton and Fitzpatrick.

While bidding continued on other properties, Creighton walked across the room and leaned down to introduce himself to the bidder who had topped him. He was Ghirmai Abraham, a Nashville real estate agent. He listened for a moment to Creighton and then offered something no one had expected. He said he would help Creighton. Bid again, Abraham said, and I’ll stop.

As promised, Abraham did not raise his bid card again. Creighton got the last bid at $141,000. He agreed to pay $71,000, and Moss was in for $70,000 on Fitzpatrick’s behalf. All of the winning bidders also paid an additional 10 percent buyer’s premium. The 11 properties sold for a combined $690,250.

Later, Creighton thought about what would have happened if he’d stayed in his seat.

“I’m so glad I walked over and talked to him.” he said.

The morning after the auction, Creighton went to the café next door and ordered a hot chocolate to celebrate.

“I got out my wallet,” he said, “And she said, ‘No. That’s on me.’”

Friends, stranger help downtown business owners buy properties

Jennifer P. Brown

Jennifer P. Brown is the founder and editor of Hoptown Chronicle. You can reach her at editor@hoptownchronicle.org.

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