A landmark Gibbs area business is changing hands.
The Longmire brothers, Joe and Dale, are selling Midway IGA and Gibbs Center on the first Monday in February. The buyer, Haven Gopal, is from Bristol, Tennessee, and lives in North Knoxville.
“Customers won’t notice a difference, except Dale and I won’t be around as much,” Joe Longmire said Sunday. “Haven plans to keep all the employees and says the store will run just like it does now.”
It’s a bittersweet moment. The Longmires did not have the business listed for sale, but were approached by Gopal, an investor who was eager to get into the Corryton area. He got local Realtor Jacquie Litton involved and she is facilitating the closing.
Joe and Dale have been in the grocery business since birth. Their parents, Claude and Ruby Longmire, started Longmire Grocery in Corryton where the tire store is now in 1947. James Perry had a neat recap of their careers in the May 5, 2022, edition of Historic Union County. Link here.
Perry said mom stayed home with baby Joe for a bit, but when Dale came along, she just took him to the store and kept him in a box in a shopping cart as she stocked groceries. Joe swears that he started work stocking and such at age 4.
The Longmire boys went through Corryton Elementary School and Gibbs High School. Joe went to UT to study accounting, while Dale trained at LMU to teach school. They, along with sister Leesa, worked with their parents at Longmire Grocery. (Leesa Beeler went on to work at House Mountain Market and is now scanning manager at Midway. She plans to stay at the store, Joe said.)
In 1977, Joe and Dale bought property at the junction of Washington Pike and Roberts Road. As partners, they started House Mountain Market.
That worked out, so in 1988, they bought the Midway IGA from Berle Kirkpatrick. It was an ole-timey store that Kirkpatrick had started with Bill Butler. It sat back off the road on the corner now occupied by the Home Federal.
That worked out, and the Gibbs community grew with new subdivisions and businesses. In 1996, the Longmires – Joe and wife Becky, and Dale and wife Ellen – purchased land on Tazewell Pike and built out the Gibbs Center, where the Midway IGA currently sits. Support of the wives was essential because Dale and Joe had committed everything they owned as collateral for this venture. In 2004, they sold House Mountain Market.
“In business, there’s a lot of risk for an uncertain reward,” Joe said with a shrug. “I’ve always had people working for me who made more than I did.
“But this community has been very good to the Longmires and I hope we’ve been good for the community. I’ve lived here all my life. Dale and I have been partners for 45 years.”
In retirement, Joe plans to finish a book he’s researched – a history of the railroad town of Corryton. He holds a “lifetime” term as president of the Nicholas Gibbs Historical Society, owner of the restored house on Emory Road. He gets calls every month from somebody wanting him to open the house when they come to town. He tries to oblige.
Joe says the more he’s studied Nicholas Gibbs (who got a Revolutionary War grant for land in Gibbs) the more he’s convinced that he really was the area’s founding father. “I’m related to him in about three ways,” Joe laughs.
Will they throw a party before leaving?
“We talked about thanking people on social media and maybe Dale and I will stand in the lobby during the afternoons and thank our customers,” Joe said.
“Heck, Joe. Have a sale. Mark down some stuff to prices from 1947 or 1977 or 1988 or 1996. I may have some old ads around.”
He just grins and shrugs. Before this month is out, I’m going to Gibbs to say goodbye. Hope you will as well.
Updated 01/09/23 to correct spelling of Mr. Berle Kirkpatrick, former owner of Midway IGA.
Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today Inc.