Ever wonder how a dying town finds a new lease on life? How boarded up buildings become bastions for new businesses? How small rural communities can educate youth while empowering them to improve their hometowns? If so, you’re going to love meeting these Possibilitarians. They embrace bold ideas with purposeful action and inspire and mobilize others to do the same. They focus on solutions instead of problems. They think positively and act with passion. They turn possibilities into realities.
Tighe Bullock is one of the rare people who can say they grew up in Thurmond—the New River Gorge coal and rail boomtown that, by the time of his 1990s childhood, was nearly a ghost town. It’s an origin story that drove his choice of career.
As a teen, Bullock worked on the construction crew at a building his father’s firm was rehabilitating in Charleston’s Elk City. Unlike Thurmond, which he sadly admitted was too far gone, Elk City’s faded old commercial center and residences right in the state’s capital were, to him, just waiting to be restored to their old charm and vitality.
He bought his first building in the neighborhood not long after high school, in 2008. But one building wasn’t enough. He went to West Virginia University to back up his blue-collar skills with an education in accounting and business and, later, law, a background that helps him work out creative financing for riskier projects.
Today Bullock Properties has restored about 15 buildings in the Elk City Historic District. The dynamic mix of small businesses they hold—like Books and Brews, Kinship Goods, and the literary and education poster shop Echo-Lit—are creating livelihoods and building a community.
Not a single-minded redeveloper but a lover of community whose interests vary widely, Bullock, with his family, commissioned the beloved West Side Wonder Mural by Charly Jupiter Hamilton on one of his buildings in 2014. The mural was an instant landmark that has filled the city with pride.
Kinship Goods was one of the first businesses that came in, in 2014, and it drew a younger crowd. At that point I’d been working in Elk City for 10 years. When they opened, you’d see all these young people walking around and, at first, it was honestly shocking. “These people are lost!”—and then, “Oh yeah, Kinship!” Since then, you see people just walking around at night, enjoying the murals, going out to dinner, having a couple drinks, shopping. And a lot of my friends have contacted me about buying houses in the area. Two friends did it in the past few months.Tighe Bullock
And a recent passion project is The Bullock Distillery. Bullock’s first retail operation gives him a place among those he says are doing the real work of development in Elk City. “It’s really the people who unlock the shops and offer their wares and services—those are the people that made this community. I just give them an opportunity to do that.”
In the printed version of this article from our Spring 2022 issue, we mistakenly listed the Vandalia Co. donut shop among businesses occupying Tighe Bullock’s buildings in Charleston’s Elk City. In fact, The Linn Building is owned by his sister, Megan Bullock. It also houses her Studio MESH—entrepreneurial success runs in the family!
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