Wallace News has closed for business

Matthew Lane • Jun 17, 2018 at 12:30 PM

KINGSPORT — Wallace News, an institution in downtown Kingsport for 80 years, has closed for business.

Officially, the newsstand closed on June 4, but according to owner Thom Throp the business hasn’t been too operational since the end of March. The reason? Profits just weren’t there.

“I made $892 of profit in March. I can’t do it,” Throp said. He further explained how, back in January, the compensation rates for magazines changed considerably.

“I wasn’t making much money on magazines anyway, and you’re required to buy 125 titles every week. A $12.99 magazine, I was making $3.89. The first of the year, I was making $1.68,” Throp said. “That came from the publishers, and for newsstands, that’s just impossible.”

Wallace News has been an iconic destination for more than 80 years and is best known for its popcorn and snowballs, magazines, cigarettes, tobacco and pipes, drinks, snacks and newspapers. Years ago, the newsstand carried a larger selection of magazines and comics and sported a small arcade in the back — a few video games and pinball machines.

Throp bought the business from the previous owner — Marty Mullins — back in 2015 and continued the tradition of offering downtown shoppers, business owners and visitors a healthy variety of drinks and snacks, magazines and newspapers not found in your typical corner convenience store.

For Throp, it was the most enjoyable time of his professional life.

“I love it. I love being there every day and I love the people, the camaraderie. And that’s what I remember as a kid, and I think we continued that wonderfully,” Throp said. “I made great new friendships and strengthened old ones and it was a great place to be. I hope something similar can happen (there in the future).”

Bill Moss, who owns the building where Wallace News operated, said he hopes to either lease the space or sell the building.

“I had hoped we could keep it as a newsstand, but a lot has changed, like with digital media. It’s been tough,” Moss said. “If someone would like to run it similar to what is was, I’d like to find someone to get in there. I don’t know if that’s possible.”

And in case you’re wondering, Throp still has the popcorn and snowball machines, and they might just reappear downtown at some point down the road. No promises, though.

“We continued traditions that had been there a long time, potentially started some new ones and provided a place for people to go to know they’d be welcomed and cared about,” Throp said. “It’s a shame because we don’t have places like that anymore. It’s just a changing of the times.”