I spent my formative years going by the nickname “Little Willard.” That was thanks to my older brother’s good friends Jody Begley, Jason Edwards and Damon Hunley. It’s ok though, because when I joined the swim team at Dobyns Bennett, they changed the nickname to “Aqua Bill.” They don’t get an A for originality, but I wore those nicknames with a sense of pride. That’s because growing up here meant family and for me it meant this guy right here. We had our tussles and I was a pesky little brother, but I love the guy. Take a minute to meet my brother Will. Then take a minute to quit bickering over the remote and tell somebody in your family you love them this holiday season. You will be glad you did.
BRIAN: Thanks for taking a minute to tell people about yourself and what you do. Start out by telling folks a little about growing up in Kingsport and how it shaped you.
WILL: Thanks for asking me to participate. Growing up in the small tight knit community that Kingsport has to offer was great. When we were kids it felt like everyone in our neighborhood knew each other and looked out for each other. I can remember like it was yesterday getting in trouble for climbing all the way to the top of a tree in the backyard that was taller than our house when I was probably ten. It took me a minute to figure out how mom knew I was up there. Turns out our next door neighbor saw me up there and made a call to make sure mom knew. I was upset about the spanking that came along with that little adventure but looking back it feels good to know friends and neighbors were looking out for me. That feeling of community endures and is one of the things that makes me feel connected and blessed to live where we do.
BRIAN: It is hard to talk about this region and not mention faith. We grew up in a very religious household and I know your faith is foundational. How does faith affect your daily life and decisions?
WILL: As you well know we were at church every time the doors were open when we were kids. I’m grateful that mom and dad were Christians and made sure we were in church. I’m a Christian as well and while I’m not perfect I do feel like my faith gives me peace and is a foundation that allows me to keep things in perspective when life gets hectic.
BRIAN: Family is a huge part of what this region is all about. What has it been like raising a kid in the region where we grew up and what has changed?
WILL: I was living in Raleigh, NC before my son was born and made the decision to move back to the Tri Cities so that he could grow up here. Living in Raleigh was great and I enjoyed it but I wanted Andrew to be around all of his extended family and have that same sense of community that we grew up with. In regards to what has changed, the answer is a lot. The amenities that exist in the Tri Cities now are great. If you think about it most everything you want to do is available to you in well under an hour’s drive. There are great park systems and walking trails in Kingsport, Bristol and Johnson City. Niswonger performing Arts center is in Greeneville and The Barter Theatre is in Abingdon. If you look around the Tri Cities and the surrounding area and can’t find something you are interested in doing, you didn’t look very hard.
BRIAN: Let’s talk opportunity. We have both watched a lot of the people we grew up with move away over the years to take jobs or pursue education. You went to college locally and have worked in computing and data for a very long time. Why do that here rather than move away?
WILL: I probably sound redundant but the answer here again is the community. Like a lot of people, I spent time as a teenager and twenty something trying to figure out how to get out of the Tri Cities. Three is also a large group of those same people that spend time working on getting out of the area that realize what they had once they are gone and want to get back. You can count me in that group that left and then wanted to come back. It’s hard to believe but I’m getting close to having spent twenty years working in Information Technology. I’ve worked for a couple of different firms but am currently with Burk IT in Kingsport. Burk has been a phenomenal place to work and again offers a feeling of community that I love. Burk is owned by two guys (Brady Rose and Jimmy Orton) who are also both local products.
BRIAN: Finally, you have accomplished the real-life manifestation of a dream that has been many years in the making. Tell folks about the gallery and how they can learn more.
WILL: I’ve always been interested in picture framing and about six years ago I went to Charlotte and took some picture framing classes. While I was at the training I ordered a basic set of equipment and started framing in my basement. Initially I was just framing stuff for myself. That lead to framing things for friends and family. After about a year or so I pulled a business license and started framing for a wider circle of people as word of mouth spread.
At some point during my basement framing adventure I met a lady named Kelly Elliott that had been a custom framer for about twenty years. Kelly become my mentor and started helping me with my framing education.
In the fall of 2015 things were starting to get crowded in the basement and it seemed like the time was right to make a change. On November 11, 2015 my wife Lori and I stepped out and bought out a frame shop in Johnson City and moved the operation out of the basement to a brick and mortar retail location. Lori is an accountant and she has always taken care of the books, billing, tax filing and generally keep us on the right path. Kelly came along with us as well and has been instrumental in the store’s success acting as our store manager and lead framer. Bishop’s Art and Framing Gallery has been open for a little over a year now and has been great. We are located at 1305 North Roan Street in a house that was built in 1937. We offer a gift shop full of unique items that are made locally and regionally. Of course we also offer custom picture framing and there’s nothing we can’t frame. People can find us online at http://www.bishopsartandframing.com/ or just search for Bishops Art and Framing on facebook.