A Walk Along the Tracks

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

By Janice A. Davis

Historic buildings have always drawn my interest, even at first glance. Driving down Main St. a year and a half ago, seeing the train, hearing its whistle while moving slowly down the track was a special moment for my husband and myself. We could sense and feel the nostalgia and activities of life and businesses of a previous era. We could also envision the possibilities of new life and energy once again in Rocky Mount’s future.

After moving here from Maine and seeing the prospect of revitalization with all its many segments, we now realize more than ever that Rocky Mount has an abundance of possibilities to become, once again, a shining star in North Carolina.

Offering to assist the Downtown Manager, Kevin Harris, I asked him how I might be of help personally. He requested that I visit business and owners, gain insight into the reasons they chose to be an active part of Downtown Rocky Mount and share those ideas with others. Each is a story within itself and worthy to be shared. It has and continues to be, a very enlightening and joyous experience to meet the owners and managers of various types of businesses and organizations.

Individually, they all have shared their own love of this historic downtown and felt drawn to help bring vitality back to this beautiful area. They too can see into the future as Kevin and I do. Rocky Mount has a magnetic appeal to many others also as you will see if you choose to read these personal glimpses into the future and growing businesses along the tracks.

Trax Coffee Bar

The delicious smell of coffee and the soothing sounds of a famous musician waft through the air while walking the halls of the historic site called “Station Square” in downtown Rocky Mount.

TRAX Coffee Bar sits one block away from the historic Helen P. Gay Train Station built in 1893 where multiple train lines service the city of Rocky Mount today. Sipping the “And Coffee” brand created by the owner of this unique shop, Marcus Anderson, brings new meaning to “Coffee & Music.”

Marcus Anderson and his partner Allohn Willis opened TRAX COFFEE BAR in January, 2020. Prior to closing due to Covid-19, they welcomed customers and hosted business meetings and those just wanting to enjoy a superb coffee creation.

Reopening in late summer, their busy days continued. TRAX Coffee Bar is the ideal place to meet, work, check your emails, text, or just take a deep breath. Two “Unity Affair” gatherings have been held in the evenings with many more planned for the future. Individuals and downtown businesses and organizations will be drawn together to embrace a friendly, diverse, happy and relaxing experience. Present also are vendors, food trucks and musicians, with special performances by the talented Marcus himself. Marcus Anderson is a famous composer, singer and saxophonist with 19 albums and CDs. He toured with PRINCE for 4 years as well as with artists such as Stevie Wonder, Ceelo Green and Sheila E. After meeting Marcus, I just say, “Alexa, play Marcus Anderson,” and I have my very own home concert while sipping coffee.

Meeting Marcus and his three other baristas; Hannah, Faith and Darius, was a special joy. They act as a close family and this is one of his favorite parts of the business. As a matter of fact, once you visit TRAX, you too will feel like family.

The shop serves its own brand of coffee, “AND COFFEE.” The name comes from the phrase, “coffee & music.” “AND COFFEE” is sold exclusively at TRAX and online on their website. Various creations are offered, hot or cold, along with muffins, ice cream served in a bowl or cone, and cold drinks and beer. As a side note, I met a customer there, Celeste Beatty, who is the owner of Harlem Brewing Co. She produces “The Sugar Hill Beer,” offered for sale at the shop.

If you are there at lunch, you can pick up a jerk chicken wrap made by “D Chill Spot,” another well-known downtown establishment.

Marcus has always been passionate about coffee! He has coupled his music and coffee business since 2015. While creating music, rehearsing or performing, he stated: “Coffee was always the thing that gave me a quick pick-me-up all my life.”

He chose Rocky Mount as the home for TRAX because he felt “the city was an up and coming town.” He loves being part of the city’s downtown revitalization! Continuing with his music career and operating TRAX, he occasionally acts as a barista too. He never sits still to relax. You can often find him volunteering his musical skills and talents with Ron Green and the children at The Boys & Girls Club within their music and drama activities.

His great desire is to bring people together in a responsible social distancing atmosphere through the unity affairs. He plans to hold his next event in October. Many ideas are being presented for the future including Comics & Coffee, Taco Tuesday and other unity affairs with musicians and other businesses involved as well as food trucks.

As I was interviewing Marcus, he was working on his latest venture, a hero comic book, named “THE CREATIVES,” along with the matching album and CD.

As I visit with each of these entrepreneurs, their enthusiasm and excitement for the downtown seemed so inspiring! Consider “YOUR PART” in uniting the people as well as businesses and organizations in our great dynamic INNER CITY. Join the fun, have a coffee and make others smile. Enjoy your life a little more here in Rocky Mount. Listen to the soothing jazz tunes by our celebrity Marcus.

“Coffee & Music” are always a great combination.

The Bath Place

The Bath Place is located in the famous Douglas Building on the corner of N.E. Main St. and Thomas St. This block is a showplace for Rocky Mount’s revitalization efforts. I feel like I’m strolling down a street in New Orleans or Beal St. in Memphis as I casually enter the stores and long to own one myself and greet customers on a daily basis.

Kimberly Clayton, who is the owner and miracle artisan and operator of this lovely corner shop has welcomed her customers and friends for 8 years at its current location. After being a businesswoman for 10 years in another career Kimberly began a search to make soap for family members. This desire brought out her creative talents and a new world began to open up for her. This love for her new venture led her to her current successful bath and spa business here in Rocky Mount.

She sells her handmade products in her shop, THE BATH PLACE, over the internet, in Whole Food Market, at LaRema’s Coffee and various boutiques. Kimberly is one of the happiest shop owners I’ve ever met. She graciously welcomes everyone with her beautiful smile. While I was visiting with her, Keyana Walston ran in on her lunch break. She works at nearby City Hall and wanted to get one of her favorite soaps. I could tell she was a repeat customer while sensing the “family feel” of the two ladies. First time visitors, like myself, immediately become family to Kimberly.

She is requesting anyone seeking high quality bath and spa products to stop by and try her amazing products. The aroma in the store is wonderful, making you feel great just by smelling the scents. With such an extensive supply of soaps, lotions, candles, bath bombs and lip balms, there’s certainly something of interest for everyone!

For a joy for all your senses drop by Tuesday through Saturday from noon to six. Consider gifts for others as well as yourself. Each handmade bar of soap is a unique individual creation and truly a work of art. Using her products benefits everyone, even the environment since they are each chemical free.

Kimberly Clayton is an avid supporter of downtown revitalization and knows other businesses should consider opening a store in the inner city. Her successful venture can be motivational for you too. Join the family of current patrons and businesses and experience your revitalization dream for yourself by joining those dedicated to bringing back the enthusiasm in Rocky Mount along the tracks.

Dynamik Learning

Meeting Tia Lucas, owner of Dynamik Learning, is the beginning of a dynamic educational experience for children, teens and adults. Her tutorial and teaching program center is located at Station Square in inner city Rocky Mount. Entrance to the center is at 169 Nash St.

Educational Hubs are full day programs for elementary and high school students doing virtual studies from their off-site schools. A full staff is able to give personal attention to each student. Needs assessment is important to Tia, Brianna, Tyreia, Brandon and Jasmine. Full day classes are offered as well as after school tutoring. ACT and SAT prep classes are also held at DYNAMIK LEARNING. Sessions are given for teachers preparing for the Teacher PRAXIS. The staff provides the tools and techniques for today’s learning processes giving students skills to cope successfully in their learning environment.

Tia is a certified teacher who left the traditional classroom to venture on her own in a untraditional manner. Her background and experiences allow her the chance to offer her own special skills to her students who can then cope successfully in varied learning processes and excel in areas they might otherwise miss. She and her staff are dedicated to help each student gain confidence and the foundation to build on their abilities.

The philosophy of DYNAMIK LEARNING is to teach their students while including the entire family in the learning process. “The home should be as effective as the classroom where parents are guiding the children to learn something new daily at home. Everyday experiences are important as well,” explains Tia. “Learning is continuous; we all help our children learn.”

Tia first opened Dynamik Learning 2014. After outgrowing her three previous facilities she moved to Station Square in 2019. She is rapidly expanding.

As a former teacher myself, I was excited to see the students first-hand. I looked directly into their eyes and saw a light that showed their excitement of the learning processes available to them. The confidence and potential we strive to instill in our younger generation was very evident. They were polite, attentive to their studies, respectful and happy. It was a joy to see them working and later during their lunch and free time in the beautiful courtyard.

When families and individuals are seeking additional teaching and tutorial programs DYNAMIK LEARNING is right down the track. This option may just be the right choice! Call Tia at 252-442-0466 to discuss your needs for you and your family.

Station Square is filled with vital retail and service shops as well as different service organizations but there are still a few more suites available to rent or lease. Join the pride and happiness you feel downtown along the historic buildings and our fabulous train station. Be part of those patronizing downtown merchants. Tia Lucas and her staff are doing their part to revitalize Rocky Mount and the world. Won’t YOU help make a difference too?

Affordable 2 Insurance Services

Affordable 2 Insurance Services has been serving its clients for 10 years in Station Square. The very visible storefront is on the corner of Nash and S. W. Main St. It is one of the busiest businesses in this lovely area of the revitalized blocks of downtown Rocky Mount.

Owner, Deborah Johnson, her daughter, Stephanie, and Cynthia, give personal customer care service a new meaning. They offer one on one attention, answering very important questions, giving the highest quality advice to their customers wide range of needs. They represent over eight different companies. These companies offer various policies for home, auto and commercial investments.

Deborah worked for Bottoms Insurance Co. prior to opening her own business. She chose to have and keep her business downtown in the inner city because, as she said, “People have always had an insurance company available in the downtown.”

Stephanie, who has worked with her mom for six years, quickly greets everyone as they enter the office. She knows her clients by name and is ready to assist them at all times.

Deborah excitedly explained, “Customer service is the key! Without quality customer service, people can’t get what they need.”

Stephanie added, “Most of our clients are on a fixed income and very faithful in making their payments. They need to save as much money as possible. They come in the office because we are convenient and make them feel like family.” She went on to say, “When people come in, we take the extra time to go through complete details about their insurance needs and questions. If they don’t understand the insurance fees, they get quite concerned. We help explain those details, taking the next step. We don’t want to just take their money. I think we choose to do more for our customers than others do.”

Looking for a new or different insurance company in an accessible quaint location? Just visit the ladies at AFFORDABLE 2 INSURANCE SERVICES and become part of their huge family of over 2000! As a longtime business in downtown Rocky Mount and part of its ever-growing revitalization, they are encouraging others to join with them along the tracks. Grow your business with them to help. Bring quality services and products to our citizens of Nash and Edgecombe counties as well as statewide.

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