If you think 2020 was bad... our next story proves the saying there's always somebody who has it worse than you. Jeff and Sandy Lee owned two shops side by side in historic downtown Nashville, Tennessee. On a recent visit there, we learned about their incredible hard luck story, and how they have still emerged as optimists.
Geff Lee: The year started out with tornadoes and that just devastated, not only the downtown, but many of the suburbs. And then right, almost after that COVID hit and we were closed down for six weeks. And then after the six weeks, of course, then it was the honky tonks, and restaurants could be open for this time, to this time, this capacity, to that capacity, and no live music. The tourists did not come. And so, it was a very difficult year from that standpoint. And then the George Floyd riots happened, what months was that?
Sandy Lee: In the summer.
Geff Lee: Summertime. And they go right down Second Avenue up to the Legislative Plaza. And so that caused a lot of disruptions. A couple of weeks later, we had a brick thrown through our windows and I put bars up and you know, it's just been one thing after another. And then it really culminated on Christmas day when everything went up in smoke. Big bang.
On our recent visit to Nashville, Geff and Sandy Lee walked us from the nearest parking spot to the closest we could get to where their side by side shops used to be before the Christmas Day explosion. The FBI says a man blew up himself in an RV, damaging dozens of buildings and injuring three others.
Sandy Lee: And I had a text, I had a phone call right away on Christmas day. Geff was smoking a brisket for the family and running out to tell him there's been an explosion, downtown Nashville, I think it's affected us.
Geff Lee: What happened is the AT&T building is a new structure, and it's basically bomb proof. It took the blast and reflected the blast over and that's really what caused so much of the damage.
Sharyl: What’s the short term and long-term outlook now?
Geff Lee: The short term is just getting through the tape of insurances and whatnot.
Sandy Lee: Being patient.
Geff Lee: And being patient. I think that both of us realize that we're not going to let this define us. You know, it was a bombing, it happened. What's the chances? Never in a million years would I think it would happen. Never in a million years did I think we were shut down by COVID, but it's really how we bounce back from this that's going to define us and the communities. So we're optimistic.
Under the category of silver linings the Lees showed us two precious items recovered from their blown out store.
Geff Lee: And it was found on a fragment of wall that was still standing, which is, how does that even happen?
Their daughter’s charcoal drawing of Johnny Cash.
Sharyl: Who went in and got it?
Sandy Lee: The urban search and rescue, the police, the fire department. They're stationed down there every day right now and they were like Ms. Lee “look what we found”.
The second item: an American flag displayed in the store since it opened in 2011. The first responders returned it folded in a special display case.
Geff Lee: And we get there, and here is just a full troop of-
Sandy Lee: Maybe 20 people
Geff Lee: Police officers, first responders, recovery team. And they present us with this. And then on the back, you can see, why don't you hold that side? Is they signed it all. They framed it, and this is what they presented us.
Sandy Lee: They were so proud. They were so proud to save this.
Geff Lee: Pretty incredible moment.
Sharyl (on-camera): By some recent estimates, it could take years to restore the historic buildings and reopen the famous Second Avenue strip in downtown Nashville.