A couple of years ago, the Zion Climbing Center was one of six small businesses featured on the online marketing makeover reality show “Small Business Revolution – Main Street.” This month, it became endangered of being condemned.
The possibility of condemning the building at 118 N. Spruce St. was brought up at the September agenda meeting of the Searcy City Council.
“We received a complaint of the condition of that building,” Searcy Mayor Kyle Osborne said. “Code enforcement performed an inspection and basically closed it down [due] to hazardous conditions.”
Code Enforcement Department Director Jeff Webb said the building was inspected July 21 “and on the the 22nd of July, I called the owner, who lives in Massachusetts, and told him what we had done with a temporary working order to close it down, just to make him aware of what was going on. So I sent him a certified letter the next day on the 23rd and I hadn’t got a reply until Sept. 7th.”
Webb said the reason for the delay with the response is because the letter was sitting in a post office in Massachusetts that was “further out, way out in the country.”
Council member Don Raney said he didn’t realize there was a problem with the building. City Attorney Buck Gibson told him the wall and roof were caving in.
“There’s going to have to be a discussion on what happens to the structure, which would include the demolition, and that’s going to be a significantly more complicated process,” Gibson said, “... because it appears the building shares part of the property with a neighboring business.”
Gibson and he and Webb were asking for a public hearing to condemn the property. He called this the next step in the process. The public hearing will be held before the October City Council meeting.
The climbing center closed last spring because of COVID-19 concerns and because business declined with Harding University students being sent home for the remainder of the spring semester. Although the nonprofit reopened in October, it was closed again after the inspection “until an engineer can sign off on the safety of the roof and front wall of the building,” according to a Facebook post July 23. “We’ve not heard any updates from the building owners regarding how this will be resolved.”
The Zion Climbing Center was selected from among more than 220 nominations for one of the six slots on Season 4 of the reality series and was the first nonprofit to be featured on the show. Season 4 premiered in the fall of 2019.
Information on the business from the series described it as “a nonprofit with the intention of promoting community.” Sean and Emily Hudkins started the center and when the show information came out, it stated that the business had been operating for 12 years.
Searcy was chosen for “Small Business Revolution” in a national vote in February 2019 after applicants were whittled to a top six by Deluxe Corp., a Minnesota-based marketing company that produces the online series.
The other five businesses that were chosen to share in $500,000 in marketing and slight cosmetic makeovers were Savor+Sip, Nooma Life, Whilma’s Filipino Restaurant, El Mercado Cavadas and ARganic Woodwork. (Part of the $500,000 prize also went to community projects.)
Two of those businesses are no longer operating in Searcy. Savor+Sip closed Aug. 30, 2020, and ARganic Woodwork owner Coty Skinner has moved on to the real estate business.