‘Cheers’ to downtown — Local taphouse thriving, looking ahead
By Lynn J. Richardson
It would be easy to be a Scrooge in today’s challenging environment. And much like Ebenezer, Cheri Tinney, co-owner of Elizabethton’s Riverside Taphouse, is looking at her past, her present and her future this holiday season.
But that is where any similarity between Scrooge and Tinney stops. Tinney is nothing but grateful for her recent months as a business owner in the community and she is very optimistic about the future.
For Tinney and her husband, Michael Howell, co-owner of the Taphouse, opening what some might call the Elizabethton version of ‘Cheers’ 17 months ago has been “a beautiful experience.”
“It has been wonderful because we don’t have family close by,” Tinney said, noting that many of the regular customers and their downtown neighbors have become like family.
“We have family dinners once a month with regulars,” she added. “We always wanted to be here for people who are looking to find other people to network and socialize. We never expected to be received as well as we have and be as connected to our customers who we now look upon as family.”
She is also excited to have actual family involved. Her younger brother, Hunter Tinney, formerly of Morristown, is the newest beertender at the Taphouse.
Tinney is also grateful for her downtown neighbors who she says have been so supportive.
“Jiggy’s (Jiggy Ray’s) is just across the street, and Dan’s (Big Dan’s Barbecue) is next door. We’ve built a great network with both of those businesses and brought more life to this block of downtown Elizabethton.
“Now with the Chamber down here and two newly available buildings across the street — one for sale and one for rent — we are excited to see what new exciting businesses will come. They won’t stay empty long. This block is so fresh and full of life. There’a a lot of momentum.”
Tinney and Howell started renovations on the Taphouse in 2018, opening in August 2019. They celebrated their one year anniversary during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Tinney says things have been “interesting.”
“It has been a roller coaster but we have been so blessed in the support we’ve received from our city council, our customers, our neighbors and our family. This community really came out to save small businesses. Our local folks are big supporters of downtown here in Elizabethton, and we’ve survived because the community has rallied around us.
“We were closed for a few weeks but then we re-opened and were able to do so safely, offering curbside pick-up and making some changes like removing barstools and making sure the seats in the shop are socially distanced. That’s a little difficult because customers can’t engage with the person behind the bar as usual, and it’s hard to make those tough calls, but it’s working.”
Tinney also says that renovating and reopening the back patio from May to October was also very helpful.
Now, with the holidays approaching, Tinney says she feels it is more important than ever to be open and available to those who may not have plans.
“We were open on Thanksgiving and it turned out to be quite a good night so we are excited to have everyone who isn’t traveling and has no place to be able to come in on Christmas Eve.”
The Taphouse will have adjusted hours that day, opening at 2 p.m. and closing at 9 p.m., allowing for people to do last minute shopping with them as well as coming in to socialize.
“We want to make sure and provide a place for our regulars,” she added.
Riverside Taphouse will close on December 25 and 26.
“We’ve timed our life around owning a small business,” she laughed. “The shop owns us. We’re married to it and to each other and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Being able to be small business owners in a community that is on the rise is so exhausting, but so rewarding,” Tinney added. “Sometimes you just have to take a big breath and step back out of it.”
Whenever things get hectic, sometimes that means taking a moment and retreating into a mop closet, Tinney says.
“That’s the only place where you can be completely alone. It is the only place where you can step away for a minute and catch your breath in our tiny little shop.”
And while she is inside, she says, it feels so surreal. Outside she hears people laughing, talking and enjoying one another’s company.
“You hear the roar of happiness and that’s when you realize — this is why we did this.”
Riverside Taphouse is located in downtown Elizabethton at 635 E. Elk Avenue.