Three More Businesses Set to Close on Market Square

Latitude 35, 16 Market Square, Knoxville, December 2014

Latitude 35, 16 Market Square, Knoxville, December 2014

It’s the kind of headline I would not have imagined at this point in downtown’s redevelopment. Even yesterday when I wrote about business changes, they all seemed more or less for the better and simply a common pattern of re-alignment. Then comments started mounting about one restaurant and another, so I followed up. And the comments were pretty spot on.

I’ve actually been able to confirm very little beyond the fact that these businesses are closing. I may have updates even as the day goes on and I’ll try to post to the FB page and twitter if I learn more. It’s rare since I’ve been doing this that I get much in the way of “no comment,” but I got a good dose of it yesterday.

I’ll start with Latitude 35. It is definitely closing – Sunday will be their last day of business. The why part is a bit less clear. I spoke to several people, including a shift manager and several others around the square who said they are losing their liquor license. I also had one person tell me the new grease interceptor KUB is requiring is a problem for them. This is a theme among the restaurants on the square and off. The new grease interceptors are extremely expensive and most of the restaurants don’t own the building they inhabit, so it puts them in a position of spending tens of thousands of dollars for an improvement to a building they do not own.

I couldn’t confirm the above because when I called Gary Higgins, the manager, he didn’t answer, but rather texted me saying that I should email Jimmy Buckner, which I did. He didn’t respond in time for this article, but perhaps I’ll hear from him and update this portion a bit later.

Orange Leaf, 36 Market Square, Knoxville, December 2014

Orange Leaf, 36 Market Square, Knoxville, December 2014

Orange Leaf is also closing, but I know even less about this one. I was able to confirm they are closed as of last Sunday night. Additionally, all Knoxville locations of the chain closed, so I’m assuming the closure had nothing to do with downtown specifically. The building owner at 36 Market Square confirmed this much and I should be able to talk with him on the phone today to gather more information. Depending on what I learn there, I will update this article or write another if there is enough information to warrant that.

Finally, after ten years on Market Square, Shonos in City will likely soon close. I talked to owner Willy Rosenberg and his son Josh. They confirmed the pending closure, though the business is for sale should someone be interested. Willy has health issues to which he needs to attend and he mentioned the pending requirement of the new grease interceptor which will cost him nearly $20,000. He’s having a hard time justifying the expense this close to retirement age. He’d love to sell to an interested buyer and he would have liked to continue the business, but the combination of pressures seems insurmountable.

Shonos in City, 5 Market Sqaure, Knoxville, December 2014

Shonos in City, 5 Market Sqaure, Knoxville, December 2014

Taken individually, these might not seem too significant. For my part, I didn’t make it to Latitude 35 very often. Orange Leaf was a chain that in some ways seemed like an oddity downtown. We have Nama for sushi. To counter some of that, however, Orange Leaf seemed popular from its arrival and I know I was there far more often than I ever imagined – particularly for a certain five-year-old. And I really liked Shonos’ food and low prices – especially for lunch – and any business that’s been around for ten years and remodeled just last year is a shame to lose.

Of course, there’s also the momentum impact. To remove four (counting Steamboat) restaurants from one square all at once is a blow. How quickly we can replace them will be telling as to whether this is a glitch along the way or a sign that we have some trouble brewing.

I talked to several other business owners on the square about the grease interceptors and it is a major issue for several of them. Robert McClain told me they are making plans to add the interceptor at Blue Coast. B.G. DeHart at Stock and Barrel said they cannot justify the $30,000 – $40,000 it would cost them, so they have to wash all their dishes by hand (not having a dishwasher is a work-around for the grease interceptor). It’s a very big problem and a large additional cost for small businesses.

If you know of anyone who might be interested in buying Shonos in City, please have them call Willy at (865)544-5800. He’s likely closing just after the new year if he doesn’t find a buyer.

End of the Year Rush: Businesses Close, Open, Move

Rock Paper Hair Studio, 714 S. Gay,  Knoxville, December 2014

Rock Paper Hair Studio, 714 S. Gay, Knoxville, December 2014

There’s just something about the end of a year that makes us re-evaluate. On a personal level, we’re a year older for certain, heavier or healthier, a little richer or a little poorer, closer to our goals or further away. It must be similar for business owners as they survey the year that was, evaluate it and determine if they are happy with the year or if next year might be better. I’m not sure, but for whatever reason, businesses often make changes at the end of the year and this year is no exception.

Rock Paper Hair Studio, 714 S. Gay,  Knoxville, December 2014

Rock Paper Hair Studio, 714 S. Gay, Knoxville, December 2014

Rock Paper Hair Studio, 714 S. Gay,  Knoxville, December 2014

Rock Paper Hair Studio, 714 S. Gay, Knoxville, December 2014

I’ll start with the best news: an opening. It’s always a good thing when a new business opens and one opened recently at 714 S. Gay Street. Dustin Stewart and Jared Hollyfield are making a return of sorts. You may remember them from several years ago when they plied their trade at Salon Visage on Market Square. When it changed, they moved to Bearden, but missed the downtown vibe. So now they are back with Rock Paper Hair Studio. They offer a full range of salon services with a staff that includes Amy Koenig and Sudartha Line.

Future Home of Bullman's Gym, Kress Bldg., Gay Street, Knoxville, December 2014

Future Home of Bullman’s Gym, Kress Bldg., Gay Street, Knoxville, December 2014

A pending opening has been announced in the Kress Building with Terry Bullman opening a downtown version of his Bullman’s Kickboxing and Krav Maga. Krav Maga is a system of training and self-defense developed by the Israeli Army in the 1940’s. The original location is at 4511 Kingston Pike and I’m assuming this will be a second location. The gym will be located below the Kress Building in the basement – which will put it across the street from the planned basement bowling alley in the J.C. Penney Building. It’s a downtown subterranean fitness boom, of sorts. The street-level space is being offered for office or retail space. Please, somebody, anybody, bring a retail business to that street address. No more offices on the street, please! I wonder if Jay is still available? I hope to have an interview with Mr. Bullman, soon, regarding his plans for the space.

Cairo Cafe Moving, Knoxville, December 2014

Former Home of Cairo Cafe, Knoxville, December 2014

Cairo Cafe Moving, Knoxville, December 2014

Cairo Cafe Moving, Knoxville, December 2014

Two businesses have moves either pending or already executed. The first to hit the road, Cairo Cafe has moved about three blocks from their former location at 718 S. Gay Street to their new location below Sky Box at 415 S. Gay Street. They’ve left a building that seems worrisome to me – the roof-line is visibly sagging – and move to a space which has been woefully underutilized. I thought the Jack Cellar could be a cool spot and would make a great blues bar just as it was decorated, but that isn’t to be.

Cairo Cafe New Location, 415 S. Gay St.,  Knoxville, December 2014

Cairo Cafe New Location, 415 S. Gay St., Knoxville, December 2014

Cairo Cafe New Location, 415 S. Gay St.,  Knoxville, December 2014

Cairo Cafe New Location, 415 S. Gay St., Knoxville, December 2014

Instead, Cairo Cafe has moved closer to the highest concentration of restaurants and bars in the city and they hope this will increase their customer base. I spoke with manager Omar Yousif who said the move was sudden a couple of weeks ago in order to complete it before owner Rafik Hannah left the country for Egypt. The restaurant features a full bar and hookahs with a full menu of tobaccos. A full food menus offers a mix of Mediterranean and American dishes. The atmosphere reminds me of World Grotto, for those of you who remember that. Omar tells me they have about twenty different belly dancers who perform on the weekends.

Cairo Cafe New Location, 415 S. Gay St.,  Knoxville, December 2014

Cairo Cafe New Location, 415 S. Gay St., Knoxville, December 2014

Cairo Cafe New Location, 415 S. Gay St.,  Knoxville, December 2014

Cairo Cafe New Location, 415 S. Gay St., Knoxville, December 2014

Cairo Cafe New Location, 415 S. Gay St.,  Knoxville, December 2014

Cairo Cafe New Location, 415 S. Gay St., Knoxville, December 2014

Cairo Cafe New Location, 415 S. Gay St.,  Knoxville, December 2014

Cairo Cafe New Location, 415 S. Gay St., Knoxville, December 2014

I have to admit to two things regarding this business: First, when I wrote about Yassin’s Falafel House, I think I stated or implied that it was the only source for middle eastern food downtown. Not so. Additionally, I’ve never entered the Cairo Cafe because I have a hard time being around tobacco smoke and particularly don’t like to eat and smell smoke. My admission is that this is different. The place smelled like fruit – which is the flavoring in tobacco. I don’t think I would have associated the smell with smoke if I hadn’t known. It’s just not the same. I could eat there – or catch a show – I’m not opposed to a little belly dancing.

Steamboat, Market Square, Knoxville, December 2014

Steamboat, Market Square, Knoxville, December 2014

Steamboat, Market Square, Knoxville, December 2014

Steamboat, Market Square, Knoxville, December 2014

Steamboat, Market Square, Knoxville, December 2014

Steamboat, Market Square, Knoxville, December 2014

The pending move is that of Steamboat on Market Square. Their plan is to move back to the location they left when they moved downtown. Co-owner Maggie Cole told me business has been great on Market Square, but rent is only headed in one direction in the epicenter of downtown and they felt they would be best served to re-occupy the building they left. It has been remodeled and is owned by Maggie’s parents, so I’m guessing she can negotiate the rent. The new location is a few blocks farther out than the heart of Happy Holler at 2423 N. Central. The plan is to close the Market Square store at the end of the year and re-open at the new location as soon as possible, though there will be a gap of time between the two.

Finally, one business has already shuttered its doors and turned out the lights. The Knoxville Magazine published five issues (quarterly) and, by all accounts, produced a magazine that appealed to its target audience. A handsome magazine, Johnna Easter, associate publisher, told me it, “had been preforming quite nicely, many advertisers had embraced us and really appreciated the quality of the editorial content and the physical product. But after only 5 issues we had not yet become profitable.” It seems like a brief attempt, and a short time to expect a profit. I reached out to owner Dan Shannon for comment, but didn’t get a return email.

Taken all together it’s mostly good news at the end of the year: We have a new salon and our off-street spaces seem to be gain popularity with basement businesses (bowling and Bullman’s) on Gay Street and a loft business (Coldsteam Market) on Market Square. Both Cairo Cafe and Steamboat feel their new locations are a better fit. Even the loss of the Knoxville Magazine, though unfortunate, opens a prime retail spot in the Daylight building and the other retail outlets there might be better served to have a business which draws foot-traffic to the area.

So, What’s Your Big Idea?

Beth Papanek discussing Nanofermentation, Startup Day, The Standard, Knoxville, November 2014

You've had one, right? That idea that came to you as you pondered how to make a better ice cube or how to get a beer from the refrigerator without leaving your recliner? We've all said, "I bet if someone invented "X" they could get rich," or "I've … [Continue reading]

New Owners for Casual Pint and Knox Brew Tours Come to Downtown

Casual Pint, 421 Union Avenue, Knoxville, December 2014

When Nathan Robinette opened the first Casual Pint in Bearden, I'm not sure he had a plan to rapidly expand, but that's what happened. I first wrote about Casual Pint in May 2012, when I visited the Bearden location after hearing one was planned for … [Continue reading]

Jingle Bell Run Highlights a Christmas-Filled Weekend

BernaSanta with Christmas Rat, Market Square, Knoxville, December 2014

I hope each of you had a great weekend. Christmas activities continue to dominate the downtown landscape and, incredibly, it's all over next week and we'll be on to New Year and beyond. We took a little pause from Christmas for a quiet evening Friday … [Continue reading]