Tour of New Union Shops, Plus More Tree and Vine

New Union Shops – Pre-Makeover, Union Avenue, Knoxville, February 2012

Yesterday’s blog post about the eminent Knoxville advent of The Tree and the Vine certainly stirred up quite a response. I’d e-mailed the owners to let them know I was posting about their business, so I hoped to hear from them and I did. What I didn’t anticipate was that I would hear from a person affiliated with the development of the building. Fortunately, everyone was pleased and an offer was extended for me to look around the building and see the plans.

Paul Karlsson, co-owner of The Tree and Vine along with his wife Terri, expanded on their plans and hopes for the new business, saying, “the name is primarily a reference to the Olive Tree and the Grape Vine (balsamics) since balsamic vinegar is made from grape must, which is made from cooked, white, Trebbiano grapes grown in the Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy.” Got that? Me either, but I’m hoping to learn all about it personally when Terri and Paul arrive. I’m guessing a trip to their store will be fun and educational as well as delicious.

The store in Asheville, and soon the one in Knoxville will carefully reflect their personal talents and skills as Terri designs the colors and textures while Paul plans the layout and lighting. He actually builds the cabinetry himself and he is “currently in the process of building the cabinetry in our shop,” from “natural maple and cherry,” which he hopes will set a pleasing atmosphere.

In addition to their Olive Oil, they are very proud of their Balsamic Vinegar. He insists, “after traveling all over Italy and tasting samples at International Fancy Food Shows, we still carry the best tasting aged Traditional Balsamic Vinegar we have ever tasted, regardless of price.” Hungry?

Later in the day I met the person who had offered the tour. He requested not to be named or photographed. When we met on the sidewalk he was wearing a fake nose, glasses and mustache . . . not really, but it’s a fun image, no? Actually, he was a very nice person who certainly had no reason other than kindness to offer me the tour.

Architectural Rendering of New Union Shops after make-over

He started by showing me the plans for the building and, thankfully, explaining what they meant. In a nutshell the exterior plans call for the entire front of the building to be glass. The bricks wrapping around the southwest corner of the building will be left and all the other frontage will be removed, probably within the next couple of weeks.

Fencing outside Sapphire – something similar for New Union Shops?

Over the large plates of glass will be a new awning, giving shelter to sidewalk traffic. He is also considering the addition of fencing similar to that in front of Sapphire, which, as you can see in the photograph, is very attractive. His thinking is to have it at the very edge of the sidewalk, leaving room between the tree wells to have outdoor seating while still allowing for a flow on the sidewalk.

Inside is pretty much a shell with dirt and gravel floors. While we were there workers were excavating the plumbing lines which had been installed with different plans in mind by the previous owner. They will likely be modified to fit the new plans for the space.

Interior View from the West (portion which will be The Tree and Vine)

And what are those new plans? I’m glad you asked. There is space for five storefronts in the building. One is already taken by Lellyett and Rogers, Printing and Reprographics which, I believe, mostly does printing and reproduction for construction related companies. They will stay in their current address, though their front will be partially altered.

The remaining spaces working from the western (Lellyett and Rogers) end will include The Tree and the Vine next door. Working back toward the Hotel Oliver, it is thought the next space might be a high-end men’s hair salon or barbershop. A couple have expressed interest, but nothing has been set.

Interior View of New Union Shops from the rear looking southeast

The next space is available, though they are picturing, perhaps, a food-related vendor, though not necessarily a restaurant. He mentioned that in the same since that The Tree and Vine is food-related with food products and kitchen supplies, there might be something for the next spot which would compliment that.

The final space on the end of the building across the alleyway from the Hotel Oliver is likely to be a restaurant. Whereas the others spaces have from just over 1000 to just over 1400 square feet, this space has over 1800 square feet will have plumbing to support a kitchen in the rear, with an exit into the alley. A large window will also be placed on the alley side at the end to provide additional light for the space.

Interior View of New Union Shops from the rear looking southwest

It is expected that the spaces will be ready for occupancy in June and, hopefully, the entire store-front will be filled this summer providing a very helpful connector to the stores in the Daylight Building on the next block.

It’s amazing to think how much Union Avenue has changed in the last two years and  it doesn’t seem to be finished. The possibility of a tour of the condos under construction on the upper floors of the Arnstein Building was dangled at the end of our conversation. I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, thanks to Paul for e-mailing me about his new business and thanks to the unnamed person who gave me the tour. Watch for him. He’s the guy with the fake glasses, nose and mustache.

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