Julie Mullins, the manager and John Nolan, assistant manager of the new Peanut Shop at 23 Market Square graciously allowed me to take a few photographs while they talked about the new business. I found them dressed in work clothes and frantically trying to unbox, sort and arrange merchandise. The store was beginning to take shape, but still had a way to go. Each of them knows a bit about Knoxville. John lives with his wife in North Knoxville while Ms. Mullins lives just south of the city and has memories of downtown that go back to earlier incarnations in the 1970s with Watsons, Millers and other bygone landmarks.
As you can see in the pictures, there are approximately three million varieties of peanuts. It’s a rough estimate on my part, but there are peanuts flavored and spiced in just about as many ways as you could imagine. Some of the products offered are specialty products such as those in the pink containers from which part of the proceeds goes to fighting breast cancer. Others are more novelty, like the peanut characters for $6.99 which portray different types of work in a humorous way. Gift baskets will be offered and will no doubt be popular.
In some smaller way, the store may fit into the downtown food environment by offering pasta, sauces, ham (pictured here) and other foods. For the most part, however, the store is directed toward gifts and visitors to downtown who might drop in to find a snack to enjoy while walking about.
It’s interesting to note that of all of the other locations have one thing in common. Can you guess what it is? The other locations include Williamsburg, VA, Charleston, S.C., Savannah, GA and (soon to open), Gatlinburg, TN. Of course, it’s tourism being their life-blood. This made me wonder, “Why Knoxville?” The assistant manager acknowledged that it is a different kind of market. He referred to Knoxville’s situation as “event-based tourism.” It’s true if you look at the string of festivals about to explode into downtown: many people do visit the city, but it is for events, not so much as a matter of course.
I think I was hoping they might try to convince me that the company views Knoxville as an up-and-coming tourist destination, but that isn’t obviously true. In a way, the Knoxville store is an experiment for the company to see the reaction of a non-tourist city to their stores. I’ve heard various opinions as to how the store will do on Market Square, but I think it will be a fun addition. I can easily see buying gifts there and our out-of-town visitors will, I suspect, take some home.
I believe the plan is to open around next Tuesday, though that might change a bit one way or the other. Go in and take a look around. I think you’ll like it. Also, if any of you would like part-time work, they are looking to hire at least a couple of people for 10 to 20 hours a week (595-0122).