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.

Comments

  1. I heard today that The Peanut Shoppe (also on Market Square) closed. Any truth to that?

  2. Shirley Reilich says:

    So exciting that Rock Paper has relocated to downtown Knoxville. Dustin and Jared are so talented and their new Salon is amazing ! Feeling pampered every time I visit !

  3. Flossie McNabb says:

    I will so miss Steamboat! I love the people who work there and the quality of their food. As far as the Magazine space goes I am somewhat relieved because we need retail on Union Ave with vibrant store fronts. Perhaps a donut shop or a bead store similar to Lily’s Bead Box? All ages would love it.

  4. Is the Kress being renovated? When J sold, I figured it would undergo something major with the upper floors built out for residential.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says:

      I’m hoping, but all I heard so far is about the basement. Supposedly basements are the hardest to fill, so that is encouraging. The company that owns it, Henry and Wallace also owns the Century Building and they are offering the upper floors there for sale, but as a build-out after purchase, if I’m understanding correctly, so maybe they will do the same with the Kress Bldg. It on my list. 🙂

  5. What’s the scoop on Steamboat’s impending move? The new location is more than “a few blocks” beyond Happy Holler — it’s at least a mile further. And that particular stretch of Central is especially forlorn — well removed from the partial revitalization that’s hit lower Central. Development of this area might be good for the city but seems like an odd choice for Steamboat from a business perspective.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says:

      I think I counted twelve blocks. Rent on Market Square was cited as an issue and they already own the building they are moving to. They’ve operated the business there before, so I assume they feel it will work. I, like you, was a little surprised when I looked at exactly where they are moving.

  6. I’m told that Shonos will be closing at the end of the month.

    • What? Oh no! They are decent sushi alternative to Nama. And you can usually get a patio table when the weather is nice.

      • Yeah. The Eddie Special is one of my favorite restaurant meals in Knoxville. I don’t have any solid confirmation of their closing, so treat it as a rumor.

        • I have a friend who is a server there, and she mentioned on Facebook that Shonos is closing at the end of December. If Latitude and Orange Leaf are true, that’s three businesses closing on Market Square right at once. I wonder if rent is being jacked up significantly on the Square these days.

  7. If rumor mill proves to be true and Lattitudes does close, I would like to see a retail / non restaurant business move in that space and fully utilize both the upstairs and downstairs. I guess time will tell.

  8. Mary Holbrook says:

    Knoxville Magazine was doomed with Dan Shannon completely failed to appreciate the jewel he had in Gay Lyons.

  9. The Twitter-dom is reporting that Latitude35 is also closing. Frankly, this is an expected and natural process. As the number of choices increase, the quality bar gets pushed higher, starting an inevitable weeding-out process. It’s always sad and disheartening to see any business fold, but overall, we end up with better retail and restaurants in the long run.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says:

      OK, this makes two you guys have potentially added to my list. Could I get some tips offline when twitter-dom speaks? I can’t catch it all without your help! 🙂 To your point, I agree. I used to get upset at every business that closed, fearing a reversal of our momentum. Now I only get upset at the ones that I think are very high quality, add to the general quality of life downtown and are probably just too early in our evolution to make it. I’ll check into Latitude.

  10. Belly-Dance Basement would be a fun name for a business.

    Krav Maga sounds like a villain from Star Wars. “Look out, Luke! Krav Maga has a blaster!”

    Those buildings on the 700 block are suffering from demolition by neglect. It will be a shame when they collapse. Maybe they’re owned by the same twits that own the parking lot across the street?

    I’ll miss Steamboat Sandwiches. Their counter service was convenient for those of us who like to eat lunch in Krutch Park. Is Subway the only counter service place left now? Yuck.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says:

      Aren’t Lenny’s and Empire Deli “counter service?”

    • 700 block has suffered for years, too far from Market Square to get foot traffic and no free parking is close, but not all the buildings are going down. The Cook Loft building is standing strong and also holds a counter style restaurant in Laurel Mountain Eatery.

      • Chris Eaker says:

        Don’t forget about the Dwight Kessel Garage on State Street. It’s just a free as State, Market, and Locust Street Garages.

  11. Regarding the Cairo Cafe building, they recently removed and rebuilt the parapet wall (roofline). It looks old and like it is dilapidated, but it is actually restored. Interestingly, I have photos of the building from the 20s and they depict it looking just as precarious at that time. It’s always been that way.

  12. Mary Holbrook says:

    Has Orange Leaf Yogurt also closed?

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