One More Final (?) Closure on Market Square – and a Rumor Addressed

Peanut Shop Closed, Market Square, Knoxville, January 2015

Peanut Shop Closed, Market Square, Knoxville, January 2015

The closure of the Peanut Shop on Market Square has been reported elsewhere, but not mentioned here, as it happened over the holidays. Hopefully it will be the final closure on Market Square for the foreseeable future and we’ll have good news to report soon. There are many reasons businesses fail and they certainly fail everywhere, but when so many fail in such a short time in the heart of Knoxville, it’s somewhat startling.

I thought we might take a look at some of the reasons these businesses ended. I had the opportunity to talk at some length with a former manager of the Peanut Shop (who asked that her name not be used). I’ll also address a rumor that has floated around downtown recently.

There is really very little in the way of a thread that runs through the various businesses which have closed. I’ve mentioned that owner Willy Rosenberg has health issues and didn’t have a great last part of the year. Latitude 35 had a number of issues, among them the fact that they lost their alcohol license. Steamboat is returning to a previous location where they own the building and won’t have to pay rent. Those are all local businesses.

Shono's Closing, Market Square, Knoxville, January 2015

Shono’s Closing, Market Square, Knoxville, January 2015

There are two franchise businesses which have closed: Orange Leaf and the Peanut Shop. As I mentioned in the update to the triple closing article, Orange Leaf has problems which have nothing to do with Market Square. All the stores in Knox County closed at the same time. There is also a 33 million dollar lawsuit against the chain. The one on Market Square seemed popular enough to me, but how many cups of yogurt would you have to sell every day to keep the lights on, pay the rent and the employees? It’s hard to imagine selling enough.

The Peanut Shop is a bit more confounding to many downtown residents. It seemed really popular. Urban Woman and I took all out-of-town guests there as did many people we know – and they usually bought nuts and other items. We also bought a significant number of gifts, host/hostess presents and nuts for parties. It was often crowded and not unusual to see people with arms-full of of items. Urban Woman single-handedly bought most of their root beer, which she loved. So what went wrong?

The former manager said there were a number of issues, some related to Market Square and downtown and others not so much. First, she felt the store was doomed from the beginning due to unrealistic expectations from the Smithfield corporation which owned it. She indicated that the corporate model involved passing on a share of corporate costs to each franchise, including book-keeping and other costs. They also had to provide extensive benefits due to the fact that they were part of a larger corporation. The company essentially expected $25,000 worth of business each month from the beginning. They didn’t make that.

Steamboat Closed, Market Square, Knoxville, January 2015

Steamboat Closed, Market Square, Knoxville, January 2015

Strangely, a visit from the corporate office in late summer/early fall ended with accolades to the local franchise, indicating the team and the store were doing very well. That was about three months from the decision to close it for good. Interestingly, it outlasted the Gatlinburg store which opened about the same time two years ago and closed last March. That sort of shoots down the idea that the store needed to be in more of a tourist area.

She did cite some specific issues with downtown. First, she feels the daily foot-traffic just isn’t sufficient for a store like that to survive. There are enough people when the weather is good and a lot is happening downtown, but take, for example, January and February with the kind of weather we are slated to have this week and the store cannot keep up the sales pace required.

A larger issue, she felt, was the homeless issue on the square. Daily issues arose with homeless people coming through the store to eat the samples and wanting to linger until they were full. Additionally, the groups of homeless people who are increasingly camping out on the square each day became a problem. The stage has varying numbers of homeless people any given day who often spend the day there – doing what? Customers were often panhandled.

Homeless on Market Square Stage, Knoxville, January 2015

Homeless on Market Square Stage, Knoxville, January 2015

The group of young homeless people who travel in a pack with their animals were a particular problem. Their aggressiveness with panhandling and the fact that they camped in front of the store – to charge their cell phone, no less – she felt, made customers uncomfortable. The sight of this group eating food from the garbage cans on the square isn’t exactly good for a food business.

She also mentioned parking, feeling that it costs too much at $7, if you just want to spend a couple of hours downtown. I pointed out that $7 is the maximum for a day in the garage. It’s actually a dollar an hour, so a couple of hours costs a couple of dollars. Pretty cheap compared to most cities I’ve ever visited, but I’ve said that so many times on this blog, I don’t know a new way to say it. She mentioned that street parking could be brought back to Market Square so people could park in front of the stores they want to visit.

Sounds like she’s down on downtown, right? Actually, she said she feels downtown is still ascendant saying, “it hasn’t reached its zenith.” She even indicated she will consider opening a business downtown at some point. To her, the best scenario is a local business with money to cover six months of expenses or more. She pointed out that, often, chains care only about the bottom line and will quickly leave if they don’t see the desired profit, but also that often local business owners open their doors with the expectation that the business will support itself from the beginning.

She didn’t name a specific business that she felt would be good for downtown, but she mentioned businesses that, “are a draw,” and immediately named a chain: Apple. She’s not the first person to wish we had an Apple store downtown and she feels they have a different corporate approach that would work in the city. She also felt that the Chamber and other groups downtown like CBID and the Market Square Merchants Association need to become more aggressive in identifying the impediments to downtown businesses and then they need to work to find solutions.

But that’s an article or articles for another day, as are the increasing rents on Market Square and the grease interceptor issues. We have plenty of obstacles with which we must contend, but I’m still very optimistic. I’ve lived downtown five years and written this blog for nearly that long and this is the first time I remember hitting such a significant downturn. Taken together, the last five years have been an amazing time of growth. Clearly that doesn’t mean we can become complacent going forward.

Oh, and the rumor? The rumor has persisted for the last week or so that Bluetique would join the list of closed businesses. Not true according to the manager to whom I spoke yesterday. She said the business is doing very well and they are holding a big January sale in order to make room for spring fashions. So, rumor killed.

Comments

  1. What I’ve noticed about Knoxville, specifically downtown from having two locations there:

    1) The homeless/panhandling isn’t just on Market Square. A very large homeless population hangs out in the library downtown and spills out into the surrounding areas, usually waiting on the trolley. Also around Krutch park/Gay Street. So, businesses in other locations have to deal with the same problem as the Market Square people do.

    2) It’s been alluded to before, but the majority of citizens of Knoxville are not conditioned to walking anywhere – say to explore downtown. I joke that if they can’t park in your lap they’re not coming. My location in the Medical Arts building was fine for parking because people could park in the 15 minute meters in front of the post office and run in, but my location in the Walnut building got zero traffic. A portion of that was due to the homeless issue mentioned above, but a large part was because people would have had to walk a few blocks from their car. Yes, there’s the lot across the street, but the fear of being booted kept a lot of people away. And this brings me to a third point that a lot of people don’t consider.

    3) The weather in Knoxville sucks. The average number of rainy days according to the government’s National Weather Service page is 125.2. That means that more than 1 of 3 days it’s raining. That doesn’t include gloomy dark overcast days, nor does it include days like yesterday where the starting temp was in the single digits. What this means to a business owner that’s not a core – lunch/dinner/bar business is people won’t get out to shop on those days. They will just wait for another day. Sure, if you work downtown then if it’s raining you “might” go out to grab lunch, or if you already had plans to meet friends after work at your favorite bar, but nobody is going to get out in the rain to go to the Peanut Shop, or Rala, or any other similar business. And they certainly aren’t going to walk 3-4 blocks in the rain to visit. So, when you lose over 1/3 of your selling days to weather that makes having a successful business even harder.

  2. Suzanne Carlson says:

    I would love to have a “truly” Chinese Restaurant on Market Square,
    And a Radio Shack.

    • Bay Loftis says:

      I’ll second Suzanne’s wish for a Chinese restaurant, but I’m not sure if she means “truly” as in “genuine Chinese cuisine” or as in “traditional, crazy awesome American idea of Chinese cuisine.” I would love to be able to get some cheap’n’easy moo goo gai pan for lunch, but that in no way could be misconstrued as actual fare served in China.

      Other than that, I worry that there are already too many restaurants downtown. I would really like to see some more commercial enterprises like a drug store, a tea room/shop, a wedding boutique, and a pet grooming/doggie day care/one-day-a-week veterinary office.

      And finally, my sister from Las Vegas came to Knoxville for Thanksgiving, and she was delighted to find so many gift shops/boutiques on Market Square. She declares there is nothing like the area in Las Vegas. Sure, they have topless coffee shops, day clubs, luxury retail, and ice bars all over the place, but they do not have unique, locally-supplied shops like RALA and Nothing Too Fancy. She got much of her holiday shopping done right here. Take that, Versace!

  3. The problem all the way around seems to be the city wanting to get involved in anything! There are plenty of larger or midgrade cities who have closures on every given day and it isn’t even noticed, but here its like one more nail in a every growing coffin. I know ppl enjoy the presence of mom and pop shops so to speak and I understand the glamour of their warm and fuzzy feel for your everyday tourist, but what about your everyday resident if downtown? I think the city really needs to look at the turn over or under of these small shops with huge dreams a start getting some places downtown that aren’t just for echo friendly hipsters. Not that I have an issue with that time of person, but let’s put this in perspective, for your everyday person who wants to stroll downtown but doesn’t have a $30 meal budget or a $100 shopping budget, what can they eat, subway…..wow! Exciting! Like there aren’t 9000 more in the rest of Knoxville. Where can they get produce? Meat? Dry goods? Ummmm, yeaaaa they can fight through UT campus traffic and go to WalMart or publix. Kinda defeats the goal of a pedestrian friendly city. I think downtown needs to def address the pan handling issue only because the actually foot traffic friendly parts of downtown are so small in density that the problem seems so massive.
    Im from Baltimore and I went to college in Philadelphia, I’ve seen a whole lot worse as far as homeless issues, however there was so much more to do then visit one street in the city so they panhandled everywhere. I really think this city needs to go to the drawing board and decide if the really want to be a city, or not. Right now it feels like a scruffy town. There isn’t enough around to constitute calling it a city, meaning downtown that its. Its almost like a glorified over sized extension if Bearden.
    maybe the city should bring in things people actually need, not just things they spontaneously shop on a weekend out. Not just things that look pretty from the street or in someone’s head. I think the city needs to pull their heads out of the sand before they lead to Knoxville’s 3rd demise…weren’t The others enough. Oh and stop tearing down stuff to put parking in. The city is becoming one overgrown parking garage! Thats all we essentially have to look at anymore. Visit Knoxville and see our parking lots!! Lord I don’t know who works in that office but obv they don’t have google or they would know what a real city should look like.
    I’m not on a sushi budget or a $15-25 budget for 6 shrimp on a skewer. What about the average Joe who loves the atmosphere of downtown but can’t afford to chill there? I miss my WAWA. Im excited about the new bowling alley but only if they don’t charge $8 a game because they are in the basement of Gay St.
    I also agree parking is way cheaper then most cities but on the flip side most cities have a lot more to do so it averages out in my opinion.

  4. Gay Lyons says:

    And hopefully I’m not being too terribly self serving, but for those who don’t know about the important role k2k played in the redevelopment of downtown–referenced in Jesse’s article–here’s a link to my dissertation about k2k.
    http://web.utk.edu/~wlyons/glyonsdis.pdf.
    I was merely an observer, but I think I observed some important stuff. If you want to skip the academic mumbo jumbo, just read pp. 43-71 and 85-90.

  5. With regards to parking, even cheaper than $7 is the back in parking on the bridge at the end of S. Gay St. where I parked for two hours yesterday in one of the metered spots for a whole quarter.

    • Gay Lyons says:

      In case you don’t know the recent history of Market Square, this is a good report from Jesse Fox Mayshark in Metro Pulse. Jesse did a great job of describing the forces in play at the time and the many people who helped make Market Square what it is today. Yes, disclaimer, Bill Lyons is my husband so I’m probably a bit biased, but there’s a good reason there’s a Bill Lyons Pavilion on Market Square.
      http://monkeyfire.com/mpol/dir_zine/dir_2002/1217/t_citybeat.html

  6. Art Wagner says:

    As if it was designed for this thread, an article appeared in the Washington Post: “Why No One Likes Indoor Malls Any More” http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/01/06/why-no-one-likes-indoor-malls-any-more/ by Emily Badger. A particularly pertinent paragraph really hit home–
    “The mall that’s viable now is different in some notable ways that go beyond the quality of its brands: It’s open-air instead of hermetically sealed, its stores turn outward instead of in, it has restaurants below and apartments above, which means that some people don’t even need to drive there. In place of the giant mega-block wrapped in parking, it has its own compact street grid with pedestrian plazas. It feels almost like a neighborhood. It has room for a skating rink.”

    Remind you of anything?

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says:

      That’s funny. I guess we were ahead of the times when we were behind the times. I was thinking earlier today of ways we’ve gone back in time – listening to low-quality recordings over little earphones – like the old transistor radios, and watching video content on little computer screens like the old tiny television I had back in the day. Stick around long enough, I suppose . . .

  7. Jonathan Sexton says:

    Thanks for going into detail about why some of these businesses are closing. It’s eye opening and not necessarily the Doomsday event its often made out to be. Business is risky, and not everyone makes it- but if a business can figure out how to do something unique, special, or meet a need- then it can thrive. Tomato Head and Pres Pub have shined here for years. The best businesses downtown have succeeded because they excel at their speciality and/or meet a need- (i.e Rala, Nothing Too Fancy, Meadowsweet Massage). I’d obviously never wish failure on anyone– but it may be good for the long term growth of downtown Knoxville as a sustainable and growing place to “live, work, and play”- if a handful of restaurants fall victim to attrition– IF they are replaced by other types of businesses that fill in critical gaps in services that keep downtown from evolving into full on living center and not just a really pretty food court / entertainment center. I love downtown restaurants, I eat at one almost daily and try to rotate, but people vote with their wallets and that is evident here. Best of Luck to everyone in their next adventures and can’t wait to see what comes next for Market Square and Downtown.

  8. Bill Lyons says:

    I would like to take the opportunity to provide a bit of history on the issue of traffic on the Square. I was privileged to have chaired KCDC when we had responsibility for the getting development plans for MS during 2001 -2002. We had a very extensive and very public process that led to the Market Square Development Plan. This plan included the MS Garage, redesign of the public space on the Square, the redesign of Krutch Park, the move from a parking lot to Krutch Park Extension, public support for a Cinema and for renovation of historic buildings and facade financial participation in facade improvements for buildings around the square. It included working with property owners organically rather than imposing centralized ownership and development as had been proposed in earlier iterations.

    During that process some very well meaning and able folks, including a subset of property owners, pushed for traffic through MS with parking and or drop-off directly in front of businesses. The idea was that pedestrian malls were dying and the concept would not work. That idea was vetted but ultimately dismissed. I and others always believed that the size and location and special sense of place that was MS would indeed work well. Our approach was public parking nearby at a reasonable cost. Our office later decided on free nights and weekends. I think that we ultimately made the correct call. Obviously Market Square does work very well as a pedestrian area. Also, of course, there are challenges with getting the right mix of businesses that can be successful in this unique environment. Thanks to all for investing your interest and time discussing this topic.

  9. All due respect to your unnamed source, but bringing parking back to Market Square strikes me as an awful idea. Downtown is not a strip mall, nor should it be. In bigger cities, nobody assumes they should be allowed to park immediately in front of their destination. Instead, people park in off-site garages, often some distance away, and walk or take transit for the final leg of their trip. And Knoxville already offers several free parking options within spitting distance of downtown — even during weekday business hours. The lot off Jackson under the expressway in Old City, for example, is always virtually empty during the day. Although few take advantage of this option, it’s barely 1/2 a mile from Market Square — a 10 minute walk. Again, in bigger cities, that wouldn’t be a problem, but Knoxvillians seem to have a perverse aversion to walking even short distances. Same with the lot next to the Art Museum bordering World’s Fair park. 10 mins to Market Sq — at least when the pedestrian bridge is open. And the lot on W Jackson by the tracks is a good night and weekend option. Off-site parking would have the additional benefit of spreading pedestrian traffic beyond the MS and Gay St, where retail is already concentrated, thus creating potential for filling out downtown’s retail offerings on Clinch, Walnut, Summit Hill, etc.

    I think there is already too much personal automobile traffic through the downtown. In my dreams, the core downtown area — bounded by Henley, Summit Hill and JWE would be restricted to public transit and official vehicles during normal business hours, while private automobiles would be diverted to lots and garages on the fringes of downtown, and the existing parking garages that consume so much of our limited downtown space would be torn down and replaced with attractive retail and housing. Needless to say, MS would remain car-free.

  10. Umm…I’ll have what they’re having….but, didn’t they forget to name-drop Kanye??

  11. As we enter 2015 and we hear sad news that many of our friends and neighbors on Historic Market Square, Knoxville are closing their doors, including:
    Metro Pulse, with all the great writers and editors like Heather Joyner Spica, Coury Turczyn, Joe Sullivan, Ian Blackburn, Matthew Everett and Jack Neely (though we’re excited by the launch of The Knoxville Mercury with Kim Trent and Knox Heritage to take its big-shoed place);
    Shonos inCity (this one really hurt– good luck Willy and staff)
    just ripe (another big ouch, but Charlotte Tolley and marches gamely and greenly forward with her great work with our nationally-acclaimed and recognized Market Square Farmers’ Market);
    Steamboat Sandwiches (moving but still with us in Scruffy City);
    Latitude 35 (gotta tell ya, we were a bit more fond of its predecessor World Grotto (for some reason or another), although we liked everyone in the business which had morphed into Latitude from our own Moroccan-themed Crystal Cave whilst we were away on Adventure Sabbatical);
    Knoxville Magazine (where our own Kimberly Pettigrew worked alongside Gay Henry Lyons and crew for five beautiful issues);
    Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt and
    The Peanut Shop of Knoxville (which were chain franchises yes, but purveyors of delicious treats we often craved)

    the closures have been stunning to say the least… BUT
    there are many very very strong businesses booming, expanding and opening on and around our favorite place on Earth, Market Square- all maintaining or increasing the vibrancy of our awesome Downtown Knoxville, and all helped by our very supportive Mayor Madeline Rogero and Her tremendous City of Knoxville – Government (including Downtown Director Rick Emmett and Judith Foltz and the City of Knoxville Special Events office who help us pull off 6 Market Square FREE events each and every year)

    Just to name a few of our long-time neighbors and new friends and the dynamism they add to our Downtown Renaissance: Visionaries like Bill Lyons and Laurens Tulloch of the Cornerstone Foundation, Governor Bill Haslam, Developers like David Dewhirst, Leigh Burch III, Randy Boyd, Jeffrey Nash, Buzz Goss, and amazing businesses like Ashley Capps and AC Entertainment, The Tomato Head, Bliss, Bliss Home, Stock & Barrel, Tupelo Honey Cafe, Mast General Store, Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern, Downtown Grill & Brewery, Sapphire A Modern Bar and Restaurant,The French market, Yassin’s Falafel House, The Oliver Hotel, The Peter Kern Library, Cairo Cafe, Union Ave Books, Boyd’s Jig & Reel, Barley’s Knoxville, The Crown and Goose, Carleo Entertainment, The International – Knoxville, The Tree & Vine Knoxville, Citifid-o), The Casual Pint – Downtown, Räla: Regional and Local Artisans, RERUNS Boutique, Visit Knoxville, WDVX, WDVX Blue Plate Special, Cafe 4, The Square Room, Attack Monkey Productions, Cocoa Moon Party Room, Blue Coast Grill & Bar, Salon Visage on Market Square, Knoxville Chamber, Coffee and Chocolate, Fizz Market Square FLOW A Brew Parlor, Knox Brew Tours, and soooo many more on Gay Street, Arts & Culture Alliance, 100 Block of Gay Street, the Old City Downtown Knoxville, Happy Holler, the South Knoxville Waterfront and more, where veritable hives of activity and growth are occurring even as we write…

    As far as the good works of our Wonderful and Wild West Family, including Paula West, Jim and Vada West, Conn Mcanally, Sandy West, Mike West, Ian West, Lindsey West, Hunter West, Bella, and all the rest of those nutty nieces and nephews and close family friends– well we’re planning a HUGE 2015, much of which is still in the TOP SECRET planning stages, but some of our efforts are already well-known:

    In addition to Preservation Pub, the Market Square Speakeasy, the Magic Beer Tree in the Moonshine Roof Garden, Scruffy City Hall, Earth To Old City, Knoxville Uncorked Wine Bar and Oodles Uncorked kitchen, we’re adding

    * a Crystal Cave in the Clouds on Scruffy City Hall’s Roof (by April),
    * a Basement (nano) Brewery in Scruffy’s Main Hall– under the stage (with Logan Wentworth as Brewmeister, serving you delicious brews hopefully before the Dogwood Arts, Rhythm N’ Blooms Festival and Rossini Festival – Knoxville, TN take place in April– maybe even by Big Ears Festival if we’re lucky)
    * a new and improved Oodles Uncorked is becoming Knoxville Uncorked (where we hope you’ll come check it out for mixology, wine and tasty plates)

    Sorry to ramble on… what we’d meant to say is, though we will miss our friends and wish them fond and Fare thee wells– 2014 was a record year for our businesses and a great year for us a s a Family– we’re finally all back together again and rowing in the same direction towards some fabulous future shore.

    We look forward to 2015 with great anticipation and more enthusiasm than at any point in our 23+ year tenure in Downtown Knoxville, Tennessee.

    Thank you Publicans, Earthlings, and Scruffy Citizens for all these years of support.

    KEEP KNOXVILLE SCRUFFY !

    and we’ll see you LOTS in 2015!!!

    Bernadette and Scott West

  12. Hello Urban Folks,

    Both citizens of Knoxville and denizens of Scruffy City know that the nickname Scruffy City derives from an intended slight by a reporter in 1980, when Susan Harrigan of the Wall Street Journal wrote that “Knoxville is a Scruffy Little City on the banks of the Tennessee River,” in fact doubting that Knoxville would be capable of pulling off a World’s Fair at all, and worse, for all to see.

    Needless to say, Knoxvillians and Scruffy Citizens did indeed pull off that successful international event. Together, they hosted the 1982 World’s Fair on the banks of a bend in the beautiful Tennessee River.

    Thereafter, with their blood still up and chips still sitting on their respective shoulders, both set about revitalizing Downtown Knoxville …

    It was around this time, in this Knoxville Renaissance that the separation between the species seems to have occurred…

    In the process of embracing and redefining what the word “scruffy” meant, Scruffy Citizens also redefined themselves– that is to say, they mutated.

    And here you have it, the primary difference in the two species…

    Scruffy Citizens wholeheartedly embrace a mantra:

    Keep Knoxville Scruffy!

    which simply means

    Support local food
    local music
    local culture
    local history
    and local businesses.

    They don’t just live in Knoxville…

    Peace and Freedom,
    Bernadette and Scott West

  13. If I could create one of my dream shops, it would be a record store on MS selling vinyl (used and “rare”), CDs and restored stereo equipment. Better yet, I wish Disc Exchange or Raven would relocate on MS, but I imagine they are quite satisfied with their locations. My dream shop would also have a small stage for in-stores and a weekly jam of some sort. I’d welcome people bringing in their drinks and coffee if I saw no danger with liability/damage. What say you, MS aficionados? Is the Square ready and able to support such a business? Are rents too expensive? I wouldn’t want such a place to take business away from existing vinyl merchants.

    • Lettie Flores says:

      Well, I can tell you that my husband would be there regularly, and so would I (if I could bring my coffee in). It sounds like a natural fit, especially with the Scruffy City and Pres Pub being right there. Make a space for some old-fashioned record-scratching, and you’d have a middle-aged paradise!

  14. Lettie Flores says:

    It’s interesting to read these comments. I moved to Knoxville from Richmond, VA, where panhandling along VCU’s urban campus and downtown was INTENSE. So, the homeless and the panhandlers here feel warm and fuzzy in comparison- but I realize it is my perspective, and it can feel worse when you are coming from a native Knoxvillian frame of reference. I think that the police presence downtown is already enough to feel comforting and not like I am being surveilled. What store owners and even pedestrians can do is use our cell phones to take pictures of these panhandlers, and report them to the police who are strolling around. If the police get enough formal complaints, they can take action on those few folks who are making it uncomfortable for everyone. This was the tact we took in Richmond when we had a busy psych clinic on a pretty “scruffy” corner. The message was “you can hang around, but don’t cause any trouble”. Knoxville is like San Fran, Austin and Portland, towns where the street kids and their dogs travel to year-round because the weather is nice and the people are too. I would hate to see that vibe disappear with too many police around and too much heavy enforcement. There are many homeless and eccentric people out on the square who don’t bother anyone and just want to enjoy the day like the rest of us. I’d hate to banish them all just to get rid of a few bad apples. FYI, those groups of kids/dogs are called “gutter punks”- you can read about the subculture at wikipedia, and other sites will pop up if you type in those words.

  15. I’ve worked in the Old City for 7 years now. The homeless/panhandling problem continues to get worse. When I first started working downtown, I would see the same handful and knew them by name. Now there are new ones every week it seems. Each one more aggressive than the last. Unfortunately, I have no idea what the solution is for this problem. I know we all want to keep the city ‘Scruffy’ or whatever, but I do wish this problem was taken more seriously by the City.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says:

      The “scruffy” issue is an interesting one. While I or you might be comfortable with mingling with homeless people and panhandlers, others aren’t, and when you are trying to attract customers you really don’t want an additional barrier. I agree it is getting worse and I’m not sure what the solution is.

  16. Art Wagner says:

    I feel I should address some of the comments from the former Peanut Shop manager; a few of them are totally valid, but others are unrealistic given a typical urban environment.
    1) Homeless/panhandling: The former manager is correct. I’m just not convinced that the City realizes just how detrimental this can be to continued revitalization and current business. If there were no services to assist those who are mentally challenged or in need, it would be one thing. But, there are tons of ways to get help, and a number of organizations to do it. Sadly, the panhandlers converge on downtown because it is an opportunity for them and the City seems hesitant to challenge them. While I am totally opposed to heavy-handed policing or military-like shows of force, I see nothing wrong with increasing a gentle police presence on the downtown streets, particularly on the Square. Sometimes the regular presence of a cop walking a beat is enough to correct an issue. So, more police presence.
    2) Parking: Downtown Knoxville is an urban environment, not a suburban shopping mall. Frankly, $7 for all day parking is a bargain when compared with other cities. However, I have suggested that the City offer a free period for their garages (first 75 minutes free, $1.25/hr thereafter or something similar) to encourage daytime shopping. The net take would probably be the same. The idea of loads of street parking next to a business is ridiculous in a city of any real size. Good luck if you find it, but if you count on it, you are going to be disappointed.
    3) Pedestrian traffic for retail: Given the current mix of residents, workers, and visitors, and the Square’s varying crowds, it is obvious that some types of businesses will fare well–others not so much. However, downtown will soon be seeing that mix change as more apartments come on line. What struggles today, may succeed wildly in five years.
    4) The demand for better restaurants downtown (and more variety) is something that will soon be a hot topic.

  17. Agree. This type of store is doomed to fail. Probably better suited to a mall where the foot traffic is constant.

    I too have had dealings with this group of young, homeless folk. To tell you the truth, I find them a bit scary. Not sure why the city has put up with them for so long, but its time they start moving them along.

  18. I can’t say that I am terribly surprised by this one. The concept seemed a little too narrowly focused from the get-go, to me.

    Concerning the group of young, homeless folks with the animals. I’ve had to deal with this group on several occasions. They can be very confrontational with people, name calling, insults and the like. It can be very off-putting.

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