Two Business Monday: 31 Bistro, Julie Apple Handbags

31 Bistro (formerly La Costa), Market Square, Knoxville

I’m no food critic and I know nothing about women’s handbags – or men’s for that matter – but I found myself in each of these businesses recently, so I thought I’d send out a few thoughts. Take them for what they are – one guy’s opinion.

Omelet at 31 Bistro, Market Square, Knoxville

Most of you probably know by now that 31 Bistro has taken place of long-time Market Square restaurant La Costa. I’ve eaten at La Costa many times over the years and I’ve almost always enjoyed the meals. It was always just a little different and a little surprising. A year ago it was purchased by a former Knox County teacher Sabrina Brittain.

Cheese Grits, Eggs and (Benton’s!) Bacon

In the last year I’ve eaten there less. It seems I end up there for brunch most often. Several months ago we arrived after opening time, but the restaurant seemed to be closed. When we opened the door and looked inside none of the employees gathered acknowledged our presence until we said something. They didn’t know anything about the coupon we’d gotten via e-mail that morning and said they’d ask about it, but never mentioned it again. Service was poor and the coffee, which had once been good, was awful.

Biscuits and Gravy, 31 Bistro, Knoxville

We gave it a try once again last week and the service was better. Our waitress was very patient and worked with our special requests. The food was good. I don’t think anyone at the table would have had a major complaint. Still, it just didn’t seem quite as different from other brunches as it had seemed before. My dominant impression of a brunch will likely always be the quality of the coffee. I found it odd that as the restaurant shifts emphasis to local, farm-to-table food they would use industrial coffee. There are a number of great local roasters, including one I’ll soon feature on this blog. Ironically there is another fine roaster who used to provide coffee for La Costa before the change in ownership.

I’ll try them again and I only wish them the very best, but my most recent impressions haven’t been positive. Weigh in below if you’ve had a better experience or have eaten there for dinner recently.

Julianne Applegate schools Urban Woman on Handbags

The other business is quite different. Julie Apple Handbags on the 100 block of Gay Street is the brainchild of Julianne Applegate who left the high-flying life of the fashion industry to pursue her dream of making sustainable, fair-labor handbags of her own design. I first heard her present at Pecha-Kucha a year or so ago and Urban Woman has been scoping out the place ever since. 

Julianne Applegate gives Urban Woman some options

Bags at Julie Apple, 100 Block of Gay Street, Knoxville

Friday night the stars finally aligned that we were on the 100 block at the same time the store was open. Ms. Applegate was on hand to personally welcome customers into the colorful, cozy and inviting shop. She took time to explain the versatility of the bags, many of which may be worn different ways. She also emphasized that the purses are made from recycled materials assembled with fair-labor and are, themselves, recyclable when they are to be retired.

Urban Woman continually returns to her favorite bag – It’s getting serious!

 As with all products developed and manufactured with such standards in mind, they are not cheap. Want a ten dollar handbag? Go to Target. A thirty dollar handbag? Steinmart. A great quality bag with a unique design and sustainable ideals infused in its very fabric? Some were available for just over fifty dollars. The newer designs, which naturally caught Urban Woman’s eye? Extremely close to one hundred after taxes.

Celebrity Clerk Steven Dupree completes the deal

Is it worth it? I suppose part of the answer is that it depends on whether that price is justifiable in your financial world and how much you are willing to pay to support products and producers which represent high ideals. Would I pay that much for a purse? No. Of course, I don’t carry a purse and I wasn’t making the decision. So, at the end of the night I pulled out the debit card because you know what? The bag may be worth a hundred dollars, but a happy Urban Woman is priceless, my friends.

Watch for her about town as she sports the bag pictured below and be sure to check out Julie Apple handbags. It really is a cool business.

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