A New Business Slips into Downtown in the Waning Moments of 2011

11 Cafe, 122 A South Gay Street, Knoxville

Just when I thought the news was pretty much finished for 2011, I got a pleasant surprise. I’d already started mentally composing my end-of-the-year stories about businesses coming and going during the past twelve months. Out for a walk to take pictures for those blog posts I realized business news hasn’t quite finished for the year.

As I walked down the 100 block of Gay Street, I noticed bistro tables on the sidewalk in front of what was, until just over a month ago, a clothing store. Rumors had surfaced that a bagel/pastry shop might be in the making and, in fact, there it was. There wasn’t much in the way of signage out front of 122A S. Gay Street, but inside hummed a little, fully operational bistro: 11 Cafe.

Barista Michael Brock prepares an Americano at 11 Cafe

You’ll find Cafe Americano (which I can vouch for – very good) and pastries with tables and lounge seating and a growing number of menu items to which, owner Mustapha Moussa tells me, more is being added daily. Additional food and drink offerings such as imported craft beers, cheese plates and Mediterranean lunch and dinner items will be offered along side the cakes, pastries and bagels now available. Based on a Facebook post it appears Kim Trent hardily endorses the Chicken Shawarma Wrap and hummus.The bistro is currently in a “soft opening” phase and getting kinks worked out for a grand opening on First Friday in January.

Menu Board at 11 Cafe, Knoxville

Mustapha encouraged me to come back and just hang out and it looks like it will be a place which is very comfortable for a hang-out spot. Having owned cell phone distributorships in the past, he has some retail experience, but this is his first foray into a coffee shop and into the downtown market. He says opening a coffee shop has been a long-term dream and he is very excited to have his current location.

It’s time for the 100 block to come into its own. The city spent a fortune making it functional, structurally sound and beautiful. Several new businesses have opened with rumors of more on the way. If we want it to be the vibrant area it can be we need to support these entrepreneurs. Buy lunch at Harry’s, buy athletic wear at Lululemon, purses at Julie Apple and buy a bagel from Mustapha and meet barista Michael Brock. You’ll enjoy some good food and coffee and make new friends. What can be better than that?

11 Cafe, owner Mustapha Moussa foreground, Knoxville