2011 Business Review, Part 3: Welcome to the City!

A History of Reading: The first book ever sold at Union Avenue Books

For those of you who read Monday’s post about closed businesses and contemplated moving out of the city, I hope Tuesday’s post about all the downtown businesses that have increased their stake in downtown by renovating, moving and expanding their businesses cheered you up a bit. If not, I think I may have just the antidote you need: New businesses rocked all over downtown in 2011! Let’s take a look.

Some of them are not obvious at first for various reasons. For example, I consider the Peter Kern Library (use the whisper in your head to read, “it’s really a bar”) to be a new business. I realize it is housed in the Hotel Oliver, but it wasn’t there in their pre-renovation configuration and it didn’t open when the hotel re-opened, so it’s a new business in my mind. And a pretty cool one, at that. This really gives the Hotel Oliver a clean sweep of my categories in that they closed, changed and opened a new business. In my world they count.

Megabus service came to downtown Knoxville

Another one that might not readily come to mind and doesn’t precisely fit is the new Megabus service. For me it has been a game-changer and I’m not alone. It’s pretty cool to drag my suitcase across the city, catch the bus, make one connection and be on the gulf coast, leaving my car in its usual spot for a perfect holiday. Again, it’s my blog and I say it counts.

Like a zombie, it cannot be killed: J’s Megamart re-opened

There were other oddities that sort of fit: The STEM school isn’t exactly a business, but it’s a significant event for downtown to have a public school. When was the last time that happened in Knoxville? The Sunsphere also,was opened for public events for the first time in a while. What about J’s Megamart? Who among us saw that coming?

One encouraging sign I noticed when gathering the information for this article: new businesses were spread all across the city. The eastern edge got stretched a bit with the opening of the Public House on Magnolia and Marble City Brewing Company opened The Quarry, their tasting room on Depot. While the two are quite different, they are near neighbors and both immediately became favorite gathering spots in a part of downtown that has been off-the-radar for some of us.

Carleo’s opened on Central in the Old City

Jackson Avenue Market brought food and convenience

Working from there back toward the center of downtown (Jack Neely is right, it’s time to bring back the name “Uptown” for the core of downtown. It’s becoming too confusing as downtown grows.), brings us to the Old City. I’ve already mentioned their extensive losses, but they had some impressive gains as well. Carleos bar opened on Central as did Old City Entertainment Venue just across the street. Just around the corner on Jackson, Crush opened its doors selling retro-clothing with an attitude and the Jackson Avenue Market served its first customers. Word is a new Sushi bar will open soon on Jackson across from Barley’s.

Crush on Jackson Avenue: Clothes with Attitude

Boyd’s Jig and Reel took Manhattan’s old spot

The biggest news in the Old City had to be the opening of Boyd’s Jig and Reel. A Scottish pub with a great feel and excellent music, the most critical thing it brought to the Old City was that the two most prominent buildings were no longer both empty. With the spot previously occupied by Manhattan’s in business again, we need to get something underway in the previous Patrick Sullivan’s across the street.

On the 100 Block several new businesses opened and an interesting trend exhibited itself. It’s a good trend. I noticed here and another place we’ll get to later that almost as soon as a business announced its departure the space was being cleared for the next business excited at the opportunity to open. When Eleven on the 100 block announced its closure, the space was grabbed and renovations began immediately to open 11 Cafe. Across the street on the western side of the 100 block the same thing happened when The Unarmed Merchant vacated 129 S. Gay. As quickly as arrangements could be made, Lululemon, an athletic supply store, opened at that address. This has to be a good sign.

Harry’s Deli opened at the site of Harold’s

Also new on the block and connecting to the past very nicely is Harry’s Deli at the site of the much loved Harold’s, making excellent fresh foods and maybe the  best bread currently baked in the city. Word has it that Cru Bistro will open where Nama vacated, showing that the company which owns them both did not lose faith in the 100 block, they just felt they had a different idea that would work better there. “Shucks,” a raw bar, is also supposed to be coming soon on the block.

The Market at Union and Gay: groceries in the city

While the number of new businesses weren’t very high on the upper number blocks of Gay Street, there was some very important pieces. The last post I wrote was full of movement on our main downtown thoroughfare: Dazzo’s was purchased, Regions Bank moved, Nama opened its new location and, as I mentioned earlier in this post, J’s Megamart re-opened. Additionally, The Market at Union and Gay opened and Aveda took over the former S and W. Each was very important in its own way.

The Market answered the long-term downtown complaint about a lack of a grocery store. Now we have one on our main corridor. Aveda found a use for a building that was nearly destroyed not so many years ago and which had become one of the symbols of downtown redevelopment. While I wish the S and W had been able to survive, for this building to sit empty would have been a silent counter-point to all the good news going on in the city, a prominent failure. Aveda helped avert that.

Blue Coast Burrito at 37 Market Square

Crass Couture replaced Black Market

Bella Luna took 15 Market Square, previously home to Abode

On Market Square there were reversals as mentioned in the earlier post, most notably the loss of the Market Square Kitchen. A major opening at the other end of the Square helped keep the corners going. Blue Coast Burrito opened in the spring after a beautiful rehabilitation of the address left only the original facade. Toward the center of the square the trend mentioned earlier was on display when Black Market went out of business, but within, I think, a day or two, Crass Couture opened in the same storefront leaving a clothing store on the square. 15 Market Square had been empty since the departure of Abode the year before and it was filled nicely with a new northern Italian restaurant, Bella Luna.

Co-owner Kristen Faerber sits outside Just Ripe

West on Union Avenue from the square a new center of retail activity came into its own in the Daylight building. John Black Photography and the Happy Envelope had taken each end of the storefront in 2010, but a gaping hole remained between the two. Those spots were filled in exciting fashion by grocery store Just Ripe and Union Avenue Books, Knoxville’s only independent book store featuring new books. Union Avenue is now on the retail map of downtown and the coming year looks to extend this trend with the re-working of the store-fronts beneath the Residences at Market Square.

So, there you go. It’s tough to know whether to count some of the openings as businesses, but I count twenty-two openings. In the next post I’ll put the closings, re-workings and openings all side by side and speculate a bit about what it all means.