2011 Business Review, Part Four: Final Thoughts

Knoxville Skyline

So we’ve looked at all the businesses that left, the ones that re-invested and the ones that took the plunge and opened their doors for the first time this year. What does it all mean? When you put it all together and shake it up, what kind of cocktail do you get?

If you look at the numbers in straight terms, I get fourteen closures, thirteen re-investing and eighteen opening. That’s pretty optimistic on the face of it. While fourteen didn’t make a go of it, thirteen are doing well enough to pour more money into their investment and an even larger number decided the situation was favorable for making money. But more specifically, what types of businesses failed, changed and opened?

We are still clearly bullish on restaurants: Five closed, six re-invested and three opened. We did lose two major destination restaurants and we’ve not really replaced these. We’re also very bullish on bars: One closed, one expanded and six opened. That’s one more open than I mentioned in the openings post, because I forgot to note that Ink has opened where Organized Play used to be on Cumberland. We like to eat and we really like to drink.

We drew about even on clothing, losing two businesses, moving one and opening two. The same hotel closed and re-opened, so that was a wash, except in the sense that it is much improved.

36 Market Square should soon have tenants

We lost a couple of arts and gift stores and a tattoo parlor and didn’t replace those. We lost a couple of industrial or corporate offices and didn’t replace those. The number of jobs lost with these departures is a significant blow, particularly Kimberly Clark.

The most encouraging trend I see in the numbers is the expanding variety of stores that opened or re-invested. The re-investments included a florist, a hair salon, a game shop and a bank. Some of the new businesses filled real needs downtown. We gained a bus line and a school. We added two public event venues, an athletic supply store and a re-opened all-purpose business. We expanded our limited grocery offerings by adding two grocery stores and a convenience store. We finally got one of the long-rumored beauty schools. We added a full-service, independent book store at a time when Nashville did not have a single secular book store (Ann Pachett later opened one).

There are always rumors floating, some of which turn to reality and others which never come true. Current rumors or promised openings which I’ve heard mentioned include three new restaurants and “something completely different” in the Old City. Josh Flory noted yesterday that Tupelo Honey may be coming to 1 Market Square. A bedding store is rumored to be moving into 2 Market Square. Another bar should soon be open on Gay Street near Morelock Music. Tenants should soon be announced for 36 Market Square.

Former site of Volunteer Ministries being redeveloped

Tenants have already been found for the Arnstein building upper floors and Urban Outfitter rumors have really picked up again as a potential tenant for the lower floor. Spaces at the corner of Gay and Jackson and along Union Avenue beside the Hotel Oliver are slated for face-lifts or are undergoing renovation with the idea of adding businesses.

So I remain very optimistic. We’ve had startling growth for the last several years during a time when few areas could say as much. If the economy heals how exciting could it get? Could we finally begin to see major new construction rather than renovations downtown? Could the Penny’s building finally become something more than an eye-sore? I think so. I see great things ahead for our great city and I hope you do, too.

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