2011 Business Review, Part Two: Changing and Rearranging

Nama moved to the 500 Block of Gay Street

Judging from the responses to yesterday’s blog post, I think I’ve caused a great depression to settle over everyone who loves, laments and cheers for our little city. I’ll agree it was depressing to see such a list of lost businesses. Of course, there were many reasons for the departures and not all of them were for a lack of business, but that’s the worry. One person who commented yesterday questioned whether we have the population downtown to make a go of some of these businesses. It’s a legitimate question.

But it’s not the whole story. Today we look at businesses which already existed and decided to re-affirm their commitment downtown by expanding or adding to their businesses or by moving to what they viewed as a better location, but still in the downtown area. It’s really an equally amazing list when viewed in the rear-view and it’s much more encouraging than yesterday’s list. No doubt I’ll over-look a few, so please add them in the comment section.

Re-runs Re-opens two blocks down on Union

Some of the changes were connected with the closings mentioned in in the previous article. The Hotel St. Oliver closed for renovations that were extensive and expensive. It re-opened a changed business. The rooms are nicely appointed, the lobby is beautiful (hate the painting by the front door, but maybe it’s me) and they are an important part of our little city as our only boutique hotel. The new owners wanted a three-meal-a-day restaurant and they felt it imperative that it serve alcohol, which led to the closure of Market Square Kitchen.

Lunchbox moved to Market Street

Yesterday, I mentioned the Market Square Kitchen in connection with the corners of Market Square being strangely abandoned. On the opposite corner from the Market Square Kitchen, Reruns had done a brisk business for years. With the uncertainty involving the proposed sale of the building, Nanci Solomon decided to be pro-active and move the business to the Daylight building a couple of blocks down Union Avenue.

Organized Play moved from Cumberland to Central in the Old City

Others were on the move, as well. Given that they could just as easily moved to another part of Knoxville or westward to the center of the local plastic consumer universe, it makes a statement that they decided to stay in the downtown area. The Lunchbox, long-time downtown favorite, moved from the TVA plaza to a quiet spot on Market Street within sight of the lovely Krutch Park. Nama moved from the 100 to the 500 block of Gay Street to gain more square footage and to be more in the center of the downtown action. Organized Play moved in the opposite direction, from Cumberland (just off Gay) to Central Street in the Old City.

Regions Bank moved across Union Avenue

I’m guessing that the largest, but shortest, move was likely Regions Bank moving their operations across Union Avenue to the Miller’s building. The building was given a face-lift and looks beautiful. Now they need to do the right thing and pay to have the dilapidated clock removed from atop their previous address.

Salon Visage became Studio Visage
La Costa became 31 Bistro

Other businesses which changed in some way this year include Dazzo’s (new owner, still great pizza) and Salon Visage on Market Square, which became Studio Visage in a business re-arrangement featuring lower prices. La Costa, a long-term favorite on the square, which acquired new ownership last year, changed its name to 31 Bistro and changed its menu to reflect owner Sabrina Brittain’s vision of a farm-to-table restaurant. The Flower Pot which has been a downtown florist for forty years completed an extensive remodeling project coordinated with UT architectural students to develop an ecological design.

Preservation Pub opened another floor and the roof

Several businesses added significant square footage to their operations. Preservation pub tripled their usable space on Market Square by opening the Speakeasy on their second floor, offering a little quieter and smoke-free environment, and then after a few ups and downs with the city, opening the Moonshine Roof Garden outside on the top of the building. Soccer Taco opened a basement bar in their building across the square. In the Old City, one of the absolute coolest additions was a speakeasy-type room called the Underground and modeled on London’s Tube which was added to Crown and Goose at a cost of about $300,000.

Underground at Crown and Goose

So, what does all this mean? Thirteen businesses expressed confidence in our city with their dollars, investing and declaring a very hopeful vision. By moving within the city, remodeling and expanding they are saying this is a worthwhile and profitable place for them to operate. Many of the people behind these moves are among the best we have among us, but this isn’t about being nice. This is about business and these people believe these sometimes very large expenses will be returned to them in the profits they make. In a capitalistic society this is how businesses express optimism.

Feel a little better? In my next post I’ll try do like Sly and take you even higher. We’ll talk about businesses that have opened and a few that are coming soon.