Tupelo Honey Commits to Knoxville (And More Coming Attractions)

CBID Board: Rich Ray, Alan Carmichael, Rick Emmet,
Robyn Askew, Melissa Everett and Patrick Hunt

I wrote a post two days ago encouraging everyone to come to the evening meeting of CBID. I knew in advance it would be very lightly read. I guess organizations that do detailed work aren’t that sexy. The meeting was very interesting, as my nerdy self would have expected – and you can ask Andrea, the single Stuck Inside of Knoxville reader who attended as far as I could tell.

It was afterward that everyone got interested. This would be the point at which the Metropulse reported that Tupelo Honey will, in fact, open a third location in addition to the two locations in Asheville. By this morning the Metropulse report was linked to Josh Flory’s Property Scope Blog and Tupelo Honey themselves confirmed it on a blog post on their website. In case anyone has been hiding under a rock and hasn’t heard, it will be at 1 Market Square on the southwest corner in the Kern’s Building which is home to the Hotel Oliver. They will also have a bakery, of sorts, in the basement where they will make their famous pies. And it all started with the CBID meeting.

Phillip Welker, one of the owners of the Oliver Hotel had requested on their behalf a grant of $275,000 for improvements to the first floor facade of the building both on the side that faces Market Square and the side that fronts Union. If you’ve walked past there in recent months you may have noticed how deteriorated it has become. Their interest is in finishing the facade as nicely as they have the interior of the hotel, which is very well done, indeed.

There was turbulence along the way. The development committee apparently debated for an hour about the size of the grant. The Arnstein Building across the street only received a $300,000 grant for the entire building. Concerns were also expressed that the proposal had mentioned a specific tenant for the space and that CBID might appear to be funding a specific business rather than a project. The committee recommended appropriation of $125,000 which is quite a bit less than the request. The board finally agreed after much discussion and with a bare minimum 3-2 vote.

What wasn’t clear in the meeting was what this would mean. Would Mr. Welker and his partner Mr. Orly go forward with the project without the additional $150,000? Would they go forward with a scaled down version which might not appeal to Tupelo Honey specifically? Most people left the meeting not knowing the answers. Business moved forward.

Out in the lobby, however, Cari Wade Gervin asked Mr. Welker the question I had followed him out into the lobby to ask: “Do we get Tupelo Honey or not?” For his part, he said they would make up the difference in cost in some manner and go forward with the project. A gentleman representing Tupelo Honey added that there should be no obstacle to their move into the space now that this was resolved.

So, it appears, that very soon improvements should begin to the facade and that by some time this summer Tupelo Honey should be a reality. I’ll admit it feels pretty good that they feel Knoxville is a good fit for them. Asheville has a very large “cool” factor and this kind of establishment is part of the vibe there. I’m not ready to do a Knoxville/Asheville smackdown, but I’m happy to be their increasingly hip cousin for now.

There was other business at the meeting. The coolest news is that an as yet unnamed music series will be starting in the Square Room in a couple of months. It will be a monthly two hour show including music and other entertainment, which will be broadcast over a local radio station and filmed for television broadcast. Sounds a lot like a smaller version of Tennessee Shines, but it is actually patterned after a Nashville show called Music City Roots which broadcasts from the Loveless Cafe.

Those of you who read this blog regularly would surely be able guess how I would end it. I fell in love with Tupelo Honey when it first came out in 1971. So, here you go . . .