First Friday holds so much promise each time out. I’m likely to hear some great music, feast my eyes on fascinating art, dine on delicious food, visit with friends, make new friends and always the possibility of seeing something completely unexpected lurks around every corner. And sometimes new information might just be learned. This past Friday the information that set the buzz for the day was the pending advent of a jewelry store to Gay Street.
From at least 1870 to 2004 at least one jewelry store graced downtown’s primary artery. As of that year, Kimball’s Jewelry moved to west Knoxville and another type of retail disappeared from the center city which was bleeding retail at that time. It would have been very difficult just those few years ago to imagine the return of a jeweler to the street. Yet, that’s exactly what will soon happen. Rick Terry Jewelry Designs officially hung his banner in the front window of the Arcade Building Friday night. I plan to have far more details in an upcoming post.
I’ve come to the conclusion that choosing a spot or three to focus on during the few short hours of First Friday (which should certainly run until 10:00) yields a more enjoyable evening than trying to do it all. Shaft joined me this particular Friday night for our first stop: Alive After Five at the Knoxville Museum of Art. It made my list for several reasons: It’s always fun, it starts early, I can see one set and move on if I choose, The Mumbles from New Orleans were playing and then there was the photo challenge.
I always struggle with my pictures there. Because of the afternoon sun and the bright lights after the sun goes down my pictures always seem washed out. I got Shaft to take pictures and I did the same then we compared. I think we came out about the same. It’s just tough. The Mumbles played a great first set and the crowd responded well, as is always the case at Alive After Five, with dozens of dancers taking to the floor for the jazzy funk and soul of the band. The Mumbles had it all working on this trip to the city: they played the WDVX Blue Plate Special, Alive After Five and Barley’s later on in the evening. Pretty smart.
After their set we picked up Urban Woman and walked to 618 S. Gay Street for an open house at the Arcade Building. Kevin and Melinda Grimac welcomed guests including City Councilman Marshall Stair, Renee Hoyos who is executive Director of the Tennessee Clean Water Network, new downtown residents Malinda and Butch Morrow, long-time downtown denizen Andie Ray and Gary Grimac as well as dozens of others I missed speaking to. Saw Works Brewing Company provided the beer and owners Adam Palmer and Johnathan Borsodi were present with their respective female friends Shellie Lawhorn and Katie Powell.
The food was delicious. I’m helpless when Melinda makes those little sausages wrapped in bacon. But then, what wouldn’t be great wrapped in bacon. Thankfully, while everyone who loves beer enjoyed the Saw Works, those of us who prefer the grape had choices as well. The building itself took center stage as Kevin and Melinda took turns giving tours of the building, showing which portions will be turned into their personal residence as well as the portion of the building that will soon become the third branch of Rick Terry Jewelry.
Rick and his wife Patty handed out gift bags, talked about their plans and generally charmed everyone interested. Rick entered the jewelry business over thirty years ago and has owned his own stores for twenty-five years. He’s passionate and loves to tell stories about his business and what he enjoys most about it. He’s lived in east Tennessee for nearly forty years, but I also enjoyed talking to him about his native south Louisiana. You will love getting to know him and his son when they open the store in the next month or so. Hopefully I will have a feature on the store before they open.
While standing outside the Arcade Building giving directions on the hanging of the banner and generally winding down a fun time, we enjoyed a brief encounter with a semi-clothed young girl who said her bongo and her bag had been stolen, but “you do the best you can,” as she told us with a smile. Don’t you just hate it when you find yourself on a downtown street in nothing but a bikini and strings of bells? I know I do. I think she wandered off to join the hoopers and drummers in Krutch Park.
Just after she left, Jack Neely wandered down the sidewalk and, with encouragement from everyone present, spun stories of the Arcade Building, the Knoxville Journal and Adolph Ochs and his time in Knoxville. It was the perfect cap to the evening. As Kevin ushered Jack inside for a tour, we took the opportunity to finish the night just down the street at Suttrees.
We enjoyed a delicious appetizer sampler with two kinds of humus and two different pimento cheeses with our beverages. As always, it’s great running into friends there and we discovered that Katie and Johnathan had beaten us there and soon we were joined by Millie and Jerry who I met the last time I was there. I didn’t realize the two couples know each other well. That’s our small-town-inside-the-city vibe, I suppose. The place was packed, including the new outdoor seating which you might want to check out.
And so ended another First Friday. I didn’t make it to any of the art openings I usually try to hit, but I got generous portions of time with friends and good stories on the street and isn’t that what always makes for a great night in the city?