Goodbye to 11 Cafe – Knoxville Business Updates for September 2012

Sign Outside 11 Cafe, Knoxville, September 2012

Several business related news items have circulated the last couple of weeks and seemed worth a mention. One closing in particular took me by surprise. Only nine months ago I noted the opening of a new coffee shop on the 100 Block, and now comes word from owner Mustapha Moussa that it is closing.

11 Cafe, Knoxville, September 2012

11 Cafe offered something a bit different on the block with its middle eastern fare and coffee, but Mustapha notes that while the experience has been a good one and he’s “made many friends,” in the end it just wasn’t working. Today is planned as the last day for the shop which will go out in style with a comedy night. Best wishes to my friend Mustapha as he pursues other ventures.

Nothing Too Fancy, Knoxville, September 2012

Nothing Too Fancy, Knoxville, September 2012

I also reported recently on the opening of Nothing Too Fancy. When I took the photographs for that blog they were not quite ready for opening, so I shot a few more this weekend that show more of what the store actually looks like. Judging by the lines snaking through the store this past Friday night, they are off to a strong start. I particularly like the Knoxville skyline shirts (Gold skyline on a black shirt), the “865” shirts and the retro concert posters. I’ve got my eye on a V-Roys poster in particular. Urban Woman was quite taken with the Ipad covers.

Nothing Too Fancy, Knoxville, September 2012

Ipad Covers at Nothing Too Fancy, Knoxville, September 2012

Tupelo Honey placed a sign in front of 1 Market Square committing to an opening the first week in October. Work seems to have picked up pace inside, finally, but I walked by this weekend to see one worker sleeping and another texting. I’m sure it was break time. They’d probably been working hours before I made it past the store.

Across the street, the Arnstein Building is back in the news with a brand new $250,000 grant from the city. I’m struggling with this one. Our current city government is my favorite local, state or federal government ever. I think virtually all of our current administration and council are smart, good people with the best interests of our city at heart. That said, I would love to hear a discussion (and I probably should have been at the council meeting to hear it) of why this is a good thing. The project already received a large grant from CBID and now this grant is given to ensure that Urban Outfitters will come to Knoxville. The planned opening is next Spring.

Arnstein Building, Union and Market, Knoxville, September 2012

I’ve heard reasonable questions asked about how necessary this latest grant is for a very successful developer and a large national chain store. It would be great for someone to explain why a business has to have this kind of support to enter the downtown market. Are they not going to make a profit otherwise? If that’s the case, are we building an illusion? It seems reasonable to wonder.

Still underway on Gay Street is the renovation of the JC Penney Building. I’m hearing a religious apparel company may be using the first floor for retail and the second floor for offices, but that’s just a rumor, so who knows? Remember when we were getting twenty-eleven Beauty Institutes and a mattress store at 2 Market Square? You have to enjoy the ride, though. On balance the journey seems to be taking the city to good places. Here’s to seeing it continue.


  1. As I understand it, the grant goes to Dewhirst, not to Urban Outfitters. So the city is protecting/padding his profit margin, not the big national retailer’s.

    It pays to have friends in high-ish places.

  2. Sad to see Cafe 11 go. As far as Arnstein and Urban Outfitters, developers don’t/can’t front the cost for these projects- they have investors. Look at Dewhirst right now, probably 90% of the construction downtown is theirs. This is case of the city investing in its own future- which is what all cities should be doing. Just think of downtown 10-15 years ago…

  3. Thanks for keeping us all up to date on the things going on downtown.

    I live in the Cedar Bluff area and dont get to make it over often. I love the urban feel though I always enjoy the different feeling when we go there for dinner or an event.

  4. On Urban Outfitters….

    I think its a smart move that will cause more businesses to want to locate near them.

  5. I think more than anything that corner with Tupelo Honey is going to benefit the stores and business situated around it. Knowing the many hour waits I’ve had at the one in Asheville (completely justified I might add for the food), grabbing a beer at the Casual Pint or walking down to the stores at the Daylight Building seems inevitable. I’m very excited to see this section of downtown explode.

  6. I’m so sad to hear that Cafe 11 is closing! I thought he was doing great business down there – no idea he had to close. And I really liked his coffee. That 100 block seems to be struggling. I hope Cru and Shuck hang tough.

  7. What other developer deserves the money more than Dewhirst? He’s responsible for preserving and at the same time advancing downtown’s cityscape more than any other developer I can think of.

    In my mind, bringing Urban Outfitters here isn’t so much about their particular store so much as it is about what they represent. They only put stores in bigger cities and usually only in booming areas. Bringing them here, no matter what the circumstances, hopefully will make other big businesses want to locate to our vacant spots. This is a good thing for local business such as myself.

    On the flip side, there is always a danger that any new big brand store will want the same treatment. That’s a scenario that the city can not afford I’d assume.

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