2012 in Review: Business Summary and Final Thoughts

Tupelo Honey, 1 Market Square, Knoxville, 2012

So, how do we make sense of all the comings and goings? First, let’s look at an aggregate picture of what was lost and gained. How do they compare qualitatively and quantitatively. Next, now that I’ve done this for more than a year, let’s compare the losses and gains to those from 2011 and see if we are gaining or losing momentum.

I’m going to exclude some of the businesses I mentioned in my previous articles from the comparisons since they are not formally “downtown” businesses. So, Dale’s Fried Pies and the Food Trucks are out. Even without those, I count twenty-three new downtown businesses. Seven are restaurants (I’m including Pop Culture), five are bars and the other eleven fall into a broad range: A bank, a dentist, a beauty school, a record store, a gift store, an olive oil and cookware store, a rickshaw business, a men’s clothing store, a realty store, a jeweler and a purse designer. The variety is the most impressive feature of the openings.

Aveda Institute, Gay Street, Knoxville, 2012
Aveda Institute, Gay Street, Knoxville, 2012

I count ten closings: a bank, a bar, four restaurants (I’m including Marble Slab), an internet television station, a printer, a purse designer and a tailor. The last four, on their face would seem hard to replace, though we already have another purse designer who opened up the same year. I also believe we may see a printer back inside the city at some point as one half the team from Yee Haw remains local and active.

So, in gross numbers, we lost ten and opened twenty-three. We lost four restaurants, but added seven. We lost one bar and added five. We traded one bank and purse designer for another. We lost four pretty unique businesses, but gained eleven. As far as I can tell, one would have to strain very hard to find a negative perspective on the gains and losses. The worst loss may have been Yee Haw, but the best pick-up would be very hard to select: Tupelo Honey, Cru Bistro, Shuck, Suttree’s, Casual Pint, The Tree and Vine, Rick Terry Jewelers? Without question, we gained far more than we lost any way you look at it.

The Tree and Vine, Union Avenue, Knoxville, 2012

But how does this compare to last year? Are we gaining or losing our momentum? It surprised me to look at last year’s numbers and realize we’ve improved. Last year fourteen closed and eighteen opened, so we lost fewer and gained more. Clearly the momentum from the previous year increased. Expansions or improvements slowed a bit with only three businesses significantly re-investing this year compared to thirteen last year, but maybe those businesses simply consolidated their improvements this year. Also, fewer businesses closed this year due to a lack of business and more for other reasons.

So, given the coming year’s projected increase in downtown population and the increased rate at which businesses are opening, I’d have a hard time imagining a negative future for the city. I’d love to hear some of the people who have been so down on the city’s prospects explain their perspective, now.