There were notable changes to downtown businesses last year which didn’t involve a closing or an opening as much as some sort of alteration or evolution. Some were minor and others involved news that will change downtown significantly in the coming year and years.
Of course, the Knoxville Sports and Tourism Bureau made the news in a big way with the Gloria Ray revelations and questions as to what they had actually accomplished. Gloria was dismissed, the building bearing her name no longer does so, and under different leadership, the organization is now known as Visit Knoxville. I like all the changes and I’m glad the entire organization didn’t shut down. We can use such a group if they aggressively market the city and I think they seem to have a new attitude.
Marble City Brewing Company became Saw Works Brewing with a new brew master and a fresh approach. It worked. Not only did the change remove some of the pressure from a similarly named company in another city, the new brews have proved especially popular throughout the area. It’s not hard to imagine this company being the start of a small Knoxville brew industry.
The sale of the building Kimberly Clark had inhabited for years also marked a major change. The company intends to relocate its workers within the city, but further to the west. Parking was cited as a particular concern. The building, one of the largest downtown, is currently occupied by other businesses and the new owners are obviously optimistic about the prospect of filling the newly available space as well.
Parking garages were much discussed and one began its transformation when the work on the additional level of the State Street Garage began late in the year. This change also dictated the removal of Knoxville’s only outdoor escalator which will be replaced by a walkway from the garage. In other garage news, preliminary work on a new garage on Summer Place between Walnut and Locust also began late in the year. Still to be determined is the possibility of this building becoming a multi-use structure.
On the food front there were several changes. The Cruse Farm Truck, a staple of the Market Square Farmer’s Market, surprised locals with the addition of Indian food to their menu. The Market at Union and Gay had a meat market, changed to a deli, took that away and came back with a limited assortment of meat. If you want meat downtown you might want to support them. The owners of Tomato Head purchased the adjacent building which, most recently, housed Marble Slab. They announced late in the year they would use the space to enlarge their restaurant. Also late in the year, Le Parigo changed to icafe. I’ll have more on that, later.
Another Market Square Business purchased a neighboring building when the owners of Preservation Pub purchased 32 Market Square, just two doors down from the pub. By the end of the year they began using the space as a small entertainment hall. The idea is to host shows that are a bit beyond what Preservation Pub can readily accommodate. I expect this venture to evolve. I was pleased to see, just before the end of the year when they held their first shows, that a sign declares it is a “no smoking” venue. Thank you. Originally slated to be “Scruffy City Hall,” it is now labeled “Alley,” so I’m not sure what to call it.
On the event front, Sundown in the City officially died. Opinions were mixed, but count me as one downtown resident who misses it. Tennessee Shines opened as a new weekly event on Monday nights at the Knoxville Welcome Center and it has been very successful. Early in the year another series started in the Square Room as the Scruffy City Roots and then changed to the Scruffy City Ramble. Readers of this blog know what I think about this monthly series.
Finally, sights in the city that changed include the long-delayed removal of the defunct clock atop the William Conley building. I miss the working clock, but the deteriorated version we had been stuck with for years was a dominant eye-sore in the city. Another sight that changed was the JFG sign on the south bank of the river was re-moved, moved and returned in an updated and refurbished form. I think that made Knoxville traditionalists every where stand up and cheer. We also got our first alleyway beautification project adding artistic works to an otherwise bleak space often subject to taggers.
So, while not perhaps as splashy as a business openings and closings, these changes should reverberate significantly in 2013. Tomorrow I’ll close out the business review with a summary that looks at losses and additions together and compares 2012 to 2011. Are we gaining, maintaining or losing momentum in the city? I’ll talk about it in the next post.