Businesses We Don’t Notice

John H. Coleman Company, Knoxville, Spring 2013

John H. Coleman Company, Knoxville, Spring 2013

There are several downtown businesses I’ve run across recently which don’t exactly fall easily into the categories that capture our interest. I find that my readers – and myself – are very interested in new restaurants, pubs, gift shops and food vendors of various sorts, from olive oil to groceries to food trucks. It would seem we are very business oriented as a group.

There are businesses, however, that fly just off radar. Some of them have been in the downtown area for a long time, but since they don’t offer retail services we look for on a regular basis, we tend to not see them. Some of them are physically obscured by their location.

John H. Coleman Company, Knoxville, Spring 2013

John H. Coleman Company, Knoxville, Spring 2013

I noticed John H. Coleman, just off the eastern end of  Main Street at 814 State Street, earlier this spring. It operates from a virtually hidden building settled into a hole formed by a hill and Main. Trucks line the front of the unassuming building and the business has been open since 1945, though I’m not certain it has been at that location the entire time. When we need a good HVAC system we think of such companies, but otherwise they blend into the scenery.

Sky Firm, J. Richard Norris, Jr., CPA, Knoxville, Spring 2013

Sky Firm, J. Richard Norris, Jr., CPA, Knoxville, Spring 2013

Just behind their building is the Sky Firm with a listed address of 107 Main Street. I’m not sure if the Sky Firm has other components, but it includes a CPA named J. Richard Norris, Jr. Again, unless you need a CPA, I’m not sure they generally come to mind, but we’ve got one right there I’ve never noticed. To be fair, we have CPAs and Lawyers all over downtown and I don’t generally feature them on the blog. This office space, however, seems more off the radar than most.

The Amused Life Collective, Knoxville, Spring 2013

The Amused Life Collective, Knoxville, Spring 2013

Nearby, at 221 Cumberland Avenue sits something that seems about as far away from a C.P.A. as one could imagine: The Amused Life Collective – or TALC. As far as I can tell this is the site for creative people to get their groove on and they host all kinds of activities to promote those grooves. They also feature dance classes of a different sort, including sizemology dance, Salome Cabaret, The Follies Girls and Knox Flash Dance. The emphasis is on adult classes and welcoming women of every size.

The Cor-Tenn Company, Knoxville, June 2013

The Cor-Tenn Company, Knoxville, June 2013

The Cor-Tenn Company, Knoxville, June 2013

The Cor-Tenn Company, Knoxville, June 2013

On the other end of downtown on a section of State Street which blends into the parking area behind Central avenue as you enter the Old City is Cor-Tenn, a construction supply provider. It appears they inhabit very specific niches as their website proclaims the availability of such items as guard-rails or, as they prefer, “aesthetic barriers,” which are an alternative to galvanized guard-rails. They also tout their log home materials such as “industry specific fasteners.” They also provide construction components needed for construction work-sites such as safety equipment.

John H. Daniel Company, Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, June 2013

John H. Daniel Company, Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, June 2013

Around the corner on Jackson Avenue is John H. Daniels and Company. First off, what are the odds that two John H.’s would set up in one downtown area? (See the first business above). This business is probably the oldest continuously operating business in the downtown area, having operated in the same spot since 1928, providing tailored suits to the discerning individual. I’ve said before it seems like an odd fit for its current, edgy surroundings. I’ve heard rumblings of a move, but I can’t confirm that. I like having such a high-end clothing business downtown, though, as with the others, I’m not likely to go there.

John H. Daniel Company, Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, June 2013

John H. Daniel Company, Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, June 2013

What businesses would you add to the list as just a bit off-the-grid, unusual or mis-placed? Should we try to maintain this sort of mix with a bit of manufacturing thrown into what has become a retail and entertainment center? Is the clock inevitably ticking on this type of venture in the center city?

Comments

  1. A few years back I was killing time waiting to check into my room at the Omni hotel in downtown Austin, Texas when I wandered into the suit shop in the hotel plaza. A pleasant elder gentleman with half glasses sitting low on his nose and a fabric tape draped across his neck greeted me and asked the standard, how I was and where I was from. “Knoxville, Tennessee,” I said proudly. Immediately he replied, “Ah, John Daniel! That’s where my suits come from. …And a very good quality suit at that.” It took me a moment not necessarily having John H Daniel on the top of my notable Knoxville points of interest but then I remembered that place in the Old City… A pleasant surprise that made me even more Knoxville Proud.

    Thanks for highlighting these places that Are, who Knoxville Is.

  2. Doug Cassidy says

    John H. Daniel was also Bill O’Reilly’s tailor for a number of years, but don’t be fooled into thinking they are beyond the average Knoxvillian’s means. You can get a custom-tailored suit with your name or initials sewn inside the jacket for about the same price as the national chains. And they will last.

  3. John H McNair says

    T.A.L.C. is also in the location of the old Huddle Tavern, referenced in Suttree.

  4. I have used John H Coleman for years, so I knew where they were. They are great. John H Daniel is pretty well known too. I’ll have to check out the others.

  5. Sky Firm is an established leader in the world of professional staffing and recruitment that compete with the likes of Aerotek and Analog Solutions. The 3rd floor of the building houses Skyfirm and also the CPA office of Richard Norris, so it’s worth mentioning they are 2 totally separate companies in different suites.

    Sky Firm was previously located on Executive Park Drive until 2008 when they moved to their current building at 107 W. Main St.. They have gone largely unnoticed as the majority of their business was done for Fortune 500 companies located through out North America, but last year started a division focused on staffing and recruitment for local Knoxville, Nashville, and Chattanooga based companies. Check out their website for more info:
    http://sky-firm.com/aboutus

  6. I Googled John H. Daniel after I read Mike’s comment. Turns out they tailor the Master’s jacket and made M.C. Hammer’s baggy pants, “Can’t Touch This” suits in the 90’s.

  7. The well known movie producer, Blake Edwards, had his suits made at John Daniels. He was married to Julie Andrews. How he hooked up with John Daniels in Knoxville, I don’t know.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      They seem to operate in an orbit that defies explanation in many ways – at least to me.

  8. One worth mentioning is the shoe shine station in the First Tennessee building. In addition to providing shoe shines, the station serves as a drop off and pick up point for Pendergrass Shoe Repair, formerly located downtown. Better than having to drive to Bearden Hill.
    ~m.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      Now there’s one I never knew. I would’ve sworn to anyone you can’t get your shoes repaired without leaving downtown!

  9. There used to be an “Extraterrestrial Applications Institute” (or something very similar) on Walnut. They never seemed to be open.

  10. I suppose the value of the real estate will eventually push John Daniels and Corr Tenn to other locations. If Daniels moves the bulk of their manufacturing out to the suburbs, it would be great if they opened a Gay Street storefront (100 block maybe?) to handle walk-in business. The property that the other businesses you mention sit on doesn’t seem as choice and might continue to house marginal/unusual businesses for a long time.

  11. I know I’ve walked by the Tech Co-op on Jackson a dozen times at least without noticing it, although it’s more of a non-profit/charity I believe. Also, small typo/nit: “taut” should be “tout”.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      That’s one I still haven’t noticed. Interestingly, I walked past it while thinking of this story and still didn’t see it. And thanks on the typo. I always appreciate a little editorial help.

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