I continue to be impressed with the creative people I meet in downtown Knoxville as a result of this blog. I recently learned that a new business opened on the 100 block of Gay Street and both the name and the focus of the business caught my attention. Green Ash Design, it turns out, takes its name from its owner, Nina Ash, and the fact that her business is focused on landscape designs with a green focus – both green, as in the plants, but also with an ecological emphasis.
I met both Nina and Bryce Caldwell, her partner in the enterprise, at Remedy in the Old City. An attractive young couple, they enthusiastically launched into an explanation of how the concept evolved, what led to launching the company last month and what they hope to accomplish. I had to admire both their enthusiasm and the nerve to start such an ambitious undertaking at so young an age. When I mentioned her youth and the fact that she’s just now completing her Landscape Design degree and business minor at UT, she replied, “Who doesn’t dream of owning their own business!”
She’ll be the creative element of the team. Always having an eye toward color, she was attracted to design. As a part of her studies at UT she spent two weeks in Italy, then two weeks traveling across Europe studying the gardens she found there. It was on a trip to Floriday that she and Bryce began to take note of vertical landscape designs. A little research revealed that vertical landscapes are extremely popular in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Knoxville has a significant number of established landscape design companies and for a new company to survive they need something a bit different. Realizing they had found that difference, Nina and Bryce opened for business last month. They envision installations in businesses such as car dealerships and other companies with large spaces which need to be warmer to increase appeal. Residential installations, either inside or out are also possible and one downtown developer has requested a rendering for a possible installation. Should that come to fruition, and it seems likely, I’ll bring you photographs of the progress.
It’s also an interesting business concept. Bryce, who has a BA in marketing, an MBA and experience with start-up companies, is steering the business side of the endeavor. He points out that the old business model involving borrowing money to invest in a business for which there may or may not be a demand has fallen out of favor. In its place is a more conservative approach, in a sense, perhaps an approach that is so new it’s old. A demand is identified and a business built on that demand with growth only coming with increasing demand. The result is little-to-no debt and inventory which is how they are running this business.
For materials, however, there is a backup in that Bryce is also partners in an Oak Ridge business called Smoky Mountain Vintage Lumber which focuses on re-claimed materials, especially century-old barn wood. The idea for that business is that re-use of materials is more ecologically responsible while yielding points toward LEED certification. It’s also simply cooler. I’ll have more about Smoky Mountain Lumber when they complete their move to North Central in the Happy Holler section of downtown.
Re-use of materials are only one way that Nina intends to make her business ecologically positive. Increasing oxygen producing vegetation on or inside a building also yields points toward LEED certification and she and Bryce have developed a system of timed irrigation using rain barrels connected to the installation, thus watering and conserving resources. If that isn’t practical, they will contract to provide all the care one of their installations will need.
If you are still having a hard time picturing a vertical landscape design, you’ll find several on the Green Ash Design website. I think you’ll be impressed with their ideas. If you want to give them a little encouragement, like their Facebook page and, certainly, if you think you might have a need of their services, contact them via the website or at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1(615)785-4020. And more simply, if you are walking along the 100 block and spot two of your newest neighbors, say hello and tell them you read about their business here.