A Look at a (Relatively) new Downtown Business

Holly's Corner, 842 N. Central Street, Knoxville, April 2014

Holly’s Corner, 842 N. Central Street, Knoxville, April 2014

One of my planned destinations in my recent wandering about the area was Holly’s Corner. Owner Holly Hambright opened the restaurant about six months ago and, good intentions aside, I just hadn’t been able to make it there. I also wasn’t sure what I was in for. Was it a bakery? I knew her sister, Peggy Hambright, operated Magpies which resides at 846 N. Central since its move several years ago from the Old City. Metropulse did a great profile on the sisters just over a year ago. The new business sits next door and I stopped in and learned quite a bit.

First, there is the history of the building. In the short term, I realized I’d been in there when the former Book Eddy moved from south Knoxville into the space and became Central Street Books. I’ve often acknowledged in this space that I have a hard time visualizing possibilities when I look at a building to be re-developed. The same is true when I try to picture how something was before. I could not see Central Street Books when I looked around the new restaurant even though I visited the book store more than once.

Holly's Corner, 842 N. Central Street, Knoxville, April 2014

Holly Hambright at Holly’s Corner, 842 N. Central Street, Knoxville, April 2014

Holly's Corner, 842 N. Central Street, Knoxville, April 2014

Holly’s Corner, 842 N. Central Street, Knoxville, April 2014

It’s the deeper history that most people will relate to: It’s in the same space as the old Corner Lounge. It operated as a bar or lounge from the 1930’s to 2008 and was referred to in Cormac McCarthy’s book, Suttree, as the “Corner Grill.” Most famously in more recent times, Con Hunley played a weekly gig there in the late 1960’s before finding his way to national success. Sadly, I must admit I never made it to the Corner Lounge. I know – it hurts my Knoxville street cred.

The building is little more than a block off Broadway. Since it’s west of Broadway, it’s not in Fourth and Gill. Since it is so far east on Central, it is several blocks short of Happy Holler. Maybe Old North incorporates that entire section of Central including Happy Holler. Though not historically correct, increasingly anything on Central west of Broadway is being called “Happy Holler.” Whatever you call it, it’s currently a hot spot in redevelopment.

Late last year it became the latest venture for Holly. She’d traveled about in her younger years, attaining great success as a chef cooking for queens and celebrities in places such as Boston and Baltimore and, most notably for me, she cooked for Mr. Frank. You cook for Frank Sinatra, I suspect you better get it right. And she apparently got it very right, gaining quite a reputation as a chef.

She returned to Knoxville in 2000 and served as a chef several places around town before opening Holly’s Eventful Dining in 2008. Offering catering only in the beginning, she soon branched out to offer breakfast and lunch at 5032 Wittaker in the Homberg area of Bearden. She expanded to the new restaurant on Central, next door to her sister’s place, last fall and so, works in close proximity to her sister for the first time in their careers. Supportive of each other, they mostly do their own thing.

Holly's Corner, 842 N. Central Street, Knoxville, April 2014

Holly’s Corner, 842 N. Central Street, Knoxville, April 2014

Holly's Corner, 842 N. Central Street, Knoxville, April 2014

Holly’s Corner, 842 N. Central Street, Knoxville, April 2014

Holly’s Corner offers the lunch only at this time – along with the possibility of events after 4:00 PM each day. She told me she has hopes to expand to breakfast and she’s considering adding music or other touches and staying open later into the evening. She’s a bubbly person with a ready laugh and a mind that seems to work several sentences ahead of the conversation. She doesn’t seem like someone content for things to remain the same for very long.

As you can see on the formal menu and the less formal chalk board menu the food served is serious culinary fare, served with a sense of whimsy. Accommodations are made for the kids and for the vegetarians among us, but the focus is on deliciousness with a flair. She cooked for Mr. Frank, for goodness sake, the woman can cook for you.

Magpie's, 846 N. Central, Knoxville, April 2014

Magpie’s, 846 N. Central, Knoxville, April 2014

Magpie's, 846 N. Central, Knoxville, April 2014

Magpie’s, 846 N. Central, Knoxville, April 2014

I also had to stick my head in Magpies. As many times as I’ve enjoyed their baked goods, I don’t think I’d ever been inside the store. Naturally, buttery goodness lay in every direction with cakes, cookies and, of course, the famous cup cakes on display. It would make a fine place to stop after a good meal at Holly’s Corner for a goodie-to-go, though they serve confections from Magpies as desert at Holly’s Corner, as well.

Magpie's, 846 N. Central, Knoxville, April 2014

Magpie’s, 846 N. Central, Knoxville, April 2014

Holly's Corner, 842 N. Central Street, Knoxville, April 2014

Ashlin Mull and Holly Hambright at Holly’s Corner, 842 N. Central Street, Knoxville, April 2014

Stop in and say, “Hello” to Holly. She’ll likely greet you as if you’re the friend she expected to meet that day. With a little prompting she’ll start spinning stories and talking about plans. One of the cool plans in coming months is a planned Summer Supper in conjunction with Knox Heritage. It raises money for preservation efforts and it offers an historically symmetrical twist: Con Hunley will perform for the event. Tickets are not yet on sale, but will be very soon.

Comments

  1. Bonny Pendleton says

    You guys crack me up.

  2. FYI Their pimento cheese BLT is amazing.

  3. I thought “far” meant something is burning and one needs to call the ‘far department’. haha. I also am sort of a ‘grammar nerd’, so much so that I have been known to have called radio stations and companies that advertise on radio and tv to discuss the grammar of their broadcasts. Again, all in fun.

    Alan, thank you for covering and promoting local businesses and helping them become more obvious to local patrons. Your writing and especially your photography has become very professional and enjoyable to me. thanks, tom

  4. I am ashamed to admit that I had no idea this place was a restaurant. Now I am going to have to try it, YLOO!

    Geographically speaking, I believe this is the part of town our city leaders like to call “Downtown North.”

  5. As for the geography mentioned here, I think Old North comprises anything within the Broadway/Central/Woodland nigh-angle (that’s a nigh triangle). So, Happy Holler is in Old North, but this place isn’t quite in Happy Holler yet. I think in order to technically be in the “hollow” you’d have to be in part of the Central St. downhill slope that bottoms out around Anderson Ave.

    I remember Central Street Books having a semi-private “office” behind the counter, walled off by shelves of books into a little nook and always thought it looked so cozy. I need to make a special effort to try out the “new” corner.

  6. Chris Eaker says

    I’ll have to give it a try. Then I’ll go next door and try something from Magpies.

    FYI, “proximity” means nearness in space. Thus, “close proximity” is redundant. Being close is already built into the word proximity.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      Hey Chris, Glad you are going to give it a try. I’m not sure we want to go all nerdy on all the readers and fall into a grammar discussion, but I found this, “Given that a third of all NGram instances of proximity over the last century occur as close proximity, I think one can reasonably say it’s a common idiom (at least, common relative to the word proximity itself). You can’t just reject an idiom on the grounds of “illogical” tautology.” What he said. 🙂 If I understand it correctly that means some sort of search of published works indicates that about a third of the times proximity has been used in the last hundred years, it’s had that qualifier in front of it. That doesn’t necessarily make it “best” usage, but it makes it extremely common usage. Can closeness not have degrees? Holly’s Corner is proximate to downtown, but it is closely proximate to the business next door, no? Maybe it is the “same exact” question we hit in other situations where a common expression is widely understood, though technically redundant. Fun stuff for the nerds among us. Every body having fun? 🙂

      • Chris Eaker says

        Oh, yes, fun for nerds. We could definitely get into a grammar discussion about it, like frequency of use does not make it right. It just means that 1/3 of the people don’t know they’re wrong, but I won’t go there.

        Instead of saying something is closely proximate, you could just say “next door” or adjacent (but not immediately adjacent, because that, again, is redundant). 🙂

        TGIF, everyone!

        • I’m going to have to step in here and leave my 2 cents. Language doesn’t get standardized in some lab or office where some authority decides what is right and what is wrong. The language comes from the way people use it. What I mean is, if everyone started, say, using the word “close” to mean “far”, they wouldn’t be wrong. If the word “far” was understood to reference the concept we define with “close”, then it’s correct. The way people use language defines it. I know that may sound terrible to a purist and “Hooray, YOLO is in the dictionary now,” but that’s how it works. (And even worse, grammatically, it SHOULD be YLOO, but my point about usage still stands!). And of course, this instance isn’t that cut and dry because apparently a clear majority DON’T use proximity that way, but I think 1/3 counts for something. Anyway, I actually fundamentally want to agree with you, that “correct” is correct regardless of usage, but language doesn’t get the same treatment as math, which can be absolute. I think that was at least 3 cents. Sorry for that.

          • Chris Eaker says

            I’d give you at least a nickel for that response.

          • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

            We really should stop this, but I can’t resist. The search means that 1/3 of the time “proximity” has *appeared in print* it has had that qualifier, so we’re not simply talking about street language. Also, it doesn’t mean that “a clear majority DON’T use proximity that way,” it just means that the rest of the time it appeared in print it didn’t have that qualifier. OK, can we all go to the Market Square Art Fair, now, and start the weekend? As a final note, I should point out that I likely have a half-dozen or more grammatical errors in every post if we want to start getting really picky – and I dearly hope we don’t. 🙂 It’s hard to generate 600 – 1200 words a night at midnight and have it be perfect.

          • Oh no, I agree with you on your usage. It might not have come across that way because I was replying directly to Chris. But I actually didn’t even mean (implied or otherwise) to weigh in on the usage of “close proximity”. My point was the more abstract “does usage define correctness?” Basically it boiled down to: Sure, in theory there is a right and wrong. But in practice, frequency of usage absolutely DOES make it right. The reference to the 1/3 was just for the sake of argument, that even if it’s a very conservative estimate, it still makes for a large enough usage to count. And even after all this, I would like to say I really do appreciate your blog and think you write very well. None of this was meant to reflect poorly on anything you do here.

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