There’s just something about the end of a year that makes us re-evaluate. On a personal level, we’re a year older for certain, heavier or healthier, a little richer or a little poorer, closer to our goals or further away. It must be similar for business owners as they survey the year that was, evaluate it and determine if they are happy with the year or if next year might be better. I’m not sure, but for whatever reason, businesses often make changes at the end of the year and this year is no exception.
I’ll start with the best news: an opening. It’s always a good thing when a new business opens and one opened recently at 714 S. Gay Street. Dustin Stewart and Jared Hollyfield are making a return of sorts. You may remember them from several years ago when they plied their trade at Salon Visage on Market Square. When it changed, they moved to Bearden, but missed the downtown vibe. So now they are back with Rock Paper Hair Studio. They offer a full range of salon services with a staff that includes Amy Koenig and Sudartha Line.
A pending opening has been announced in the Kress Building with Terry Bullman opening a downtown version of his Bullman’s Kickboxing and Krav Maga. Krav Maga is a system of training and self-defense developed by the Israeli Army in the 1940’s. The original location is at 4511 Kingston Pike and I’m assuming this will be a second location. The gym will be located below the Kress Building in the basement – which will put it across the street from the planned basement bowling alley in the J.C. Penney Building. It’s a downtown subterranean fitness boom, of sorts. The street-level space is being offered for office or retail space. Please, somebody, anybody, bring a retail business to that street address. No more offices on the street, please! I wonder if Jay is still available? I hope to have an interview with Mr. Bullman, soon, regarding his plans for the space.
Two businesses have moves either pending or already executed. The first to hit the road, Cairo Cafe has moved about three blocks from their former location at 718 S. Gay Street to their new location below Sky Box at 415 S. Gay Street. They’ve left a building that seems worrisome to me – the roof-line is visibly sagging – and move to a space which has been woefully underutilized. I thought the Jack Cellar could be a cool spot and would make a great blues bar just as it was decorated, but that isn’t to be.
Instead, Cairo Cafe has moved closer to the highest concentration of restaurants and bars in the city and they hope this will increase their customer base. I spoke with manager Omar Yousif who said the move was sudden a couple of weeks ago in order to complete it before owner Rafik Hannah left the country for Egypt. The restaurant features a full bar and hookahs with a full menu of tobaccos. A full food menus offers a mix of Mediterranean and American dishes. The atmosphere reminds me of World Grotto, for those of you who remember that. Omar tells me they have about twenty different belly dancers who perform on the weekends.
I have to admit to two things regarding this business: First, when I wrote about Yassin’s Falafel House, I think I stated or implied that it was the only source for middle eastern food downtown. Not so. Additionally, I’ve never entered the Cairo Cafe because I have a hard time being around tobacco smoke and particularly don’t like to eat and smell smoke. My admission is that this is different. The place smelled like fruit – which is the flavoring in tobacco. I don’t think I would have associated the smell with smoke if I hadn’t known. It’s just not the same. I could eat there – or catch a show – I’m not opposed to a little belly dancing.
The pending move is that of Steamboat on Market Square. Their plan is to move back to the location they left when they moved downtown. Co-owner Maggie Cole told me business has been great on Market Square, but rent is only headed in one direction in the epicenter of downtown and they felt they would be best served to re-occupy the building they left. It has been remodeled and is owned by Maggie’s parents, so I’m guessing she can negotiate the rent. The new location is a few blocks farther out than the heart of Happy Holler at 2423 N. Central. The plan is to close the Market Square store at the end of the year and re-open at the new location as soon as possible, though there will be a gap of time between the two.
Finally, one business has already shuttered its doors and turned out the lights. The Knoxville Magazine published five issues (quarterly) and, by all accounts, produced a magazine that appealed to its target audience. A handsome magazine, Johnna Easter, associate publisher, told me it, “had been preforming quite nicely, many advertisers had embraced us and really appreciated the quality of the editorial content and the physical product. But after only 5 issues we had not yet become profitable.” It seems like a brief attempt, and a short time to expect a profit. I reached out to owner Dan Shannon for comment, but didn’t get a return email.
Taken all together it’s mostly good news at the end of the year: We have a new salon and our off-street spaces seem to be gain popularity with basement businesses (bowling and Bullman’s) on Gay Street and a loft business (Coldsteam Market) on Market Square. Both Cairo Cafe and Steamboat feel their new locations are a better fit. Even the loss of the Knoxville Magazine, though unfortunate, opens a prime retail spot in the Daylight building and the other retail outlets there might be better served to have a business which draws foot-traffic to the area.