Shuck Closes, Holly Hambright’s Holly’s 135 to Open

Shuck, Knoxville, February 2012

Shuck, Knoxville, February 2012

I realize very well this has been reported elsewhere, but it’s too significant for downtown and the 100 block for me not to mention it. I also was able to speak with Ben Bishop, general manager of Shuck downtown and in Bearden. He was able to give a little insight into the decision to shift the restaurants.

So, the first piece of information is that Shuck has closed at 135 S. Gay Street. It had been open just shy of three years, opening in February 2012. I wrote about it then and, in noting recent developments there, underscored the difficult nature of retail and, particularly, of retail on the 100 block of Gay Street. I commented on the recent closings of Eleven (clothing boutique), Unarmed Merchants (art and gifts), Havana Nights (Cuban restaurant) and the move of Nama further into the city on Gay Street. More striking, I expressed optimism based on recent openings including Lululemon, Harry’s and  11 Cafe – all of which have subsequently closed. To say there’s been a lot of turnover on the block is an understatement.

I enjoyed that first visit to Shuck. I wrote about it again over a year later saying I’d included it in a great weekend with guests. I’m not sure I ever mentioned it on the blog, but last summer I had one of the most pleasurable meals I’ve ever enjoyed in the city at Shuck. Family was in from out of town and we’d been joined by friends and our out-of-town guests had enjoyed it so much in their previous visit (in the article above), they’d requested we return. Unfortunately there was no seating for a party our size. They improvised, giving us a private room upstairs where they served us great food and we had a wonderful evening of laughter, friends, good food and drink.

Ben told me that he felt changes were coming, but was as surprised this week as everyone else to learn that location would be closing. He was told Monday morning at 8:30 and by the end of the day, word had hit the press. He’ll continue to manage the Bearden location and he assured me other employees had been offered work elsewhere. Some of them will be found in Cru Bistro downtown. He said the restaurant was doing well, but this alignment makes more sense.

It’s being portrayed more as a merger of Shuck into Cru and to a degree that makes sense. Nama, Cru Bistro and Shuck are all owned by Nama, LLC, headed by Gale Honeycutt, so when Nama moved and Shuck arrived, the same company operated both. The same is true with the new restaurant. Ben assured me we’ll be able to get our favorite Shuck menu items such as the Oyster/bacon Po-boy, the Seafood Tower, Fish Tacos and the Chesapeake Oysters.

Holly Hambright, Knoxville, April 2014

Holly Hambright, Knoxville, April 2014

The other news, of course, is that a new restaurant will move into the space in February. Holly’s 135 will be operated by local foodie Holly Hambright. She operates Holly’s Eventful Dining, a catering business, and about a year ago opened Holly’s Corner on Central. I wrote about both Holly and that venture last April. She, along with Gale Honeycutt are behind each of these businesses, as well. Ben explained that the downtown concept for Holly’s 135 has been coming and may have been speeded up because Holly’s ventures have been doing so well recently, saying, “We look at this as a great opportunity for our company all around.”

I was unable to speak with Ms. Hambright regarding the plans for the new restaurant including menu, but in the article on WBIR she is quoted as saying she will continue her focus on “seasonal and regional ingredients.” Noting the menu will have “more ‘international’ options,” she told them, “Just because we’re in the South doesn’t mean we’re going to be doing grits in every meal.”

Sounds interesting. I’ll let you know what I discover when they open. I’m looking forward to it as a great addition to downtown dining, but I’m going to have to slip into Cru occasionally and make sure they’re still dishing out that seafood tower and those oyster po’ boys.


  1. All that turnover, and some people will still argue that Summit Hill isn’t a barrier to the 100 block.

    Isn’t Trio on Market Square also part of the Nama restaurant group? They made changes recently too.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      If they are in the same group, I don’t know it. I hadn’t realized they’ve changed until your comment made me look on their website. I’ll have to investigate.

      • Chris Eaker says

        I went to Trio last week and did a double take when I walked in. Apparently, they get that often because someone was by the front door to explain to me how it works now. They’ve done away with the long hallway on the right hand side. Now, you just get your drink and sit down and someone comes to your table to take your order on a handheld device. Same food, different process to get it.

    • Chris Eaker says

      I can just see all those business owners on the 100 block standing on the corner looking down Gay Street at all those folks from Union south and saying, “Hey yall, we’ve got stuff up here, too! Come on over!” But of course, who wants to cross Summit Hill to get there?

      • Honestly I don’t see what the problem is with crossing Summit Hill. I do it multiple times a week and it is no problem. If I were in a wheelchair or had a disability then I could see the issue – but 90% of the general public should be able to make a 5 minute walk from the 300 block or Market Square without any issue.

        The problem is that downtown is still Market Square centric. People treat Market Square like a shopping mall and have a similar kind of West-Knoxville idiocy ingrained in their heads, making them wait for an hour to eat at Tupelo Honey or Stock & Barrel rather than walking five minutes to eat at Cru or Shuck (I know this because I have tried to eat at Stock & Barrel multiple times to find a 1.5 hr wait, only to walk to Cru and be seated immediately in a room that is only 50% full).

        Personally I would rather shop on the 100 block than Market Square any day of the week. The 100 block has a character to it that one can find in bigger cities. Market Square has that, too… but we as consumers need to start branching out into different sectors of our city instead of incessantly harping on Summit Hill being a ‘barrier.’

        End rant.

        • Stock & Barrel regularly overstates their wait time. I regularly head over there, put my name in (“It’ll be about an hour and a half”), then head over to Scruffy City Hall for a pint. By the time I finish a pint, my table is ready. It’s been less than 20 minutes.

          I do, however, get your point. There are still times when I say “screw that, I’ll just head to the 100 block or the Old City and get a meal–plus I could use the exercise.” Many suburban dwellers don’t seem to understand that their legs can, indeed, make the trek across (or down and across) Summit Hill.

        • Chris Eaker says

          If everyone who came downtown to shop and eat thought like you, we’d have no problem, would we?

  2. Sad to see Shuck go. We live right across the street and loved having three good dining options so close by. The 100 Block is cut off from downtown by the dangerous Summit Hill Drive, as many have pointed out. We have almost been hit by cars there on more than one occasion.

    • In my opinion, IF the 200 block was not empty, few would think to mention any difficulty crossing Summit Hill. It is the combination of speeding cars followed by nothingness that raises one’s discomfort level about getting to the 100 block.

      Nevertheless, Holly’s will be very successful there.

  3. Is the decision to revamp the park in the 200 block a done deal? I’d like to see the city hold a design contest and give the land away to the winner. Require something really interesting and LEED certified. You could even require adding a park acre somewhere else/cheaper just to ensure no net loss of city park space. As to Summit, Greenville SC and Chattanooga have four lanes run through downtown and seem to do okay, but east bound summit is especially scary the way cars pick up speed coming downhill.

  4. Excited to see what Holly does with the menu! She’s one of the most talented chefs in Knoxville and this will give her a whole new setting to play in… as she would say: Whoot!!

  5. Proof read the article before uploading!

  6. Ah…that would be “proofread”.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      I’d have given a dollar to have thought of that myself. I did find a couple of errors – a word repetition and another left out. I thought about offering double his money back, but now there’s no need. 🙂

      • I went Cru Tuesday night and was excited to find that part of our City so a Intimate. I look forward to trying what Holly135 has to offer.

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