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.

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