About six years ago, Remedy Coffee opened at 125 W. Jackson with a mission to serve good coffee in a good environment, while building the community. Owned by Knoxlife Church and operated by minister Sean Alsobrooks and wife Sara, the venture has been a successful one. Several things have changed, however, in the intervening years that have prompted the Alsobrooks to decide the business needs a new location.
The couple likes both the lower rent and the feel of areas that are a little less developed. The two variables often go together. There is no question that the Old City, though perhaps still a little rougher around the edges than uptown, has changed and will change even more in the near term. I’ve recently mentioned Armada, a craft cocktail bar there, previously I mentioned a wine bar coming soon, the once-industrial John H. Daniel Building will soon be new homes, the city is set to bury utilities and will soon embark on a massive street-improvement project along Jackson and a fine arts glass studio is near opening. The new and improved Jackson Terminal building is almost ready for business.
That’s a lot of change – and change for the better. But with that level of massive infusion of money comes increased rent. When the Testerman estate sold the building housing Remedy to Hatcher-Hill, rent increased significantly and now reflects the new reality of the area. With increased rent and a different feel of the area, Sean and Sara might have begun considering a move. But another variable had entered the picture which made a move make even more sense: Maker’s Donuts and the 800 building on Tyson.
Sean and Sara have been busy preparing the building and hope to open that business in September, though it may be October. They’ve installed a 1500 gallon grease interceptor and have addressed most of the preliminary issues required for opening such a business and doing renovations. The build-out is well underway and it seems the worst is behind them on the project.
During these last months, as the changes happened in the Old City and they worked on the new business, they began considering the rest of the building. Makers will use a much smaller portion, leaving a large space next door. The decision became obvious: they would lease the entire building – with an option to purchase in five years – and move Remedy into the larger space. To them, the area feels more like the Old City did six years ago and that really fits their vision.
The new space will not have an area like the back area currently found at Remedy, but at 1800 square feet of open space, the main area will be larger than that of the current coffee shop. The smaller total square footage is important, because they had to pay rent for the large space on Jackson even though the back wasn’t typically in use. It didn’t make sense to continue paying a higher rent for unused square footage. While the move is admittedly bittersweet, they are excited about the new location and it will be much easier to have the two businesses in adjacent spaces.
The current location of Remedy will continue to operate through October 31 – when the current lease ends – and they hope to have the new location open the next day. Sean pointed out that the build-out of the new coffee shop will not be very involved and it can be done expeditiously. Remedy will continue under the ownership of Knox Life, but Makers is owned personally by the couple.
I asked if both locations will sell coffee, which seems a bit funny. Sean said they would, but Remedy will offer a much wider range of coffee drinks and will continue to use Intellgentsia Coffee. The new shop will have a different roast and will feature only hot and cold coffees. The couple is currently searching for a good roast which is not currently available in the Knoxville market.
The new location features an outdoor patio which will be shared and on-street parking, thanks to a variance from the city that allowed them not to purchase or build a parking lot. Sara and Sean noted that the city personnel have been extremely helpful, remembering appreciatively a person who walked them to the right floor and office rather than giving them directions. They also said KUB assisted them greatly with the grease interceptor issue and seemed to feel for them, even though they could not change the regulation.
So, you’ve got a couple of months to continue enjoying Remedy in the Old City and a couple of months to wait for the new location, though perhaps we’ll have a shorter wait to get our hands on those doughnuts. The new building is owned by P. Smith (who I profiled here) and she will have a great sale of her “treasures” she calls them this Saturday as a part of the Emory Place Block Party. You can check out the building and find your own personal treasure among items including a twenty-two foot guitar, NFL helmets, a computer desk, bed and more. She’ll be open from 8:00-5:00.