The first floor of the Holston will finally get a long overdue make over as Knoxville’s latest brewery and restaurant featuring low country food. It’s the vision of Lisa and Brien Shirey and they hope to have the new business in place by the end of the year. They will lease the first floor and basement of the Holston with an option to buy. Plans for the majority of the basement space will be deferred until the brewery and restaurant are established.
I met with Lisa to learn how the couple came to this point and place and found theirs to be a long and unpredictable journey. She’s from Maine, while Brien is from Lake Providence, Louisiana. He became a naval pilot and was stationed in Maine while Lisa worked there as a defense contractor. They met and were married (for twenty-eight years, now), ultimately landing in Milton, Florida.
Their son was born in Pensacola, but after Brien’s time in the military ended, he began flying for Delta and they moved to New Orleans out of which he often flew. Soon, they checked out Cincinnati and fell in love with northern Kentucky, settling in Georgetown for twenty years. They bought a 300+ acre farm which included a 750 square foot shack the couple lived in for five years.
Intending to make the farm pay for itself, the couple raised tobacco (they were in the top five percent of growers in the state) and had 126 sheep at one point. Of her husband, Lisa said, “He’s not afraid of hard work. That’s one of the things I admire the most about him.” For the last ten years the property has been a hunting club, mostly for archers.
The couple moved to Norris in 2011 while Lisa worked for Cardinal Health. They bought a home in 2012 fulfilling a long-term goal to be in Tennessee. They love the climate and it is a good mid-point for their family. Meanwhile, Brien continues to fly 777s for Delta, mostly flying to Asia and Australia, though when we spoke he was on a trip to Paris and Tel Aviv.
Each of them has had a long interest in food. He’s been particularly fond of Louisiana cuisine and she’s maintained Worthy Food, a blog about food (among other things). She said for twenty years they’ve talked about opening a place with “shrimp and beer.” Lisa says their alter-ego had always been interested in having a loft in the city and they fell in love with Knoxville, which “feels alive with energy and optimism.” She said the driving force behind their desire to open a restaurant and a brewery is, “to give people a great experience.” That idea is reflected in her blog.
Their one foray into a culinary business was an odd twist in their journey in which they bought a gas station and deli along with the property beside it with the intention of opening an indoor motocross track. That never materialized, but they operated the station and deli for ten years. They considered opening a restaurant in Norris, but decided the traffic there wouldn’t be able to support what they had in mind, nor would the locations which were available. When they found the space at the Holston, they knew they had the spot.
Initial plans will include a brewery and restaurant on the ground floor, with an event space in the vault downstairs. The primary entrance to the restaurant will be via Krutch Park and plans are underway there for patio seating adjacent to the building and looking out into the park. Plans for a second phase may include artist and artisan spaces in the remainder of the basement. They hope to have the restaurant and brewery operational by winter of 2017 and the retail space about eighteen months later. Duane Grieve is the architect and plans are almost completed.
As you might imagine, plans continue to evolve. In January they purchased a seven barrel brewing system from Bosco’s Brewery when they closed their Nashville location. They will employ both a chef for the restaurant and a brew master for the brewery and they are currently looking for both. While the concept may change, they are currently thinking low country cuisine will be the focus, with fresh caught gulf seafood and particularly fresh shrimp. They’ve secured a vendor on the coast and that part of the model is ready to go.
Plans call for a causal, comfortable and welcoming atmosphere where people can relax and enjoy some excellent seafood as well as other meat selections, salads and healthy offerings. A full bar including guest taps for other local breweries will be included. Lisa noted that the other local breweries had been exceptionally supportive of their new endeavor. Seating is planned for in excess of 200.
Lisa admitted that what started as a simple concept has grown tremendously. The couple has held informal talks with the city and feels they will be able to proceed, though they will have typical approvals of plans and inspections to come. Full plans and the space will be on display and Lisa will be available to discuss them next Thursday night at the Premier Party for the Urban Home and Garden Tour on August 4. To meet her and hear more about the concept, buy tickets here.
I’m excited to have a business locating in the ground floor (and later in the basement) of the Holston. Located directly across from the pending revival of the Farragut Hotel, the location feels poised for success. A patio looking out onto Krutch Park and fresh gulf shrimp sounds just about perfect.