I had a Facebook conversation recently in which one participant opined, “If only we had a pharmacy downtown, we’d be closer to having a real downtown.” Well, we’ve had a pharmacy downtown since last October. Not only can they fill your prescriptions, they have a wide range of over-the-counter drugs as well as an impressive list of other items you might need at some point, from plungers to batteries and much more.
This week sees a final piece of the concept put into place as the soda fountain portion of the vision has been completed. There were a couple of sneak peeks this week as they opened for First Friday and the home tour and then opened for a few hours Saturday night. Adjustments were made from Friday to Saturday and more are underway, with additional menu items and ice cream by the scoop joining sundaes and shakes.
I spoke to owner/manager Nolan Sherrill who is very excited to share the finished concept with downtown residents and visitors. He pointed out that while the pace has sometimes seemed slow to people watching through the windows, a lot has been happening behind the scenes. He took me, for example, to the basement kitchen which has been built in recent months. This is where the ice cream as well as syrups and other toppings are made from scratch.
They’ve also brought a couple of very helpful co-owners on board. Peter Freeman, whose cookbook The Soda Fountain: Floats, Sundaes, Egg Creams and More was a New York Times bestseller has joined. He’s also a co-founder of the Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain, which Food Network Magazine named on of the “top ten restaurants in America.” Also joining the team is Rita Cochran, Director of Food Service operations at Scripps/Food Network Kitchens. That’s some serious fire-power behind your local soda fountain.
It’s important to realize when you walk in that you are not looking at a Hollywood set for a 1920’s soda fountain, though it could be used as such. The vast majority of what you see really is from that era. Where needed, shelving was carefully crafted by master carpenters at New Life Construction to match the authentic apothecary pieces. It would be challenging for most of us to distinguish the new from the old. And like the other furnishings, the shelving wasn’t purchased off Ebay from some distant place: it was found locally or regionally. Nolan stressed how helpful so many people have been, from Benefield Richters who designed the space to Kate Moore of Kate Moore Creative and Live Love Studios as well as Mark Hahn of Mobile Fixture and Gracie Jones of Fountain City Stained Glass as well as others who have offered support materials and furnishings.
Nolan said they’ve done their very best to honor the contributions of those people and to make the finished product live up to their efforts. Many of the pieces of furniture came from Storeroom Furniture and were original to the local Mims and Hudson Pharmacy located just about two miles from downtown Knoxville. Doug Smith of Smith Drug Store in Rutledge had the marble which was used for the table tops in the new pharmacy. Eight tons of marble which was cut by White’s Marble Works in Sweetwater and some of the wood came from Smoky Mountain Vintage Lumber. Doug Smith also had the marquee which, originally used outside Smith Drugs, is now on display inside the new Phoenix Pharmacy and Fountain.
Flossie McNabb, owner of Union Avenue Books and granddaughter of the owners of Fowler’s Furniture, a long time Knoxville institution located at the same address a generation ago, provided the scales from Fowler’s for use in the pharmacy. I understand they still work, but need to be calibrated. Look for them when you visit. Much of the space was left as it was found. The floors are original to the building. You’ll also find stools toward the front of the business which date to the 1800s.
The retail portion of the fountain will be devoted to allowing customers to take home some of what they have enjoyed inside the business. Hot fudge, caramels, brownies, syrups, toppings and ice cream are made in house and some of those will be available to carry home. Hammond’s candies, all natural products, will be available. I spotted Yoohoos, one of my childhood addictions. A selection of dark chocolates also grace the shelves, including products from French Broad Chocolates in Asheville and Olive and Sinclair in Nashville. They also serve Stumptown Coffee which is available for purchase by the bag.
For the next couple of weeks, the fountain portion of the business will continue to work on improving service and quality and they plan to have a grand opening on August 17. For this week, you’ll find them open from 4:00 PM – 10:00 PM Wednesday through Friday and from 2:00 PM – 10:00 PM on Saturday. Hours may change afterward, but will become set in the near future.
It’s a great new business which complements Mast General Store to create a retro vibe along that block. Make no mistake, however, this is a modern version of an old favorite and it includes everything for your pharmacy needs, as well as a little something to enjoy when you stop in. The building continues to be our MVP downtown with businesses ranging from a coffee shop to a bank and dry cleaners and, more recently, a Covenant Convenient Care, the pharmacy and now the fountain.
Head over to the Phoenix Pharmacy and Fountain‘s Facebook Page and give them a like and also follow along as they develop. Please consider changing your prescriptions over and take a close look at the daily necessities they offer. It’s another step in the growth of downtown Knoxville as our resurgence continues to expand and accelerate.