Juice Bar, 2 Market Square, Knoxville, October 2016
I mentioned when Blue Coast closed a few weeks ago that we probably weren’t finished for the year. I didn’t have any inside knowledge. I hadn’t heard any rumors. It’s just the way it works each year around December: businesses that have been hanging on close. Maybe their leases end. Maybe they are looking at the slow months of January and February and it seems like a good time to get out.
The Juice Bar becomes the latest to shut down operations at the end of the year. They posted a simple photo and statement on Instagram and closed the doors.
It’s not always easy to know what is going on with a business. There are so many ways that things can go wrong – and the same variables can spell success for other businesses: A large number of owners can generate conflict – or a great support system. It can generate too many people trying to be in charge or everyone willing to do anything that needs to be done. A small kitchen can doom a restaurant or force them to be very creative. And on it goes.
Some of the challenges facing small businesses are always difficult and can sink a business: It is very hard to find, hire and retain quality employees. Food service is particularly difficult. Rent is going up all around downtown and a corner on Market Square is going to be one of the most expensive.
Negative impressions can be set early, for good reason or not, and can be hard to overcome. I know one very successful restaurant that fought an uphill battle early because people got the impression it was more expensive and fancier than it really is.
So, we can speculate, and many people will say they “know” what happened in a particular case like this one, but unless you are on the inside, you really don’t. Often employees don’t even know what happened. I passed the Juice Bar just a week or so ago and noted that they seemed particularly busy.
I don’t particularly love the kinds of healthy juices that are popular, right now, but I thought enough of downtown frequenters might to make it work. Maybe hard-core juicers want something fresher and not pre-made and so they didn’t support it. If a juice place in a prime location can’t work downtown at this time, it makes me skeptical of other niche concepts people often complain about not having, such as a vegan restaurant. Maybe we just aren’t there, yet.
There is, of course, the possibility that something particular doomed this business. The hours have been mentioned as an oddity: They closed each day at 6:00 PM, which seems to miss two to three of the square’s busiest hours. Perhaps people reacted negatively to the fact that it is a chain and it felt like one. Some chains pull off feeling local while others seem to be missing something.
So, we have volatility on Market Square and, particularly it seems, on the corners. The square seems destined to have even more people looking for ways to spend their money when the Embassy Suites opens just across from this location. It seems a great opportunity for someone. Will it be filled as quickly as 37 Market Square? We’ll see.
Speculate away on all of it and we’ll see if this is the last closure in the year.