A Business Closes, Another Expands, A Third Will Reopen

GEO Hair Lab, 300 W. Fifth Ave., Knoxville, February 2016

We’ve seen a lot of movement recently on the downtown business front, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. I’ve still got more openings to write about in the coming days, but in the meantime, here are three updates on businesses you know. Each one of these surprised me in one way or another, and one of them changed mid-story.

I’m sad to say that after four years, my friend Jeremy Wann feels he must close GEO Hair Lab. While the studio had a successful and steadily improving run, like most businesses it remained vulnerable to even apparently minor setbacks. A seemingly simple change in scheduling software led to a significant decline in scheduled appointments, which persisted long enough to put the business in jeopardy.

Realizing the situation could not be reversed in time, Jeremy reluctantly announced the closure. The salon claimed several thousand clients, and Jeremy wants them to know he values them and regrets the closure. For those who recently purchased gift cards, he plans to be in contact with them and do everything in his power to make things right.

(Ed. Note: According to a FB post, this is specifically where you will find your sytlists: Keela B LeveColton LovedayEmily SkeltonTaylor Renee CarrChynna Longo as well as Nola Chambliss and Autumn Carroll are now at Rock Paper in Market Square. Niki Myers,Kimi StrainAlyssa Cook Carolanne MillettKaylee Marie Dyer, and Aaron White are now at Lox Salon.)

Rock Paper Hair Studio, 714 S. Gay, Knoxville, December 2014

Another business initially announced a move out of downtown but was then impacted by the closure of GEO Hair Lab and reversed course. Rock Paper Hair Studio owners Jared Hollyfield and Dustin Stewart initially announced they were moving the business from 11 Market Square to 5514 Middlebrook Pike. This move surprised me because the Market Square location was where Jared and Dustin met and were so happy to get back to when they moved their business there.

Dustin said they were considering downsizing and found an opportunity to purchase a building on Middlebrook Pike for a reasonable price. Owning the building was attractive, and it came with a parking lot, which would simplify matters for their customers. Then they began conversations with stylists from GEO Hair Lab and, with them, concluded they would keep the downtown location in addition to the new west location.

In the end, they went from simplifying to owning a small chain. Jared says they haven’t worked schedules out completely, but that he and Dustin and a number of the stylists may rotate between locations. So, if your stylist was at GEO, you may want to see if they landed at Rock Paper. And now you have a choice of location!

Babalu, 412 S. Gay Street, Knoxville, March 2016

Finally, when Babalu Tacos & Tapas posted signs they were temporarily closed, I and others wondered if it might be more than temporary, given the reported problems with other locations from earlier this year. They were also recently purchased by the Spell Restaurant Group of Memphis. I contacted Stacey McMinn, Marketing Director for Babalu who said the restaurant will definitely re-open with (as of our exchange) a target date of November 30.

She said the reason for the closure was a water leak in the kitchen that necessitated replacement of the flooring. That required all the kitchen equipment to be moved out, dictating the temporary closure. Several layers of flooring have to be removed and repaired for a total investment of about $100,000. Citing the amount of expense as evidence of the company’s commitment to the restaurant, she also said employees are being compensated during the interruption.


  1. Erin Wilson says

    Hey man, GEO didn’t close due to the decline in appointments from the change in software. Whoever told you that is a bold faced liar, and I’m guessing I know who that is.
    Here is the statement from the salon manager who has been through hell and high water with the owner. And is the most honest and good person I know.

    “I know some people have seen/heard things surrounding what is happening with GEO HAIR LAB – Eco Salon . I am no longer a part of GEO, but I am still dealing with the fallout of the situation and I feel the need to post a statement online (because that’s the world we live in now) before a bunch of rumors and gossip start circulating.

    I cannot get into specifics – I have been legally advised not to. What I can say is that I recently had some suspicions and on Tuesday, November 12, those suspicions became facts. Some things had been done, without my knowing that would affect not only me, but the entire salon/staff. Things that, when made aware of, I could no longer ethically work at GEO Hair Lab.

    It was my personal decision to leave.

    I had planned on putting in my notice on Saturday (November 16). That morning, I found out that a staff member was told, “Katie knows all the things.” THAT IS A LIE. At that point, my notice turned into a letter of resignation – effective immediately. I have always been honest with the clients/staff and I will not stand to be lumped into a category with the salon owner.

    I hope this gives everyone some clarity.

    • Perhaps Urban Guy should consider speaking to some of the mistreated employees. This post has zero basis in fact, and it appears Wann even believes his own lies. I am grateful that the hairdresser community in this town stepped up and offered jobs to so many of the refugees from Geo’s sinking ship.

  2. Kaylee Dyer says

    As a former employee of Geo Hair Lab I can tell you that the reason for closing had absolutely nothing to do with any software program. It was strictly due to poor financial decisions of the owner. I cannot stand that this false information is being put out there!

  3. Another Downtown Worker says

    “A seemingly simple change in scheduling software led to a significant decline in scheduled appointments, which persisted long enough to put the business in jeopardy.”
    Without even knowing any additional details of this closure, that reeks of nonsense to me. Right up there with “The dog ate my homework”.

  4. For anyone who wants to Know the TRUTH…
    The owner, Jermey, was spending money at an alarming rate while also leveraging the business on investors dimes and quick loans. Jeremy couldn’t even pay his employees for the last few weeks bc the accounts were all in the negative. He had taken 0 responsibility for anything happening, refused to show his face at his business and refused to contact employees about pay. Essentially GEO staff had the weight of closing the doors on there shoulders since Jeremy was nowhere to be seen and hadnt paid his employees in weeks. He’s a crook! He borrowed thousands of dollars from friends and fellow employees ( who will NEVER see that money again) and even ran a last minute gift card sale just to line his pockets before he closed his doors. Not only is this article full of flat out lies, but you couldn’t find someone less concerned with “malking things right”

    • Thank you, Deano, for adding your voice to the truth tellers. When I received that “gift card special” email I was suspicious—especially since I’ve never received GEO emails and had not signed up for them.

      • And the gift cards aren’t able to be used until after Dec 1 and the salon is closed! Beyond unethical. I had to call my credit card to issue a fraud. He knew that his business was going under and still did that.

        • Jeremy (Not GHL Owner) says

          This alone should be a dead giveaway. There is no such thing as a gift card that doesn’t work immediately after purchase. Literally every other gift card that has ever been issued since the switch from certificates works immediately after activation at the register, or purchase online. He would not delay the activation if he didn’t know he was going to close.

  5. When I heard this news re: closing my first response was to ask what alleged reason the owner had given. It’s news I expected to hear much sooner.
    I had the worst salon experience of my life at GEO—all due to the owner. Best wishes to employees (past and present), as well as to other patrons, who had bad experiences. “Bad” might be an understatement.
    Thanks to Kaylee, Erin, and Katie for shining the bright light of truth.

  6. Jeremy, the owner of GEO, was spending money at an alarming rate while also leveraging the business on investors dimes and quick loans. Jeremy couldn’t even pay his employees for the last few weeks bc the accounts were all in the negative. He had taken 0 responsibility for anything happening, refused to show his face at his business and refused to contact employees about pay. Essentially GEO staff dissolved Jeremy’s business for him as he was nowhere to be seen and they weren’t getting paid. He borrowed thousands from friends and fellow employees with no intention of paying them back and even ran a last minute gift card scam to line his pockets before he left. Someone let Jeremy know the “software” lie isn’t fooling any of us.

  7. Terri Karlsson says

    I am concerned about the amount of rent being charged and increasing each year. Landlords, for the most part, have no idea of the margin which businesses have and the costs associated therewith. Being a small, locally owned business is not for sissies. If someone doesn’t start giving businesses a break we will continue to see rapid turnover downtown and kill the cash cow and efforts many people have invested to invigorate downtown. The parking “Nazis” also do not contribute to the wonderful vibe and friendliness we all have helped create. I understand generating revenue from parking fees, but trying to load and unload products should not be a reason to ticket. Having a business downtown has many challenges and we don’t need to add additional ones.

    • why should downtown landlords lower the rent if other businesses are willing to pay it? Capitalism generally rewards the best businesses.

    • This is quite a bit of speculation from someone who probably doesnt own a business downtown. As a successful downtown business owner of a restaurant that has been in business for almost 10 years, the rent we pay is very reasonable for our location. Especially compared to places like Farragut or even Nashville. There are many, many businesses downtown that have survived a long time and the ones that have closed, I can assure you, were because of bad business practices, not rent. The issue with GEO was not his rent. He is a scumbag CROOK.

  8. Jeremy (not GHL owner) says

    There are so many people online who are indicating the reason for closing is actually pretty malicious, and I have a hard time believing a simple software issue is the true reason behind the closure. I’m disappointed to see it’s closing, because Jeremy had cut my hair before and was very talented, but at least I know where the stylist I actually saw most of the time (Colton) ended up, and I fully plan on booking with him at Rock Paper next time I need a haircut.

    Disclaimer: I’m not Jeremy the owner, I just share his first name.

  9. Brianna Officer says

    This article is clearly one sided. I am a former employee and Jeremy is trying to save face. He didn’t mention the part where he’s been writing fraudulent checks to us and God knows who else. Or the part about where he went on a vacation in Paris, moved into a new home, and bought a new car in the last year but somehow we can’t deposit or cash our checks. This has been going on since at least July. Geo has been open four years how would two weeks of software changes cause a whole business to shut down. Did he mention that stylists were paying $420/week for rent? That’s almost 22,000 a year per person. But there’s no money ? Make it make sense. It doesn’t. He took out predatory loans to cover the money he spent. Loan stacking is illegal. Writing fraudulent checks is ILLEGAL. If it weren’t for someone pulling the bank statements he probably would have had us work until the building owners closed the doors.

  10. Bekki Vaden Ottinger says

    I wish Jeremy would tell the press about how much money was being drained from the accounts by all of those payday cash advance loans he had taken out, using GEO as collateral.
    I wish Jeremy would tell the press about writing us all bad checks and abandoning us when we texted him to tell him that because his check was returned, so were the ones we wrote to pay our bills. He didn’t show his face for a week and he stood up all of his clients.

  11. DowntownDweller says

    PER GEO EMPLOYEE 11/27/19


    Anyone who bought one of these gift cards, please send me a message with your name, contact info, purchase amount and valued amount.

    We are trying to compile info for the DA.

    As someone who worked at GEO and loved that space so much, I am so sorry to everyone who the owner has screwed over.”

    I am sure a lot of your readers would appreciate a follow up post and actual investigation prior to this.

  12. As one of the people that were initial investors in his business i knew after 1 yr he was con artist when his payments were due he would write me bad checks. I had to continually harass him for my money back. Countless texts, phone calls finally i just started showing up unannounced at GEO hair lab to collect what he owed me. It was one excuse after another. What a sorry individual. I knew karma would come back to bite him eventually.

  13. Hearing from friends (who are friends/clients/family of people who worked there) and then reading these comments is familiar to what other Knoxville people went through not to long ago.
    Owner with new property? Check. No one getting paid? Check.
    Read Alan’s SawWorks 2 part article and the comments.. A lot of the beer community went through something similar with that whole Henry-Wallace mess.
    Hearts to all the talent people there who didn’t cause this mess and will surely land on their feet.

  14. Wow. I think this was suppose to be a more generic what’s going on around town article not an exposé about the owner. I’ve never seen someone go out of business and be honest about what’s going on. I can remember a couple years ago several businesses going under on market square and they all blamed it on government regulations with regards to grease traps. None of them had anything to do with it. One got busted for under age drinking and the other had the grease traps paid for them by thier neighbors since they had no choice because of the way the plumbing ran.

    Maybe you guys should go to that 6 on your side guy from WATE. These types of people generally just go from one business to another if they aren’t put on the spot.

  15. In his opening sentences, the writer calls Jeremy “his friend”. That’s enough right there to dismiss the entire article as ass-covering.

    • Perhaps you should think a little before you write this. He is “friends” with most business owners. His friend just lied to him and he didn’t know. Acting like the author of this blog is responsible for another’s actions is wrong. You should be disgusted with yourself.

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