Kern's Food Hall and Market, 2010 Chapman Highway, Knoxville, March 2021
After a long meandering path (I first wrote about it in August 2015, most recently in May 2019), the Kern’s Food Hall + Market is set to begin serious construction by the end of April. The building has seen ownership changes and the vision has shifted over time, but Mallory and Evans, who purchased the building in 2019, with developed a three phase plan which has seen phase one (160 apartment units) completed. The Food Hall + Market, Developed with Johnson Architecture will be the second phase, with a hotel following as the third.
In some respects, the central idea of restaurants, shops, and office space forming the core of the renovated Kern’s building has not changed. Food and beverage service remains the central draw, but Tim Martin of TMA Real Estate who is serving as broker for tenants, told me the pandemic shifted some of the focus of the development. In that respect, he said, the pandemic allowed the company time to re-think and refine the concept.
With the new emphasis on outdoor spaces, two rooftop bars have been added, both of which will overlook the event lawn planned for the rear of the building. The primary bar on the main floor of the rear of the building has been reconfigured to reduce crowding. The original plans called for 11,500 square feet of office space and, given the shift toward reduced use of office space, that has been reduced to 1,700 square feet. More sanitation stations have been added and larger, communal tables have given way to smaller tables that can be spaced.
There is also an increased emphasis on health and wellness businesses and more healthy dining choices. Office space has been taken by a physical therapist and other health-related providers may be added. An app-based integrated P.O.S. system is being developed to allow orders to be taken without standing in line. It will have the capacity to coordinate orders from multiple restaurants to produce the food at roughly the same time for each patron.
A large number of vendors have signed contracts and an additional group is likely to do so soon. Many of the food venders are known locally and either have another location or operate a food truck. Not all spaces are spoken for, including the large domed space pictured here. Tim said the space could really be special and they are making sure they have the right tenant for the sit-down dining restaurant space.
Businesses already committed to the project include Awaken Coffee, Biscuit and Bird, Captain Muchachos, Donut Theory, Flourish Flower Truck, Hey Bear Cafe, Knox Wurst Food Truck, Lanai, Maelee’s (retail women’s clothing and accessories), Myrtle’s Bakehouse (1/2 pound cookies), Stoopid Good Food, and Wön Kitchen Poke Bowls, and more.
Businesses which will likely sign a lease soon, include a “local, eclectic” day spa and a barber shop “with a bourbon twist.” A distillery is a possibility. A sushi restaurant and and vegan/health food restaurant are both likely. A Thai restaurant, a boutique national fitness center and an upscale pizza restaurant are also near signing. There are a number of others, including a potential boutique grocer, a dog treats bakery that would host birthday parties for dogs and a speakeasy.
Tim said interest has remained high, as the number of signed clients indicates, and while some paused during the last year of the pandemic, most decided to move forward. He senses a real pent-up demand for expansion and new businesses. The group hopes to have the Food Hall and Market open in 2022.
And then there is a small mystery, which maybe someone reading this can help solve: The famous and beloved Kern’s Merry Go Round, which was intended to be integrated into this project, has disappeared. They would love to have it back. If you were to spot it or know its whereabouts, they would love to hear from you (Tim Martin 813-455-0651). They want nothing more than to see it returned.