Knox Mason, 507 South Gay Street, Knoxville, November 2019
Businesses have a lifespan and restaurants often have a shorter one. It’s easy to get used to the ebb and flow, but it is important to realize that every business that closes ends an important chapter in someone’s life. Sometimes in many people’s lives. Is it a failure? Not necessarily, but it is a dream that once lived and has now ended.
While we’ve added many more businesses in recent years than we’ve lost, the loses still matter. Some sting a bit more than others and this is one of those, for me. Owner Matt Gallaher is not only an excellent chef, but a good human. He’s worked hard to provide excellent food for downtown Knoxville for the last decade. What he did, when he did it, and what he continues to do has elevated downtown Knoxville cuisine.
Here is the statement released on the Knox Mason FB Page:
After nearly a decade, we’ve made the difficult decision to close our doors for good on Saturday, July 2. People have always been our most valuable asset and while shuttering the space will be hard, parting ways with our staff and saying goodbye to our guests will be the hardest part.
Opening our doors to our first guests in late 2012, in a tiny spot at 131 S Gay St., we forged countless relationships with our neighbors, guests and farmers and we are proud that we we’re able to bring a chef-driven, locally focused concept to Downtown Knoxville.
The restaurant industry is challenging but it’s incredibly rewarding and creating and sharing wonderful memories with our guests over the years have made this journey SO worth it!! My dream was to open a restaurant and Knox Mason exceeded my expectations in so many meaningful ways. Restaurants are a team sport, and we wouldn’t have had a speck of success without the dozens of wonderful people that I’ve been able to work with, learn from and mentor over the years. If we had ANY success, it was their fault!
We’ve always taken a personal approach to how we operate, but, at the end of the day, we are a business. We pivoted our model when we moved to Embassy Suites in November 2019 and we were busier than ever in the opening days, but, sadly, COVID knocked the wind out of our sails just 4 months in. The resulting challenges of a closed dining room, followed by social distancing and half capacity for over a year took its toll. Toiling to get back to our pre-COVID levels has proven to be beyond our reach.
All this being said, we’d love to see you before we close for good! Book a reservation on Openable or call 865 770 5988 to secure a spot. We look forward to serving you Pork Rinds, Killed Salad and Banana Pudding one last time!
With Sincerest Thanks and Deepest Gratitude,
Matt, David and the Knox Mason Team
After I saw the post, I reached out to Matt to see if he had more to add. He said he was grateful for the nine-and-a-half year run and he said he felt if the location had not moved, the restaurant would have closed sooner due to the small space and the limitations of social distancing during the most restrictive portion of the pandemic. And while those restrictions hurt his business directly, he said he supported them.
The restaurant opened at its new location four months before the March 2020 business closures. While he didn’t lay off employees, many simply moved on. With the crew that had brought the spirit and vibe of the original location gone, he said he struggled to maintain staff once he re-opened at full capacity. Staff turnover made maintaining quality an issue.
After long consideration, he realized it simply was time to focus on his other businesses, particularly Emilia, which is thriving just around the corner on Market Square, and Paysan which he co-owns with Blake Sallie. He’s told the Knox Mason staff that he will help any of them who so desire, to find their next job.
He ended by saying, “People are the most important thing and we want to take care of them. Nine-and-a-half years was a pretty good run. Knoxville has been very good to us.”
Also recently closing was 214 Magnolia Gallery, owned by Megan Stair. Perhaps not coincidentally, it also opened in November 2019 and survived until last month. She issued a simple statement: “Hello dear community! Thank you for your support over the past three years. It hasn’t been what any of us expected but we made the most of it and enjoyed getting to connect and support one another. Unfortunately, the gallery will be closing at the end of June.” Here’s wishing the best to Megan as she moves forward.
Finally, I should probably make mention that this venture, business, community, effort-of-love, or whatever you want to call Inside of Knoxville, turned twelve years old on Wednesday. Almost a teenager!