Alice in Appalachia, 18 Market Square, Knoxville, December 2022
The latest offering from Paula West and the West family businesses on Market Square is Alice in Appalachia. Part retail space, part bar, part event space, the business is different from anything else you’ll find in the city. Offering up surprises for the children and adults alike, it’s a place that merits exploring. I sat down with Paula to learn more about the genesis of the business and what customers might expect.
“This was born of COVID times. We knew we wanted to morph Lost Tavern into something different.” They kind of wanted to a blended concept. Paula decided to blend cocktails and shopping with a large dose of whimsy. She knew it would be fun to decorate and come up with Fresh ideas. She’s a huge Alice in Wonderland fan and they hit on the concept of bring Alice, “grown up and in the south” to Appalachia to see what kind of mash-up they might develop.
“You’ve got all the different parts of Alice; the queen, the chess, the clocks, falling down a rabbit hole, the looking glass. There so much fun stuff, it doesn’t have to stay static.” They used Alice as a jumping off point and improvised from there. With the shopping she realized that clocks, mirrors, flowers and more which are related, though not necessarily items that are tied to the story.
They started thinking of ways to adapt the Carrol classic (they did not want to riff of the Disney version) to Appalachia. “Instead of a Cheshire Cat a Glitter Cat, Trash Cat, Raccoon. We could play with our own wildlife and fauna. The core will stay the same, but we’ll evolve for what the customers want and to keep it interesting.”
The bar area and cocktails are on one side of the address, while the retail is across the small interior corridor. That said, patrons are welcome and encouraged to get a cocktail and take it into the shopping area if they’d like. They recognize that some people will come more for one or the other, but they are happy to have them blend. They also have a third area dedicated to private events or overflow if it is available. They consider it the Madhatter’s Tea Party Area. The area can accommodate about 75. It’s about double that capacity if the entire space, bar and patio.
She said they’ve particularly had fun with the cocktails and treats. “We didn’t want to name the drinks straight from the story, so we’ve got the Glitter Cat that’s like a pink vanilla vodka, almost like drinking a smoothie, for the sweet lovers. We have the Jabberwocky which is chocolate espresso martini with a sunken treasure at the bottom . . . We’ve got the Moonhatter instead of the Madhatter and it’s gin-based with a sprinkle of flowers and it comes with a glowstick. Tweedle This and Tweedle That is tequila based with watermelon or blood orange puree with spice on the rim. The Drag Queen of Hearts and a few holiday ones are coming.
They also offer, as you might expect, teas, as well as hot chocolates. If an adult wants a little extra something in their hot chocolate, they’ve got it. She wants people to know, however, that they do have non-alcoholic drinks and children are welcome. For hot chocolate, they have it straight, with peppermint, chocolate lovers, sea salt caramel. They currently have hot chocolate flights in tiny cups with the different hot chocolates. She pointed out it is a great spot to take a break from the skating rink.
The food continues to be a work in progress. They are focusing on bite-sized finger foods. They will have tiered trays of savory, sweet and boozy treats for sharing. They’ll have moonshine truffle chocolates, mini-cupcakes, and tea cakes.
As for the retail side, “I’ve got clocks that are whimsical, teapots, garden stakes, solar powered items, affirmation mirrors, cards, coasters, loose teas with holistic properties.” They have jewelry, postcards, decorative garlands, giant clocks on the wall, hats, and more. She said she had a great time curating the items.
The hours are 11:00 am to Midnight Thursday through Sunday, for now. Both sides have the same hours, so drinks are served at 11:00 am and retail goes through midnight. She said the hours would remain the same through spring and they will take another look at it.