Business and Development Updates: What Ever Happened To . . .

Future Home of Lone Tree Pass, 200 Block of Gay Street, Knoxville, April 2023
First Century Building, 625 Market Street, Knoxville, March 2019

When I write about a development or new business, particularly when it is something that excites readers, and nothing much happens for months or longer, readers naturally turn curious. I’m often stopped on the street, or get emails and Facebook messages asking, “Hey whatever happened to . . .” Most of the time I don’t know. I’m working my way through some of those old stories now to see if I can figure out what happened to some of them. You’ll immediately think of a dozen others. I’m still digging. Here’s what I have so far.

625 Market Street

We had a near miss for another great downtown restaurant in 2019. In March of that year I wrote of the plans for the space on the bottom floor of the First Century Bank Building. The possibility of a restaurant at 625 Market Street was exciting for several reasons: the space was grand, it would reclaim street space from bank offices, it would stretch the footprint of downtown retail and restaurants to a new spot.

In addition to the above, and not the least of the reasons to be excited, was the fact that David Rule, best known for his Walnut Kitchen in Maryville, would be the owner and chef. It was not to be. Before it gained much traction the pandemic hit and he found another opportunity. He shifted his focus to The Appalachian, which he opened in Sevierville in January 2021 and let his hold on the Knoxville space lapse. I’ve heard nor seen anything to indicate new plans for the space at 625 Market.

Future Home of the Double S Wine Bar, 300 Block of Magnolia Avenue, Knoxville, August 2022

Double S Wine Bar

It’s probably a good idea to hedge, hem, haw, fudge, or generally obfuscate if you plan to open a business and I ask you, “When?” It’s kind of a curse to give me a date or even a time range, almost guaranteeing delays. Or maybe that’s just superstition talking. In April 2022, the Double S Wine Bar closed its doors, with plans to move to a new location. In August 2022, I reported that new location as being on the 300 block of Magnolia. Owner Steve Sansone said he hoped to open by the end of September.

Obviously, that opening date didn’t happen. I’ll look to get the details for an article that should arrive in next week or so. The place looks ready and I’m set to photograph it and talk to Steve on Friday. I’ll have photographs and the details soon but, for now, he’s hoping to open on May 5. So, soon.

Future Home of Alchemy Lounge and Cigar Bar, 119 South Central Street, Knoxville, February 2022

Alchemy Cigar and Bourbon Bar (119 South Central Street)

Fourteen months ago, in February 2022, I reported an intriguing addition to downtown establishments. Alchemy, a cigar and specialty bourbon bar, looked to be a high class addition to downtown entertainment establishments. Designed for cigar smokers, yes, but also not smoky (thanks to technology) and a warm, upscale environment in which to enjoy the finer things. Owners Brooke and Dan Phillips and Justin Mangelsdorf hoped to open it in May 2022.

Brooke recently updated me saying, “We took a break from construction on Alchemy, as our budget was nearly double what we anticipated, and we also wanted to make sure investor partnerships were right, if we chose to take them.” She told me they would are now “fully funded” and are resuming construction. She, more recently, added that they are “full speed ahead,” and hoping for a summer opening. “The buildout will be finished by June, but our licensing may take until July to be complete.”

River Breeze Event Center, 6110 Asheville Highway, Knoxville, September 2022

River Breeze Event Center (6110 Asheville Hwy)

While not located downtown, this venue is about ten minutes from downtown and a centerpiece of the business model is shuttling people from downtown locations. The group promotes parking and dining downtown before catching the shuttle to the venue. I covered the ground breaking in June 2021 and followed with an article announcing their fall schedule and displaying the work they had done on the site. I met with co-owner and developer Parker Frost who told me they planned to promote fifty shows from April through October in 2023. No shows have been announced. So what gives?

First, there were struggles with their “soft opening” concerts last fall. They book about a half dozen acts. One group got COVID and canceled. Another got stuck in Florida during a hurricane and cancelled. A third had sound issues and cancelled minutes before doors were to open. I asked Parker for an update and he said, “Things were rough in the fall and we lost huge amounts of money and are regrouping.  Hope to have shows by late summer and an awesome 2024 season.”

Future Home of Lone Tree Pass, 200 Block of Gay Street, Knoxville, April 2023
Future Home of Lone Tree Pass, 200 Block of Gay Street, Knoxville, April 2023

Lone Tree Pass (200 Block of Gay Street)

“Wait,” you might be saying, “I’ve never heard of that! Wasn’t Caldonia Pass supposed to go there?” Yes, Tim Hill announced a major project for the 200 block in April 2022, and that project was “Caldonia Pass,” named such for Cal Johnson. A bit of discussion ensued as to whether his name was simply Cal, Calvin, or if it was, in fact, Caldonia. There is no birth certificate, as he was born into slavery. Whether because of the confusion or for other reasons, the project’s name is now Lone Tree Pass. There was once a lone tree on the 200 block and beside it sat the Lone Tree Saloon owned by, you might have guessed it, Cal Johnson.

Three months ago construction fencing was erected around the spot and work began almost immediately, about three months later than Hill had originally hoped. The pavement from the parking lot was removed, and the earth began to shift. A mound was built on which the upper portion of the building will be erected. Then it all stopped.

I reached out to Tim to learn what happened after such a rapid start. He said, “Bad soils and rock. $800,000 surprise.” He said that construction should resume any time now and added, “Win some, lose some.” It underscores the risk assumed when making plans and lining up financing for major projects. In any case, we should see activity resume on the corner very soon.

I hope to have more updates in coming weeks.

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