When One Door Closes, Another Opens. What’s coming to the former OliBea location?

OliBea, 211 South Central Street, Knoxville, February 2020
OliBea, 211 South Central Street, Knoxville, February 2020

As readership demonstrated with one of our most-read articles to date, we were all disappointed to hear of the closing of OliBea. While we are happy for Jeffery DeAlejandro and his new journey, we will miss the food and atmosphere he and his team created at OliBea over the years. I had the chance to chat with Jeffrey this week to find out more about his decision to close this chapter of his life.

The short answer is that he wants to spend more time with his wife and three young children. Unless you have worked in the industry, it is almost impossible to understand the toll and time it takes away from family. You are constantly on call. If an employee calls out or doesn’t show, you are the one serving, hosting, or washing dishes. Finding dependable employees has become more challenging in our current economy, and OliBea was no exception.

Earlier this year, Jeffrey lost his grandmother. Due to his restaurant commitment, he could not spend the time he wanted to with her before she passed. This got his attention. Then he turned 40. Many of us can relate to the “big” birthdays giving us some time for introspection. It did that for Jeffrey. He decided he would no longer miss ballgames and events with his family, and he wanted to be the kind of partner to his wife who is present and makes family life a priority.

He tells me life is too short, and it’s time for him to move on to other ventures. His real estate side job will now be his full-time gig. He wants more than quality over quantity when it comes to his wife and children. He wants both. As a man, in his words, who makes quick transitions once he has made up his mind, he planned a closing date for OliBea and stuck to it. He is taking off on vacation with his family, and for the first time in his adult life, he will be able to unplug and be fully present.

That leaves us wondering what comes next for the vacant location. Will it sit empty as we have seen in many other closed businesses?

No. It will not.

SmashCity Knoxville is happy to announce that they are taking over the former OliBea space and converting it to SmashCity Knoxville! Ashley and Paul Moody plan to welcome old and new fans to their first independent restaurant in the Old City on Friday, August 11, beginning at 11am. When asked how they feel about this move, Ashley told me, “We are most excited about the growth of SmashCity as a company. We’re so thankful for the road that brought us here, and this is the next big step.”

SmashCity Knoxville opened in Marble City Market Food Hall in November 2021 after having operated as a food truck for a few months prior. They established a solid fan base and regularly led sales at the food hall. In October 2022, the Moody’s took over management of the food hall. Though they gained valuable experience in that role, they discovered it did not allow them to give SmashCity the attention it needed to continue its growth and also prioritize the management of the food hall. The decision to leave the management role was a mutual and amicable one between the ownership of the food hall and the Moody’s. They continue to cheer on the food hall’s presence in Knoxville.

Paul says he wants to now focus solely on smart-steady growth for their SmashCity concept. With five additional locations in the works, in addition to SmashCity Omaha, which opened in 2022, it seems like steady growth to me. Opening in Old City means the location in Marble City Market will be closing. As of July 29, they will no longer operate out of that space. Paul believes the food hall did for them exactly what it was designed to do-act as an incubator for new businesses to gain exposure and experience with low risk. They could open at a lower cost than operating a food truck with equipment and infrastructure already in place. Over the last two years, they established their brand and a solid foothold in the food scene with their smash burgers, fries, and special sauces.

Photo provided by SmashCity Knoxville, June 2023

Ashley tells me customers can expect the same convenience of their established quick service at the new location but now will have the elevated charm of downtown restaurants we’ve come to expect in the Old City. The space includes much of the kitchen equipment and setup, so the transition should be relatively seamless. They plan to keep the cozy feel that OliBea established but add a little gritty that makes SmashCity stand out. They will be able to seat 70 guests inside and have patio seating.

Photo provided by SmashCity Knoxville, the interior of the future restaurant, June 2023

Paul and Jeffery have a longstanding culinary friendship. After a kismet conversation in the barber shop only a few weeks ago, where Jeffrey expressed his intentions to shut down OliBea, Paul and Ashley saw an opportunity to take SmashCity into a new phase. Jeffrey said the decision was easy for him to work with Paul. He believes Paul has a great brand, and they have similar backgrounds, both providing happy, inviting, comfortable food. SmashCity has Jeffrey’s full support.

They are currently hiring for the new location at 211 South Central Street. If interested, send them a direct message on their social media HERE and HERE. The new SmashCity Knoxville hours beginning on Friday, August 11, are 11am-10pm, 7 days/week.