So, we’ve noted our losses, how about our gains? Did openings keep pace with or surpass closings? As I stated yesterday, we had a closing almost every month. For a small downtown with bigger aspirations, that seems like a pretty stiff pace to attempt to match, so let’s see how we did.
In January, I noted yesterday, Bank East was closed. It immediately resumed business with a new owner and became U.S. Bank – and our first opening downtown. We’ve got a number of banks and that may not seem like a big deal, but what if we had banks closing their doors and no one stepping up to move into their place? Thinking about it that way makes it seem pretty significant. Still, it was a quiet start to the year.
February picked up a little with two openings. Shuck opened after what seemed like a very long wait on the 100 block in the place once occupied by Havana Cafe. They introduced the first (to my knowledge) valet parking and some very good oysters to the scene. Down the hill on Jackson Avenue in the Old City, Ebi Sushi and Steak House also opened, giving downtown a third sushi option.
March brought only one opening, but it seems like an important one. Buzz Nabors opened a two-day-a-week dental practice on Gay Street beneath the home he and his wife purchased at the end of the previous year. While downtown already had one dentist (in the Medical Arts Building), not many people knew that and, because of changes to the Medical Arts Building she was forced to move out of the immediate downtown area. Having basic services like a dentist in the immediate walking area of downtown is very important if we want to be an actual community and not just a tourist destination.
April brought Aveda Institute and their first round of students to Gay Street. I wasn’t particularly excited by the news at first, but I’ve gotten to where I like seeing the girls out on the sidewalk and the building seems more suited for that use than I’d imagined. Of course, I documented my experience there a while back. They offer a low-price option for hair styling, coloring and massages and that’s a nice addition to any community.
I counted three new businesses in May; two bars and a truck. Sky Bar and Suttree’s opened the same month just a couple of doors apart on the 400 block of Gay Street. The reception for each has been a study in contrast, however, with Sky Bar more often empty while Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern is packed most of the time. Strangely, everyone who gives it a moment’s thought wonders why the downstairs of Sky Bar, which is very cool and inviting with its big whiskey barrels isn’t upstairs. In May I first encountered a food truck. The Savory and Sweet Truck began a small explosion of trucks serving fine foods. We’ve taken to making bacon covered dates ourselves after tasting theirs.
Three additional businesses cast their lots with the downtown area in June. Raven Records opened in Happy Holler on Central Street and brought long-time crowd favorite into the downtown circle. Lil’ Vinnies Italian restaurant opened also on Central Street, but in the old city. It seems to be getting good reviews. Finally, the corner at 2 Market Square which had sat empty since Reruns moved to the Daylight Building, saw a return to relevance with the vibrant advent of Rococo Boutique selling all manner of unusual items.
Pop Culture opened in July in the Medical Arts Building selling healthy popsicles. They were later forced to vacate that spot, but are moving to the corner of Church and Walnut and are getting close to re-opening. Also opening in July, The Tree and Vine, selling olive oil and balsamic vinegar has taken the city by storm. I wondered if that wasn’t a bit specific for a product line, but the first time I stepped inside I knew it would work. I never imagined how well: for the weeks leading up to Christmas it was often difficult to wedge oneself inside the store for all the crowds. Once you go there you are simply hooked. Rounding out the month was a neighbor for The Tree and Vine on Union Avenue, when Casual Pint opened a second location. They have also thrived from the very beginning.
In August we welcomed three different businesses from the very small scale to the very large. Dale’s Fried Pies debuted via Dale Mackey and her food cart. She has to accept some of the blame for the weight I gained last year. Slightly larger, the Farm to Taco truck made its appearance downtown and we enjoyed some great Vietnamese food from them: Tacos/Vietnamese Food, get it? Me either, but it was good. Finally, that month saw the finishing touches on a multi-million dollar project in the Holiday Inn resulting in the opening of Windows on the Park, a delightful space overlooking the World’s Fair Park and offering excellent food.
Another option for moving about the city offered itself in September with the opening of Downtown Rickshaw. Sporting advertising and seating for two these rickshaws are pedal-powered and can be seen buzzing up and down Gay Street and through Market Square. One place many people headed for that month was the brand new store joining Casual Pint and The Tree and Vine on Union Avenue. Nothing Too Fancy, offering clothes for men and much more received a very warm welcome to the city.
From the low-key to the greatly anticipated, October featured three additional openings. Not much changed in the Old City beyond the sign on the outside of what had been Old City Entertainment as the bar was purchased and re-opened as Union Place. Much farther up in the sky, the Icon Ultra Lounge, featuring great appetizers, good drinks and a great view from a cool space, opened in the Sunsphere to a great reception. The long-awaited event of the month – or perhaps the year – was the opening of Tupelo Honey at 1 Market Square. The restaurant immediately had one to two hour waits and I’ve noticed no sign of the crowds slowing down.
November was the month for very different types of businesses which add significantly to the mix. Southland Lakefront and Mountain Properties opened on Union Avenue. River Sports Outfitters opened a second location on Market Square, though that location isn’t likely permanent. The biggest news of the month, to me, was the opening of Rick Terry’s Jewelers on Gay Street. Knoxville had not had a downtown jeweler in nearly twenty years and, to me, it increases the feel of downtown as a permanently vibrant area, not a place that will flare and then return to being the ghost town it was fifteen years ago. Also opening was Cru Bistro on the 100 Block of Gay Street. It became an immediate favorite for the Urban Family.
The only opening I spotted in December was the storefront for local designer Patricia Nash, the force behind her personally designed leather bags. I understand as many as eleven employees will work in the space on the 100 block of Gay Street.
It’s a pretty impressive list when you place it all in one spot. I really like the diversity of the businesses that opened. Soon I’ll take a look at changes that happened downtown to existing businesses and to the streetscape. Later I’ll put it all together and see how it all adds up.