Knoxville Graphic House Leaves Market Square/Rococo Closes

Rococo/Knoxville Graphic House, 2 Market Square, Knoxville, November 2015

Rococo/Knoxville Graphic House, 2 Market Square, Knoxville, November 2015

This time of year often produces retail shifts – as we saw last year when several businesses closed or moved. As of December 1, we’ll see the a change on the square this year. It’s a good news story: Knoxville Graphic House, which has taken an increasing share of space from Rococo over the last several years is moving into a larger space in a building purchased by Courtney Garrison, owner of the business.

I met with Courtney at 2017 Ailor Avenue, just a few blocks off Western Avenue across I-40 from the heart of downtown. The two of us marveled a bit at the fact that nearly 3 1/2 years have passed since Rococo opened at 2 Market Square. A lot has happened both personally and professionally for Courtney. The business made way early for a parallel business at the same address, based on Courtney’s background as a graphic artist.

Courtney Garrison, Knoxville Graphic House, 2017 Ailor Ave., Knoxville, November 2015

Courtney Garrison, Knoxville Graphic House, 2017 Ailor Ave., Knoxville, November 2015

Knoxville Graphic House first took a closet space in the back of Rococo, but as the business grew, the allotted space grew and the boutique shrank. Eventually the counter moved forward and the business really became Knoxville Graphic House with a slice of a boutique up front. The merchandise shifted from regional artisans to printed shirts, onesies and other items produced by the design business.

Not only did Knoxville Graphic House catch local attention, it caught on nationally – and even internationally. The National Education Association placed an order, a Canadian company ordered and the business grew. More employees were added and more employees were needed. With that growth came the need for more space. Since the company is not dependent on walk-in traffic, a Market Square address seemed unnecessary and owning a building became appealing.

After a search, the right sized building was located on the fringe of downtown at the corner of Ailor and 21st. In extremely bad shape, with mold growing on the walls and plants growing inside, it seemed the perfect location, but has taken eight months to prepare. Builders have been frantically at work making way for the business which will move out of 2 Market Square by November 30. Beginning to take form, the new address will afford Knoxville Graphic House an additional 1200 square feet of needed space and Courtney already anticipates the day will not be far distant in which the company will grow beyond the new building.

Knoxville Graphic House, 2017 Ailor Ave., Knoxville, November 2015

Knoxville Graphic House, 2017 Ailor Ave., Knoxville, November 2015

The focus of the business is business and event branding. They do a direct to garment transfer process, yielding photographic quality, which requires production space now available on the second floor of the new building. They are also printing everything from business cards to book covers.

She loves the new spot and the area, feeling that, like so many of the fringe areas of downtown, it is growing rapidly. She is also excited to have taken what she called, “the ugliest building,” and turning it into something beautiful. It will be painted in short order and murals are planned for the outside. She’s also excited to have parking to offer customers and is hoping for a facade grant from the city, for lighting, if nothing else.

As for Rococo, she had a vision of bringing objects of art to the square, but felt demand was higher for souvenirs and for less expensive items. Given that her background is in graphic design, with a BA in design from the Savannah College of Art and Design and an MA in Fashion Design from the Palimoda Institute in Florence, Italy, the business shift makes sense. After having taught fashion design in Nashville, she continued to be asked by friends and acquaintances to do graphic design work. It grew. Eventually, the business required sales, production and design departments.

She’s pleased with the fact that they’ve been able to do some creative projects for local customers, like the coasters they developed for Central Flats and Taps that had the business’ logo on one side, but the battleship game on the other. She feels the business goes above and beyond what is expected of a graphic design company by offering what she calls a “hand-holding” or “concierge” service. Noting that many people know very little of design and are nervous about the process, she works with them to make the outcome “awesome.”

Elizabeth Eason Architecture is responsible for the plans, with personal attention from Emily Corgan. Emily graduated from UT in 2013 and Courtney pointed out that she enjoys the energy and fresh vision of recent graduates. That preference has led her to hire similar employees, of which she has seven, but will soon have nine. She has surrounded herself with a team that is both creative and driven. She works hard and she looks for others who do the same.

Knoxville Graphic House, 2017 Ailor Ave., Knoxville, November 2015

Knoxville Graphic House, 2017 Ailor Ave., Knoxville, November 2015

One final note of concern: She mentioned the fact that the slow internet connections on Market Square were an issue for her business. It’s a problem that downtown companies can’t get the high speed internet connections they need and I fear it will hurt us in the long-run. Cities all around us are gaining positive press for their high speed connections and I can’t help but wonder if it will hurt us eventually.

So, like the Knoxville Graphic House Facebook page, check out their website for examples of their work and watch for an open house to launch the new location very soon.


Images from the City, Fall 2012

Urban Girl and Bee, Market Square, Knoxville, Late Summer 2012

I take thousands of photographs each year of downtown Knoxville. It isn’t entirely unusual for me to take more than a thousand in a month. Some of them die an ignoble death, as they deserve. Many live on in a post about something I’m documenting. And then, there are all the others.

Young, Mustached Hooper on Market Square, Knoxville, Late Summer 2012

Xylophone Guy and Good Parents, Market Square, Knoxville, Summer 2012

One of Many Recent, Beautiful Knoxville Sunsets, Summer 2012

These photographs deserve to see the light of day, but don’t necessarily fit a narrative I’m constructing about a certain event or idea I’ve considered. I think the captions pretty much explain them. I wish I remembered the name of the singers at the WDVX Blueplate Special. All I remember is that the couple smiled more than any entertainers I’ve ever seen in my life. I guess the fact that I can’t remember illustrates the riches we have in musical entertainment.

Urban Woman and Urban Friends Enjoy Coolato Gelato, Gay Street, Knoxville, Summer 2012

Urban Friend Trying on a Little Hair Styling at Rococo, Knoxville, Summer 2012

Duct Tape Design at Rococo, Seen from Below, Knoxville, Summer 2012

These pictures are from late summer or very early fall. I’ll have more posts like this very soon as I clean out the files and get ready for the Christmas and winter images to come. It turns out that of the people who land on my blog by searching, most are doing image searches, so I suspect some people will look at these pictures and never read the words, as I think is pretty common.

Urban Girl’s First Urban Bike Ride, Market Square, Knoxville, Summer 2012

Singer-Songwriter on Blue Plate Special, Knoxville Visitor’s Center, Summer 2012

Musicians at WDVX Blue Plate Special, Knoxville Visitor’s Center, Summer 2012

Music City Roots Bus, Union Avenue, Knoxville, Summer 2012

What about you? Do you typically read the words or are you a picture person? I guess the picture people will never know I asked the question! 🙂

Finally – A Downtown Spot Where Stacy is Welcome, Knoxville, Summer 2012

Friday Business News: Rococo Opens at 2 Market Square

Rococo owner Courtney Coffey with duct tape mural

Well, not quite at this moment – but tomorrow. Owner Courtney Coffey will open her new boutique in the prime corner location on Saturday, June 2. After a number of months with a vacant store-front and rumors of a mattress store that excited no one, the right store seems have converged with the right place for a great new addition to the square.

Earrings at Rococo, 2 Market Square, Knoxville

Rococo, 2 Market Square, Knoxville, May 2012

Courtney says, “There’s a story behind everything in the store,” and she’s not exaggerating. As we walked around the store the stories spilled from her like the fountain of knowledge she is about the various pieces of art. She has carefully cultivated the relationships with the artisans that produced the works on display at every turn inside the store.

Rainboots, Rococo, 2 Market Square, Knoxville

Ties on Cool Wall, Rococo, 2 Market Square, Knoxville

Most of what you will find is unique to her store, a fact of which she is very proud. Re-purposed bullets have become earrings.  Men’s ties – which is an item hard to find downtown in any case – take on specialized designs and are displayed on a wall adorned with sliced tree branches. Handmade baby booties include the unexpected – an ice skating version, for example. Monogrammed rain boots for women command their own space.

Courtney shows custom etched leather designs, Rococo, Knoxville

Bullet Necklaces, Rococo, Knoxville

Unique Necklaces, some made of Tintypes, Rococo, Knoxville

While there may not be something for everyone, there is something for most of us. From baby gifts to women’s accessories and men’s ties. From household accents to pieces of furniture. From somewhere around $15 for a small gift to $2000 for a beautiful piece of furniture. One set of jewelry features tintypes made into necklaces, guaranteed to be one of a kind.  Skateboards hand-painted by artists offer beautiful wall hangings – or gorgeous skateboards if you are so inclined. Of course, there are plenty of items featuring a certain color of orange for those of you who are so inclined.

Skateboard Art and More, Rococo, Knoxville

Rococo, 2 Market Square, Knoxville

Courtney’s short life has been jam-packed with experiences which have prepared her for this moment. She’s from Knoxville, so she knows what we’re about. She studied at the Savannah College of Art and Design where she received her bachelor’s degree. She earned her MA in Fashion Design while studying in Florence at the Palimoda Institute. After her stay in Italy she became a professor for four years at the International Academy of Design and Technology in Nashville. And now she’s ready to be home.

Rococo, 2 Market Square, Knoxville

Rococo, 2 Market Square, Knoxville

You won’t be able to enter the store without thinking of amazing – if whimsical – art. Often playful and witty, like it’s artistic namesake, it starts with the massive portrait on the wall. The work is personally designed and executed  – in duct tape. I could hardly believe it. Now she says, “I have several duct tape commissions. It’s a little crazy, a lot fun, very much art and an exciting addition to the city. Check it out starting this Saturday.

Courtney Coffey, Rococo, 2 Market Square, Knoxville

Let’s Get Down to Business: The Casual Pint, Rococo and more

The Casual Pint in West Knoxville - Coming to Union Avenue

With everything that’s been going on in the city I’ve fallen quite behind on my business news. I’ll try to sprinkle more of that across the next couple of weeks, though the pace of what’s happening in the city certainly doesn’t seem to be slowing. For today, let’s look at some of what’s happening on Union Avenue.

One of the puzzling pieces of Union Avenue for many casual observers has been the lengthy vacancy at 2 Market Square since the departure last year of Reruns to an address farther west at 521 Union Avenue in the Daylight Building. Rumors swirled of a mattress store which got a strong “unlike” from the Facebook Crowd. More months passed with no news and within the last couple of weeks a “Rococo” sign was posted in that window and this week they released a press release indicating the business is owned by Courtney Coffee and that the store will include “whimsical invitations, rare jewelry, hand painted picture frames, screen-printed ties, furniture and more! Knoxvillians can expect a personalized shopping experience in a store where art meets design.” You can read more about it on Josh Flory’s Property Scope Blog. The opening will be June 1, with grand opening celebrations planned for the following day. I hope to have more about the shop later this month.


The New Union Shops have recently hung several small posters along the store fronts noting the businesses soon to call those addresses their home. The Tree and the Vine was the first business to sign a lease in the new construction and at least initially projected an opening date of June 2012. I wrote more comprehensively about them here and here. Another recent sign indicates the advent of “Nothing Too Fancy.” Their Facebook page promises, “screen printed items, re-purposed furniture, jewelry and so much more.” I hope to have more about them soon, as well.

The Casual Pint, Knoxville, West Location


The other business slated for the New Union Shops, just across the alley from the Hotel Oliver and occupying the largest space in that building, will be The Casual Pint. This is actually a business with a store in west Knoxville, so there being a ready source of information, I sacrificed for you, my readers, and got in a car to drive there and investigate. I’d gotten the impression it perhaps had a grocery component. That turned out to not be the case. The store sells beer and, well, more beer.

The Casual Pint, Knoxville, West Location


The Casual Pint, Knoxville, West Location

While the west store sells t-shirts, glasses and other accessories, the downtown store, which will be a bit smaller will focus only on the beer. It will function as a retail space for carry-out as well as having extensive seating for enjoying a brew from the extensive tap. While there will not be food served, free pretzels will be available and customers are welcome to bring food from other establishments and enjoy the onsite libations while eating what they bring.

Sample Beer Offerings, The Casual Pint, Knoxville, West Location

Sample Beer Offerings, The Casual Pint, Knoxville, West Location








Cara, who tells me she’ll likely be working the downtown store, was very friendly and helpful in giving me the information she knew about the store. She indicated that the emphasis is on the “casual” and that the store out west enjoys patron’s bring birthday cakes and enjoying other celebrations with their libations. She also said the new store will have a store front that can be opened up to the street making every seat in the house feel like a sidewalk seat. They hope to be open by July 4, so we should soon see a raft of openings.

Cara, The Casual Pint, Knoxville, West Location

Finally, on a different topic, thank you to everyone who voted for me in the Metropulse Reader’s Poll. Stuck Inside of Knoxville once again won honorable mention for “best blog.” Congratulations to winner Frank Murphy.