With the openings of Barnes &
Noble and Borders, Knoxville is now rampant with bookstores.
* Sports * Business *
Arts & Entertainment *
Local Music *
Goodbyes * Victor
The three-legged stool that has long supported the local economy kept on
getting weaker this past year. The Department of Energy complex at Oak Ridge,
the University of Tennessee, and the Tennessee Valley Authority all downsized
their work forces. Through layoffs and attrition, more than 1,500 jobs were
lost in Oak Ridge, 130 faculty and administrative positions at UT, and 190
at TVA's headquarters.
Yet all of this erosion is overshadowed by the prospect of 2,300 layoffs
when Levi Strauss shuts down its Cherry Street plant in May. This comes on
top of the loss of just about as many more apparel manufacturing jobs in
the metropolitan area over the past three years.
In the midst of an unprecedented national economic boom, one might suppose
that growth in other sectors would take up the slack and then some. But such
is not the case. The number of Knox County job holders has declined to 194,010
this October from 197,150 a year before. Our consistently low unemployment
rate is explained by the fact that the size of the work force has dropped
"People must not feel that job prospects are good here. So they're leaving
the labor force either by moving away or sitting at home on the couch," says
Matt Murray, director of UT's Center for Business and Economic Research.
The exodus has severely impacted the local housing market as new home
construction has nose-dived in response to a glut of existing homes for sales,
but a full-fledged recession doesn't appear imminent. Retail sales in Knox
County, as measured by sales tax receipts, are up 3.8 percent during the
first four months of the government fiscal year that began July 1. However,
this rate of growth lags well behind the state average of 6.4 percent.
If We Build It...
They will shop. At least, that's the conviction of developers, who continued
their feverish quest this year to leave no acre of West Knoxdom unpaved.
Two of the biggest swaths of green left anywhere near Kingston Pike went
under the 'dozer, as Bearden Hill was graded to make way for retail and
commercial development, and the traps and tees of Deane Hill Country Club
gave noisy birth to Borders Books, Old Navy, and a host of other stores.
Meanwhile, West Town Mall expanded, and on the western horizon looms the
Turkey Creek "power center," the mother of all strip malls. It's a lot of
shopping for one little county to do, but we have faith. Get out those credit
cards and do your part!
Cappuccino and the latest bestseller, anyone? This year the giants of the
bookselling biz, Barnes & Noble and
Borders, came to Knoxville. Although folks were excited about Barnes and
Noble's in-store Starbucks, the bookstore, which opened in June, took much
of its stock from the now-closed Bookstar, a sister store of B&N. Borders
opened in Octoberjust in time for the holidaysabout a half-mile
down the road from B&N and three miles from Davis-Kidd. Davis-Kidd, which
was purchased this year by fellow independent Joseph-Beth Booksellers, is
holding its own in the bookstore wars, as is the less lofty Books-A-Million,
8-year-old outpost of a Birmingham-based chain. Are there are enough book
lovers in town to support all four superstores? We hope so...
As the Spit Turns:
Much of what remained of distinctively Knoxvillian dining, as we came to
know it in the postwar years, died in the space of a few weeks. The decades-old
Tic Toc barbecue drive-in on Magnolia, the famous Southern Grill on Broadway
(officially known as Lorrie's in its latter years)and, most astonishing
of all, Sam & Andy's, the deli/beer joint opened by the Greek Kapetanopoulos
brothers 51 years agoall folded within a few weeks of each other. All
three had just been recommended for their local flavor in a nationally published
Sam & Andy's, Knoxville's oldest operating barwhich also claimed
to have introduced the Pizza Pie to Knoxville, circa 1949was still
seeing good business just before they went out of business; they were
unable to come to terms with a landlord's new demands. As a result, the original
Sam & Andy's has sat empty on its corner of Cumberland and 18th for the
last eight months, as one former deliman opened a smaller, more expensive,
and less colorful version of the deli he's calling "Sam & Andy's"to
the distress of some other family membersacross the street. (Another
Sam & Andy's in Farragut independently adheres to the spirit of the original
restaurant.) Meanwhile, another former S&A delimanand later Vic
& Bill's namesakemoved up Broadway and reopened the Southern Grill
Location is everything, they say. Adjacent to Sequoyah Hills and near several
other residential areas, Western Plaza is the Kingston Pike strip mall nearest
to the UT campus. It might seem as if running a restaurant or pub there would
be as easy as falling off a barstool. But in 1997, The Mill, the chain restaurant
and brewpub that had a very strong opening two years ago, diedsoon
followed by its Western Plaza neighbor, the tiny but tasty new take-out place
called Ultimate Pizza.
Rumors also abound about the demise of Rhapsody's, the short-lived
restaurant/nightclub in Homberg Place. It's one of those famously and
perplexingly bad locations, where restaurants that should thrive instead
whither on the vine. Remember Merlot's, Miz Sissy's, Keng's Gardento
name only three in recent memory? Rhapsody's may have closed the book on
the building, though, having been damaged by a mysterious fire that reportedly
had not one but five points of origin. We're smelling something more than
But, whenever a door shuts, a window opens. It's a cliché, yes, but
that's exactly what we were thinking when we learned that one of our favorite
chefs, Dean Hoyos-Holsberry, resurfaced at the newly opened Mango. Holsberry
had been the maestro de cuisine at Mattioda's, the late Farragut bistro that
charmed its diners with the likes of giant shrimp in cashew-chipotle sauce,
lamb in rosemary reduction glaze, and hands-down the best steak sandwich
this town has ever seen. We're still lamenting that it closed its doors this
yearcasting many a talented jazz musician out on the street. We'll
miss the fabulous fare, the superb service (Alan, we hardly knew ye), and
even the faux grapevines that adorned the walls. But having Holsberry back
in the saddle at Mango makes our culinary cross easier to bear. There, he's
helped to craft a sophisticated fusion-cuisine menu that includes such
Bonnie-approved morsels as portobella mushroom wontons, pork tenderloin in
ancho chile-espresso barbecue sauce, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, and
caramelized vegetable enchiladas with goat cheese. Helmed by Stir Fry Cafe
owner Kenny Siao, Mangosituated in, of all things, a former veterinary
hospital in Beardenhas it all: bright, urbane atmosphere, attentive
service, a brilliant bar, and even a regular clientele of shiny, happy people.
Apparently, Knoxville is also set to swing. We're seeing a definite trend
toward upscale dinner clubs like the Baker-Peter's Jazz Club, Donn's, and
Harry's, a soon-to-open Regas offshoot on Kingston Pike at Papermill. We'll
be tracking this trend carefully, observing the scene through the bottoms
of our martini glasses.
A testament to the resiliency of the human spirit, the Best Italian set up
shop again on Cumberland Avenue, thankfully putting the Neyland Sports Grille
(you know, the place with that obnoxious giant orange) out of our misery.
Since we like the place, we're hoping it takes this time. In further campus
developments, we're happy to welcome the Thai Kitchen, with its truly authentic
Thai cuisine. And we're even happier to see that despite a few rough spots
over the summer, Sunspot is still dishing up some of the best vegetarian
fare in town.
West Town Mall seemed to have it allthe best stores, the nicest ambiance,
the to-die-for location, and even the most attractive shoppers. Poor old
East Townewith its sad 1982 World's Fair throw-back decor and dwindling
tenant rosterseemed down for the count. But it came up swinging this
yearredecorated and rechristened "Knoxville Center," conspicuously
dropping the word "East" from its name and professing to have an East Tennessee
theme. Mostly, the changes are superficial: installing some faux-Victorian
facades, introducing some giant fish sculpture, and hanging a mammoth orange
T (that's for Tennessee, you know) from the ceiling over some escalators.
But Knoxville Center has managed to attract some new retailers, including
Garden Botanika, Eddie Bauer, the Gap/Gap Kids, and a Limited Too. The question
is: Will the yuppies be willing to leave their comfy West Knox environs?
Heck, they can get all that stuff at West Town, and even more. And we're
thinking that once the new mega-Regal Cinemas opens its doors, West Town
will emerge victoriousa winner by decision, though, rather than a knock