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Arts & Entertainment
The Year in Review
Restaurants What Bit the Dust
Another yearanother round of dropouts from the local restaurant scene. Tops on anybody's list has to be the Gay Street Regas, an institution of astronomical gastronomical proportions. Knoxville's "Gathering Place" in more ways than just the bar of that name up front, Regas went the way of its aging customer base. Younger customers were lured away to the new and trendier Riverside Tavern by Regas on the waterfront next to the Gateway Center. Harry's by Regas on Kingston Pike was also foundering when it was converted to the Regas Bros. Cafe late in the year as a place to install some of the old Regas menu favorites. What a scramble for one of Knoxville's oldest names in dining! Grady Regas was also responsible for re-opening the Gay Street brew pub as City Brew.
Meanwhile, Mahasti Vafaie and Scott Partin's Lula, the fabulous Cali-Mex-fusion place on Market Square, succumbed to competition from its own elder sister, Tomato Head, in a still-limited downtown market (the Head suffered its own traumas, relocating for a few months after a construction crew next door almost knocked down the restaurant's supporting wall). Other deaths included the snakebit Black Horse Pub and Brewery in Western Plaza, which is scheduled to reopen some fine day as a Green Hills Grill; the New York Bagel Cafe and Deli and the Cancun on Kingston Pike; and Bullfeathers downtown cafe on Gay Street.
Restaurants What Opened to Great Fanfare
Knoxville never hurts for new eateries waiting in the wings to replace the dear departed. In some cases, they don't wait until the carcass cools. New on the must-try list this year, besides the aforementioned Riverside Tavern and Regas Bros. Cafe, were an especially fine Indian restaurant, Sitar, in a former Captain D's on Kingston Pike near Northshore Drive, the incomparable Marble Slab Creamery for ice cream treats next door to Panera Bread on Kingston Pike in Mercedes Place, a second and third Panera Bread on N. Peters Road and the Cumberland Strip, a highly welcome McLeod's Restaurant & Pub on Market Street (directly downstairs from us, God bless 'em) in the Arnstein Building, a Smoky Mountain Barbecue on Central Street in the Old City, Spooky's Restaurant, a barbecue specialty spot on Northshore in the old Wrangler/Bistro building, Randy (Sunspot, Aubrey's) Burleson's Little City and the German duo, Old Munich and Restaurant Linderhof, all in Farragut, plus a veritable daisy chain of chain joints. Looking forward, a second Kalamata Kitchen is set to open in Western Plaza. And did we mention the resurrection of the Gay Street brewpub? Also, down on the riverbank, just across from the UT campus, arose the Tennessee Grill, a top-floor eatery above the Lady Vols rowing crew quarters and UT conference areas in the boathouse building.
IPIX's Virtual Roller Coaster
The Oak Ridge-based Internet imaging company IPIX, founded in 1999, started 2000 strong. In January, IPIX merged with San Jose company Bamboo.com, announced that it would turn a profit a year earlier than expected. The company's stock reached a high of $46 in March, before a "market correction" devalued high-tech stocks. But by the end of the year, IPIX stock had plummeted to around $2 a share, and the company had laid off 175 workers worldwide, 29 of those in Oak Ridge. Welcome to the New Economy.
Subject of environmental controversies for much of the '90s, Turkey Creek, the giant $400 million retail development between Knoxville and Farragut, is opening as promised, but very slowly. Though promoters promised in 1996 that its tenants would be big, new stores that would only add to the tax baseand justify the unprecedented public subsidy for the road that serves itthe first big tenant turned out to be a Goody's. The Knoxville-based clothing store opened a store at Turkey Creek only after closing two other stores on the west side. Now the developer is talking of a 10-year plan for full occupation of the huge property.
The Good Word
In an economy and society based on consumption, you have to continue to consume and grow and sell to be considered a success. Earnings for the Knoxville-based Goody's Family Clothing department stores stayed flat this year, and Goody's stock hit a near five-year low. The announcement came the day Goody's opened its new store at Turkey Creek. The chain has 312 stores in 18 states. Chairman and CEO Bob Goodfriend blamed the stagnation on the warm weather, high gas prices and a slumping apparel market. But Goodfriend is hopeful that the company's efforts to renovate its stores, simplify pricing and change its market strategy will pay off during the Christmas season and beyond.
Is the Show Almost Over?
Being the biggest always makes the falls so much harder. On the brink of bankruptcy, Regal Cinemas at least has some company. Most of the country's major movie-theater chains have declared bankruptcy this year, after a gluttonous expansion during the '90s that left the country (and suburbia especially) over-screened. The largest theater chain in the country (396 theaters with 4,361 screens), Regal had hoped to avoid bankruptcy court, but as December started that seemed unlikely. Regal was unable to make payments on its hefty $1 billion debt. It was also forced close six of its FunScapeslarge video and game arcades that surround its theatersincluding one in West Town Mall that had been open only about two years.
In Our Backyards?
When plans to build a large Home Depot on Northshore Drive in Bearden leaked out, an alliance of residents and businesses organized a petition drive and lobbying effort that successfully blocked the plan in MPC. In a city where developers almost always get their way, it was a rare victory. However, at year's end the store appears to be headed for a slightly less offensive location, around the corner at a car lot on Papermill.
Meanwhile, the owners of Parker Brothers, the venerable locally-owned hardware store, which added an emotional plea to the anti-Home Depot effort, announced they were selling the business.
Community sentiment also killed a proposed H.T. Hackney warehouse and shipping center in East Knox County. County Commission listened to residents concerned about increased traffic on two-lane Washington Pike and rejected the needed rezoning. It didn't help that the Hackney site was right across the street from Ritta Elementary School.
It didn't work as well elsewhere. Despite ground swells of neighborhood opposition, Commission approved plans for a Wal-Mart in Halls.
Fulton Bellows Again
For the last few years, it seemed only a matter of time before Siebe divested itself of Knoxville's weathered old Robertshaw plant on the west side of UT's campus. It was rumored to be unprofitable for the British auto-parts manufacturer, which was moving many of its operations to Mexico. City development officials had already begun to speak of the site as a "brownfield" difficult to redevelop.
What no one expected was that the ca. 1916 factory would be bought by local resident Randy Grieves, who restored the factory's original name, Fulton Bellows, and its original mission, the construction of a precision instrument invented in Knoxville called the sylphon, better known as the metal bellows and vital to hundreds of modern applications. At year's end, with big-name contracts around the world, the factory was turning a profit for the first time in years.
December 21, 2000 * Vol. 10, No. 51
© 2000 Metro Pulse