Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy 2012, Knoxville!

Every year is a mixed bag for most of us. Some of us had a great year and some of us had a pretty rotten year. Most of us had a little bit of both and I'd fall into that category this year. It was pretty messy on the extended family front, though pretty great for my wife and myself. We're blessed to have good jobs, and our health held up pretty well this year, so no complaints, here.

All that's left to do is party like it's 2011 and hope that 2012 is better for all of us who need it to be better and the good times keep rolling for those of us on a roll. So, how to celebrate in the city this weekend? Let me list a few for you. Leave a comment if you have something to plug I overlooked.

The V-Roys are bringing in the New Year in the Tennessee Theater. It is a rare opportunity to see Scott Miller, Mic Harrison and the guys all together. They were the stuff in Knoxville back in the day when some of my younger readers were in elementary school and they were the first band to play Sundown in the City. You won't be disappointed if you go this route.

The big push in the city is First Night Knoxville which is slated to be bigger and better than ever. You have to purchase a pass for $15 advance, $20 day of the show (free for under six-years-old) and that gets you into all the paid portions of the event, which include an absolutely stunning set of choices that will have you running all around downtown. Music will pour out of venues you might expect like the Square Room and the East Tennessee Visitor's Center, but the YWCA, Miller's Atrium and the TVA Auditorium get into the act.

Carrie Rodriguez, one of my favorites, will play sets at the East Tennessee History Center and the Square Room. Other performing artists with national followings include Josh Leming, Louise Mosrie and Kelly McRae. Local favorites Jodie Manross, Robinella, Black Cadillacs, Cruz Contreras, Hudson K and Black Atticus will get into the act and nine different venues will be rocking.

If you like comedy, jazz, slam poetry, Americana or just good old rock and roll you are in good shape. If none of that grabs you, I'm a little concerned. But wait, there's more . . . Children's activities and the circus is in town! At the YWCA you'll get the Dragonfly Aerial Arts, One World Circus and Biz Cirque with the Wing Project. I haven't even mentioned the fire-eaters wandering about!

Around 11:30 everyone gathers on Market Square for a big countdown led from the stage and including lasers and fireworks as we welcome in a new year. I've got my tickets and I'm working on my game-plan. I hope to see you there. Whether you decide to join the madness or share a quiet kiss at home with the one you love, Urban Guy wishes you a very very Happy New Year.

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Keith Brown and Nu Jazz Fourtet at Barley's

Keith (keyboard) and Kenneth Brown (drums) of the Nu-Jazz Fourtet
One of the great things about having a few days without that little detail of a day job rearing its head is the opportunity to take in some late-night entertainment which might otherwise be sacrificed in the chase for the almighty dollar. I've missed several of those opportunities due to other obligations this holiday season, but I finally caught one of the 10:00 shows at Barley's.

Barley's shows are notorious for running behind schedule. The announced starting time seems to be more of a suggestion. I've also arrived for a 10:00 show that wound up starting at 10:30 and featuring an opening act I had not anticipated, making for an 11:30 start for the artist I came to see. It makes that hard decision about waiting for a second set after a "brief break" all the more perilous.

This past Monday night I took the walk into the Old City on a perfect winter night. The temperatures hovered in the upper thirties, there was no wind and the rain would not start until about twenty minutes after I returned home. People stirred in pockets, the city still not back to its usual frenetic pace.

Jamel Mitchell and Will Boyd with the Nu-Jazz Fourtet
Keith Brown and the Nu Jazz Fourtet took the stage promptly at 10:00. The band includes Keith L. Brown on piano, Kenneth Brown on drums, Clint Mullican on bass and Jamel Mitchell and Will Boyd on saxophone. The music moves afield from straight jazz with nods to R and B, funk and rock, but stays rooted in the jazz form. Unlike some phusion or nu-jazz music, this band does feature individual solos as does the more traditional jazz.

And in this case, that is a good thing. A very good thing. Each member of the band is extremely talented with their particular instrument and that was well displayed at Barley's. I only wish more people there were focused on the music. There were probably a half-dozen to a dozen people carefully listening while others milled about drinking, laughing, flirting and otherwise having a good time talking over the music. I saw one young man transfixed by the music but accosted by a young lady with seemingly amorous intentions. He resisted as long as possible for the art, but in the end, well, she was cute and they left together.

The band was tight and some of the solos were amazing. Keith is a very accomplished pianist and band leader. I kept wondering as he took his turns in the spotlight how someone who knows jazz piano would compare his playing to his fathers, though they work somewhat different corners of the jazz world. Both saxophone players took some excellent turns and Clint and Kenneth lay a rock solid bottom to the music.

Keith Brown and the Nu-Jazz Fourtet, Barley's, Knoxville
The set ended just after 11:00 and I took the pleasant walk home. As I walked I thought about the state of jazz in the city and it seems pretty healthy. I worried when the S and W closed last year that it might be a while before we recovered as they often featured great jazz with Donald Brown and others. It seems the Underground at Crown and Goose, Bella Luna and, on this night, Barley's have stepped forward to give these great musicians a place to play.

The other thing I realized is that I'd be in bed by 11:30 having heard some great music. That isn't really too late even for a work night, so I'm going to open my mind a bit to the later shows. If I still lived outside the city it might be less practical, but this seems doable given that by the time I would have been in my car before, I'm getting ready for bed. What about the rest of you guys? Could you go to bed a little late to get out and support some of these great players?

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mary Johnson Rockers, well, rocks the Blue Plate Special

Mary Johnson Rockers laughing before the show
When writing about Mary Johnson Rockers it's hard not to go for the play off the last name. It's just a little too precious but, as it turns out, it's actually her married name. I'm not saying she didn't go out of her way to find the guy just to take his last name, but I wouldn't blame her if she did. He was actually present at the performance at the WDVX Blue Plate Special and the couple seemed very much in love with each other and their little one.

Mary Johnson Rockers, WDVX Blue Plate Special, Knoxville
It was actually that kind of day. Mary is originally from Maryville (supply your own punch line) and while in for a visit with her family for the holidays, stopped by the Blue Plate along with approximately 10,000 of her closest family members for a solo performance. It was her second appearance, the first coming several years ago, and her charm and talent certainly seem sufficient for many happy returns.

And what of the music? Americana would broadly cover it. She has clear country roots with a folk flair. She has one of those magical voices that can seduce sweetly one moment and growl menacingly the very next. In some respects she reminded me of Mary Gauthier, but a more happy Mary Gauthier.

Mary Johnson Rockers, WDVX Blue Plate Special, Knoxville, 12/11
One thing they have in common is excellent songwriting. Ms. Rockers mixed in songs from each of her first two albums, No Place for Birds to Rest (2008) and her most recent Hummingbird Heart (2011). (Both albums are available on CD Baby and Itunes.) The first thing I noticed was the attention she gives to varying rhythms in her songs particularly in distinctive beginnings on songs such as Whippoorwill and Beautiful Things.
Mary Johnson Rockers, WDVX Blue Plate Special, Knoxville
Her most personal songs rang the truest. She performed Cleveland from her new album, which she introduced as a love song about a previous love - which must be a little awkward for her and her husband. Penny on the Tracks was a stand-out as was the above mentioned Beautiful Things about her grandmother which included my favorite verse of the day, "Well Willie asked Mary for her hand and Mary asked the Lord, 'Should he be my man? He's a Baptist boy, I'm a good Catholic girl. Well, but oh Lord I love him so, give me a sign so that I can know," and it rang clear and true in a parking lot on Dixie Avenue.'"

My favorite was the heartbreaking and, presumably autobiographical Hummingbird Heart, the title track from the new CD. It is Mary at her best and her best is very good. I'd encourage you to give a listen to her songs. If you like well-written Americana from a strong vocalist, I think you'll be happy you did.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011


In Krutch Park on Christmas day I met Edna, originally from the Bronx. She says she is "retired" and "I pick up my checks at the Social Security office and cash them at the grocery store." She said she wasn't hungry, but "I haven't had a hot meal all day and that's not good." She was hoping a couple of guys from Kentucky who had given her a ride the day before would show up again and take her, along with her considerable baggage, to the Knoxville Area Rescue Mission for their 5:15 PM meal.

She said she isn't homeless, a claim which seemed to rest on the evidence that she sometimes "gets a hotel room." She lamented the expense of doing so, saying, "hotels in west Knoxville charge $70 a night and somebody told me the Crowne Plaza charges $90 or more." She speculated about the people living in the Holston Building adjacent to where she sat. She'd heard some paid "nine-hundred or a thousand dollars a month rent for just one or two bedrooms." She seemed to think that was absurd.

She told me she sometimes sleeps in the First Tennessee Plaza where there are a couple of benches and shelter from the wind. She wished she was in Florida, but was glad she wasn't in New York City. All she really needed, she told me, was a taxi to take her and her belongings to KARM for that meal. She had their number and I called her a taxi. She said she had the money, but I gave her the couple of crumpled dollars in my pocket.

I know we aren't supposed to give money to panhandlers, but she never asked for anything but a ride. I also know that I had a nice Christmas, probably spending more money on gifts than she gets in months of social security checks. I have a home, hot food when I want it and I'm safe when I lie down at night. She's probably cold tonight and she's never certain that she's safe.

I know the problem of homelessness is complex far beyond my understanding. Still, it is hard for me to reconcile that the wealthiest nation in history which claims to follow a religion based on helping the least among us can't do a better job than what we are doing to help these fellow citizens. I'm not sure we really care as a society.

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Monday, December 26, 2011

A Christmas Day Walk Through the City

Balcony on Market Square, Knoxville, Christmas 2011
If you don't enjoy close proximity to other people and the hustle and bustle of downtown streets, the city probably isn't your best place to spend time. We've certainly seen our share of high intensity activity in recent days. I've never seen downtown stores and sidewalks more crowded than they've been the last few weeks. And I've loved every minute of it.

Decorations in 36 Market Square, Knoxville
Still, it's nice to have a break from the crowds now and again. Most Sundays are pretty quiet in downtown Knoxville. Holiday Sundays are beyond quiet and Christmas morning was no exception. By the time I roused myself for a long walk in the afternoon, there were increasing signs of life.

Preservation Pub, Knoxville, Christmas Day 2011
The Hotel Oliver seems to have done a good business this holiday season and I saw several families coming and going from their doors. I passed about a half-dozen people in Market Square. The ice rink and every business was closed, though a sign outside Preservation Pub promised they would open at 7:00 on Christmas night. I didn't check, but I bet faithful patrons appeared at the designated hour. I noticed decorations I'd missed when moving among the masses.

Regal Cinemas, Gay Street, Knoxville, Christmas Day 2011

Tennessee Theater advertising V-Roys' New Year's Eve Show
Gay Street showed the most life as it had the only open business I saw all afternoon: Regal Cinemas. You know, the business that will never make it. It had a large crowd waiting for tickets. Couples walked up and down the street or sat in Krutch Park. I met one lady there who deserves a post for herself sometime soon.
A man casts a long shadow on an empty street.
A Porsche Boxter in the Old City, Christmas Day 2011
The 100 Block and the Old City were similarly shut down. I passed a few people including my neighbor and our deputy mayor, Bill Lyons out for a walk with his family. A couple of dogs ran about in Dog Park on Central while their owners waiting for the animals to spend their energy. Garbage cans and recycle bins needed emptying. The sun began to set and the air grew cooler. Warm soup and a good book called my name. It was a very good day in the city.

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Religious Celebrations in the City

Romanian Church, Central Street, Knoxville, December 2011

Churches in Knoxville are an interesting lot. When I first moved to the area in 1982 I was told there were more churches per capita here than anywhere else in the US. I've never seen data to back that up, but we certainly have a bounty of congregations. Downtown is no exception and we may have more than you realize. I can't find any evidence that a congregation still meets at the Romanian Church pictured above, though I've never wandered over on Sunday morning. I know there is a large Romanian congregation on Yarnell Road in Knox County. Who knew there would be enough demand?

Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Knoxville

St. John's Episcopal Church, Knoxville

First Baptist Church Knoxville
Of course, downtown in the south means the older, mainline denominations are represented, usually with "First" this and that. We have a couple of those. I find it interesting that the Catholics and Baptists are as far apart geographically as possible in our small city. The Episcopals fall in between the two which seems historically correct.

Church Street United Methodist Church, Knoxville

First Presbyterian, Knoxville
 Off to the sides are the Methodists and the Presbyterians. The Presbyterians claim to be the oldest continuing congregation in the city, but I think Church Street makes a similar claim. Church Street UMC has the distinction of being called the "most beautiful church in America" by President Roosevelt as he passed through Knoxville on his way to dedicate a little park in the mountains to our east.

Immaculate Conception holds the distinction of having the Poet/Priest of the Confederacy, father Abram Ryan serve there for a couple of years after the war. He is said to have written his most famous poem, "The Conquered Banner" while in Knoxville. Interestingly for me (and Kim Trent), he later served for ten years in Mobile, Alabama, is buried there and has a park and a statue erected to his honor in that city. I'll have to photograph it for the blog sometime when I'm down that way.

Bijou, Home to Knoxlife Church
Square Room, Home to Crossings and All Souls
There are several other churches which meet downtown and which may not be as obvious. Knoxlife, which used to meet at Remedy, outgrew that facility and they now meet in the Bijou. The Square Room hosts two different congregations each Sunday, including Crossings and All Souls. Each of these are non-denominational and I don't think they would be offended to be called "praise" churches.

So, we have your major brands and your off-brands. You have to leave the immediate downtown area to find other faiths, but this being Christmas, we'll stick to the Christians, for now. If you are interested, I hope you spot one you like. Their schedules for Christmas weekend are listed below. If you enjoy your Christmas, Hanukkah or Winter Solstice some other way, then I hope you find joy with your friends and family.

Happy Christmas, Ya'll.

First Baptist - Christmas Eve Candlelight Service 5:00 PM, 11:00 AM Worship Christmas Day (no Childcare)

Church Street United Methodist - Christmas Eve: 3:00 PM (designed especially for families with children), 5:00 and 10:30 Traditional Candlelight Communion services; Christmas Day 11:00 AM Worship

St. John's Episcopal* - Christmas Eve: Holy Eucharist 12:00, 2:00, 4:00 (Pageant), 6:00(Choral) and 10:30 (Choral) Childcare available at 4:00 and 6:00. Christmas Day: Holy Eucharist 10:30 AM

First Presbyterian - Christmas Eve: 5:00 Family Service (drama based on Silent Night), 10:45 Candlelight Service. Christmas Day: 11:00 AM Informal Service with Carols and Stories

Immaculate Conception Catholic Church - Christmas Eve: 6 p.m. Christmas Play & Mass, 9 p.m. Mass, 12 a.m. Midnight Mass. Christmas Day - 8:30 a.m. Mass, 10 a.m. Mass, 11:30 a.m. Mass

Knoxlife Church - Christmas Day: 11:00 AM in the Bijou (I'm assuming they will meet - nothing different posted on their web page). This is their regular meeting place and time (formerly met in Remedy in the Old City).

Crossings - Christmas Eve: 4:30 PM in the Square Room. Christmas Day services are canceled (usually 9:00 and 10:30 in the Square Room).

All Souls Church - Christmas Eve: 5:00 PM, Krutch Park Extension (rain plan - meet in the Prayer Chapel on the 3rd floor of 4 Market Square). Christmas Day service is canceled (usually meets at 5:00 PM in the Square Room).

*A prayer for preservation might be well placed if you go to this one. I'm just sayin'!

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Downtown Knoxville Classic Victorian Tile Entryways

Tile is placed at 36 Market Square, Knoxville, December 2011
The other day as I walked past 36 Market Square I noticed a man and a woman placing tile in the entryway of that building. It's fascinating, painful and tedious work. I don't think they were used to having their pictures taken.

Original tile entryway, north side of 36 Market Square
Have you ever noticed the tile entryways to a number of downtown buildings? I've always thought they were interesting. A while back I noticed that a number of them included hexagonal shapes. The first one that really caught my attention was on Wall Avenue in the northern doorway to that same building at 36 Market Square. That particular entryway includes a central flourish encasing the names of what I assume are the original proprietors of whatever establishment originally called that address "home."

Beautiful tile entrance to the Bijou, Gay Street, Knoxville
 It was after that I noticed the entrance to the Bijou had the same hexagonal tiles in its beautiful entrance. I assumed them to be a turn-of-the-century fashion given the approximate age of the buildings downtown. Even though the Bijou is older, its front entrance was originally a basement and became exposed when the street was lowered which, I'm guessing, was somewhere in the Victorian era.

Keystone Building, Church Avenue, Knoxville

Tile in Keystone entryway, Church Street, Knoxville
 I'm sure Jack Neely must have written on this subject at some point, but I couldn't find it archived online. I wonder if a good bit of the work, particularly that with the hexagonal tiles wasn't done by the same artisan. I knew I'd noticed it elsewhere around the city and I decided to walk the streets and see just how much of it I could find. I didn't find as much as I expected.

Tiled entrance to Night Owl, Old City, Knoxville
 I found one entryway off Gay on the top of the steps leading into the Keystone Building. I found one in the Old City at the entrance to Night Owl. I know there must have been more at one time and I may have missed some of them, but I looked everywhere I thought I would likely spot them. I really thought there were more. Perhaps you can think of some I missed.

Tiled entrance to my home, CA 1916, Knoxville
One reason these tile entryways are so interesting to me is because there is one inside my home. The entryway would date to 1916 and, while the design isn't as ornate as some of the others, it includes the same hexagonal tiles. It is part of the structure we are not allowed to alter because of the building's historical designation.

Finished Product: Tiled entryway at 36 Market Square, Knoxville
 As the lead picture indicated, all this was brought back to me by the sight of a man and a woman laying tile at the Market Square entrance to 36 Market Square. I'm not sure if this was a required part of the restoration or if the owner simply wanted to add a touch common to other buildings downtown and in sync with the entrance on the other side of the building. This entrance and the one on the northwestern side of the building are both nicely done, though they do not include hexagonal tiles. Maybe that's just as well: let it be a marker of an artisan of a past era, a small portion of whose work we continue to enjoy today.

Do you have more information? A link to a Jack Neely article? Are there other entryways I've missed? Tell us in the comments below.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A New Business Slips into Downtown in the Waning Moments of 2011

11 Cafe, 122 A South Gay Street, Knoxville
Just when I thought the news was pretty much finished for 2011, I got a pleasant surprise. I'd already started mentally composing my end-of-the-year stories about businesses coming and going during the past twelve months. Out for a walk to take pictures for those blog posts I realized business news hasn't quite finished for the year.

As I walked down the 100 block of Gay Street, I noticed bistro tables on the sidewalk in front of what was, until just over a month ago, a clothing store. Rumors had surfaced that a bagel/pastry shop might be in the making and, in fact, there it was. There wasn't much in the way of signage out front of 122A S. Gay Street, but inside hummed a little, fully operational bistro: 11 Cafe.

Barista Michael Brock prepares an Americano at 11 Cafe
You'll find Cafe Americano (which I can vouch for - very good) and pastries with tables and lounge seating and a growing number of menu items to which, owner Mustapha Moussa tells me, more is being added daily. Additional food and drink offerings such as imported craft beers, cheese plates and Mediterranean lunch and dinner items will be offered along side the cakes, pastries and bagels now available. Based on a Facebook post it appears Kim Trent hardily endorses the Chicken Shawarma Wrap and hummus.The bistro is currently in a "soft opening" phase and getting kinks worked out for a grand opening on First Friday in January.
Menu Board at 11 Cafe, Knoxville
Mustapha encouraged me to come back and just hang out and it looks like it will be a place which is very comfortable for a hang-out spot. Having owned cell phone distributorships in the past, he has some retail experience, but this is his first foray into a coffee shop and into the downtown market. He says opening a coffee shop has been a long-term dream and he is very excited to have his current location.

It's time for the 100 block to come into its own. The city spent a fortune making it functional, structurally sound and beautiful. Several new businesses have opened with rumors of more on the way. If we want it to be the vibrant area it can be we need to support these entrepreneurs. Buy lunch at Harry's, buy athletic wear at Lululemon, purses at Julie Apple and buy a bagel from Mustapha and meet barista Michael Brock. You'll enjoy some good food and coffee and make new friends. What can be better than that?

11 Cafe, owner Mustapha Moussa foreground, Knoxville

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Other Side of Depot (East of James White Parkway)

I recently wrote a post about the possibility for a development corridor along Depot Avenue which would effectively extend the footprint of what we consider the downtown area. An alert reader (Katie, I think) noted the unfortunate fact that Depot is interrupted by James White Parkway, one of the self-imposed boundaries to the city. In fact, just east of the White Lily building, which was my starting point for considering development to the west toward Broadway, the road ends as it hits the embankment which leads up to the Parkway.

Shaft and I decided to investigate. I smelled mystery and perhaps adventure. I think he smelled a cold beverage, but more of that later.

To follow the street further to the east, one has to turn south and walk a long block across the railroad tracks to Jackson. Left for two blocks on Jackson takes you under the Parkway and to Humes. Take that northward back across the tracks and you find yourself on Depot once again and standing next to the Fireproof Storage Building with its graffiti project which I discussed here and followed up in another post with great pictures from Caroline Carter (are you still out there? An update?). As I probably stated then, this spot does not feel like a safe place on a weekend as it is pretty much abandoned. Footsteps echo from the sides of warehouses. Sidewalks are crumbled.

Knoxville Opera Company, 612 E. Depot, Knoxville
Our first surprise as we walked was to find one of the most sophisticated organizations in the city housed on what seems like a desolate block. An attractive awning in front of the building just to the east of the Fireproof Building was emblazoned with elaborate lettering announcing "Knoxville Opera." I understand that an opera company doesn't have a large budget and that the rent on a building in this section of town must be modest. Still, I was surprised to find them in such rough surroundings.

Marble City Brewing Company, 708 East Depot, Knoxville

Knox Bike Co-op, 708 East Depot, Knoxville
 The next block offered even more in the way of refuge for weary travelers: Marble City Brewing Company's headquarters and their tasting room, The Quary. Housed in a humble, though not unattractive, brick building, and situated next to an alley which announced the "Knox Bike Co-op." It is located in the basement of Marble City Brewing Company. Apparently they are open two days a week to teach people to repair bicycles and they accept bicycle-related donations. To what end, I'm not sure. They were closed, so the only logical next step was to investigate The Quary.

Shaft laughs with the bartender, Marble City Brewing, Knoxville
Immediately upon passing through the front door everyone at the bar greeted us. They assured us they had just decided that the next person through the door would buy a round for everyone. A bit of nervous laughter and patter later we decided it was a running gag. We heard them play it out on the next several people to enter.
The Quary at Marble City Brewing Company, Knoxville
The gathered crowd was a friendly bunch and we sat with them as Shaft tried a sample and got his bratwurst fix. A football game played on a television suspended from the wall behind the bar. It could be heard intermittently as the laughter and good-natured bickering died down. The back wall was designed to duplicate the photograph displayed of the original Marble City Brewing Company located in the Old City over one hundred years ago.

Laughter and good wishes followed us out the door as dusk arrived and we felt the need to begin the walk back into the center city. A final surprise awaited behind the building as we caught sight of a large garage with a boat inside, a truck parked outside and other signs of domestic life such as a grill perched on a second floor landing. It wouldn't be my first choice of a homestead, but obviously it suits someone's domestic needs.
Home behind Marble City Brewing Company, Knoxville
That's as far as we made it down the other side of Depot. It's hard to imagine that section being a vibrant part of the city but, even there, small slivers of life have burst through the concrete. Of course, there is plenty of economic activity of other sorts, such as storage and Lay's Market which I've also written about previously. It's an interesting walk. I'd suggest daytime and with company as the best approach.

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Buy Local, Shop Union (Avenue)

Coffee and Chocolate: The Granddaddy Union Avenue Business
It would have been a very different experience a couple of years ago. The Daylight Building was a construction zone. Reruns was on Market Square. Coffee and Chocolate was doing good business. Even a year ago it was struggling to find it's groove. Rala had opened and the Daylight Building had John Black Photography and the Happy Envelope.

This is the first Christmas for Union Avenue Books and Just Ripe. Reruns is now in their new location. It's actually possible to shop this delightful corridor and check off a  good bit of your Christmas list. Park in the Locust Street Garage and work your way toward Gay Street.

Union Avenue Books Display
Knoxville-centric Books just inside the entrance to Union Avenue Books

New Fiction and Non-Fiction, Union Avenue Books, Knoxville

Charlie takes time with Customers at Union Avenue Books
Union Avenue Books features both new and used books and has a strong local flavor with books by many area authors. A display beside the entrance contains the new Knox Heritage Cookbook for twenty dollars with the profits going to that excellent organization. Jack Neely's books about Knoxville sit beside the cookbooks quietly suggesting that you get to know your city. New hardbacks are always on display at the front, 2012 calendars are already on sale and the children's section in the back is excellent. Throw in personable and knowledgeable staff and you've got the perfect place to spend the morning while taking care of your shopping.

Just Ripe Grocery Store, Union Avenue, Knoxville
Gift Baskets from Just Ripe, Knoxville
Canvas Bag and Gift Card from Just Ripe
Just Ripe is a grocery store, yes, but also a good place to shop for gifts with a local flair. Canvas Just Ripe bags and gift cards to the grocery store make a great gift for downtown friends. The gift baskets which range from around thirty dollars to sixty dollars make great gifts. They also sell downtown gift cards which I've bought for friends. Then there are organic cook books and even Three Bears Coffee which I've bought for another friend. While there on your shopping excursion you can enjoy lunch. I suggest strongly that you try a sweet potato burrito.
After lunch, stop in at Coffee and Chocolate for a warm beverage and a little something sweet. I've already received a box of chocolates from there as a gift. They also have insulated travel cups to carry your coffee with you as you leave. They also make nice gifts. Carry your coffee next door to Rala.

Rala: Gifts for all budgets, Union Avenue, Knoxville
Rala, Union Avenue, Knoxville
Brian Pittman Prints and Originals at Rala, Knoxville
Cynthia Markert art at Rala: $750
 Rala has been open about a year-and-a-half. Owned by Nanci Solomon, who also owns Re-runs, the shop features art from our area and beyond. Currently featured artists include Brian Pittman whose cathedral drawings are helping fund the renovation of the Mary Boyce Temple home a few blocks to the south. Also featured are beautiful new creations from Cynthia Markert whose art has become synonymous with the city. I've got my eye on one of these, myself.

Window displays, Union Avenue, Knoxville

Window Displays at night, Arnstein Building, Union Avenue

So, evening is approaching and you haven't made it to Mast General Store or other shops on Gay Street and Market Square. Sorry, you aren't finished. Walk back toward your car and enjoy the beautiful window displays in the Arnstein Building. The Reruns display was put together by Paris with help from Brianna. Tell them how beautiful they are when you stop in at Reruns where you can end your day by purchasing one of their gorgeous ensembles.

Ensemble outside Reruns, Union Avenue, Knoxville
Reruns, Daylight Building, Union Avenue, Knoxville

Ensemble outside Reruns, Union Avenue, Knoxville
It's a pretty full day and it's a day you could not have had just a few months ago. We're so fortunate to have these good people making life in the city so much better for so many of us. Support them if you want to keep them.

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