Cumberland Avenue is in the midst of a $530 million transformation, and the landscape of businesses on the Strip will never look the same.
To make room for the student-centric apartments, buildings have been leveled, including the home of classic Cumberland restaurant Stefano's. Businesses have relocated. Some have closed. It's a time of change for one of Knoxville's most beloved avenues.
Core Spaces, a Chicago-based development group, will build four new apartment buildings there to house about 2,300 people. The first phase of apartments will open in 2025.
More demolition and change is ahead for the street. But what's the fate of your favorite business?
Businesses affected by Cumberland Avenue construction
Campus Cuts by Monica - relocating to 2441 University Commons Way in July
Hibachi Factory - open through 2023, will relocate in 2024
Knox Smoke Shop & Vape - open through 2023, will relocate in 2024
Copper Cellar - property sold to Core Spaces but restaurant is still open
Stefano's Pizza - closed
Jimmy John's - closed, couldn't be reached for comment
Zen Ramen House and Sushi - closed
Shell Gas Station/Rocky Top Market - closed
Victor's Taco Shop - staying open
Insomnia Cookies - staying open
Cook Out - staying open
University Real Estate office - moved to Medical Arts Building at 603 W. Main St.
Farmhouse Fraternity - property sold and fraternity moved to a new house
TENN student housing office - relocated to 1830 Cumberland Ave.
UpTown Bar and Grill - closed
University Liquors - reopened at 1700 Cumberland Ave.
Mellow Mushroom - staying open
The Half Barrel - staying open
Panera - staying open until January 2024, will relocate after that
Plugged In - reopened at 1715 Cumberland Ave.
Tapp'd - closed
Mellow Mushroom is staying on Cumberland Avenue
Mellow Mushroom will keep serving slices, and the local franchise owners plan to stick around in that location for the long haul, district manager Stephen Peake told Knox News.
The 2109 Cumberland Ave. location has been open since 2003.
Peake said Mellow Mushroom owners James and Linda Livingston, who also own the property, declined offers to buy the land.
Mellow Mushroom's property, along with 2121 Cumberland Ave., was included in Core Spaces' now-scrapped design plan presented in August 2022. That block was removed from plans by the time Core Spaces applied for a PILOT in January.
Instead, Core Spaces' new plans include building a structure at 1807 Cumberland Ave., home of Copper Cellar. Copper Cellar owner Mike Chase recently sold his property to Core Spaces as part of a larger sale including the former Ruby Tuesday building for $19.5 million.
Mellow Mushroom will be renovated over the next few months, with planned updates to the interior and exterior.
Peake and assistant manager Jeremy Garvin said business has steadily increased since the restaurant reopened during the COVID-19 pandemic. They don't see it slowing down with construction on the street.
"We feel like it's going to actually benefit us with more people living on Cumberland Avenue, on the Strip. So being one of the only restaurants left, that's kind of what we're looking forward to," Peake said.
Plugged In moves up the street to new location
Plugged In opened in June 2021 on the 1900 block. It moved in September 2022 because the original location was scheduled for demolition as part of the Core Spaces development.
The new location at 1715 Cumberland Ave. next to Walgreens seems to be working out for the owners, who are seeing more foot traffic for the buy, sell and trade store that specializes in sneakers and vintage clothing.
"This space is much bigger. It's a little over double the square footage, and we also have an upstairs so we're able to almost like separate our store into two separate stores," co-owner David Deacon told Knox News.
The owners aren't worried about the construction as long as it doesn't impede access to businesses.
"As for when the first phase comes, I think we'll be fine," co-owner Dallas Ogletree told Knox News. "I think by then we'll be more established, have more people coming in, have more people know about us. I think we'll be a bigger company than we are now. I'm looking forward to it."
Tapp'd runs dry, but owner isn't stressing
Tapp'd owner Joseph Smith is familiar with closing a business, having previously operated a coffee shop on Cumberland in the '90s. He went from two bars to one on the Strip after Tapp'd in the 1900 block was demolished.
"Tapp'd we ended up having to close, it was a little bit of a disappointment. We were able to incorporate our employees in the two other places and at least give them an opportunity," Smith said.
He misses the additional income, but he doesn't miss "the stress and strain of having another place to worry about."
He said the now-complete Cumberland Avenue Corridor Project, which closed off the roads during construction, harmed his businesses, decreasing foot traffic and access. He hopes the Core Spaces construction is better.
Smith said student gathering places on Cumberland have dwindled over time, which puts more strain on The Half Barrel.
"I think probably student housing and the need for that, and housing in general, trumps sentimental. It's progress to me," Smith said. "Some people don't like it, especially when it shuts your business down, but it's a necessary thing. It's not necessarily going to be all bad, as some people just cannot accept change."
Students are still visiting The Half Barrel, he said. He hopes the new buildings have space for more restaurants and entertainment options to bolster nightlife for the area.
University Liquors pours one out for former location
Owner Helen Morton has kept University Liquors running with her family for almost 30 years.
The original building, located at 1919 Cumberland Ave., was demolished earlier this year. It created a new opportunity for the liquor store, which moved down the street to 1700 Cumberland Ave. next to Firehouse Subs.
It reopened on Feb. 7 in the space, which is double the size of the original location. Morton signed a five-year lease.
"We're thankful that we were able to find a place, because it's slim pickings on Cumberland," Morton told Knox News.
She considered claiming one of the first-floor commercial spaces coming to Core's apartment buildings, but Morton said the wait was too long and the cost too high. Although, she added, in five years it might be comparable.
"I'm hopeful that I'll live to see that the housing exists for young professionals, for students, that if the prices aren't sky high like they are now that they will entertain the idea of allowing locals to come down this way," Morton told Knox News.
Panera Bread continues to make dough on the Strip ... for now
Panera Bread is still open at 2000 Cumberland Ave. with limited hours and only for catering. It will stay open until January 2024, according to operating partner Tom Krings.
The property was sold in April to Core Spaces' Knoxville TN 2000 Cumberland Properties KP6 LLC for $3.3 million, according to KGIS.
Krings told Knox News that Panera will move to a new location nearby and transfer employees to the new site, which hopefully will have a drive-thru.
Keenan Thomas reports for the Knox News business growth and development team. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Cumberland Avenue businesses relocate amid construction on the Strip