Reshuffles of vendors in Knoxville’s first food hall continue, as original vendors leave and new ones arrive.
Only three of the original Marble City Market vendors remain, with Penne For Your Thoughts, a Knoxville staple, quietly leaving the food hall over the weekend and with two others now gone.
Myrtle’s Bakehouse and The Donut Theory, whose shared owner recently informed Knox News of plans to remove the two from the food hall, have been asked to leave “immediately,” according to a Jan. 1 letter from company management. food hall to booth owner Dustin Cochran.
Both stands were to operate temporarily until February 18.
The letter was shared on Myrtle’s social media and was paired with a post claiming the food hall is not allowing the bakery to cook its leftover product.
“This will go in the trash,” read Myrtle’s post, though some commenters tried to buy dough to bake at home.
Knox News contacted the food hall about the departures, but the property through a spokesperson declined to comment.
As for Penne, owner Geoffrey Bernstein told Knox News his Dec. 31 departure had more to do with logistics, the brand’s recent growth and labor shortages in the restaurant industry.
“More than anything right now, with our west location open, it doesn’t really make sense to have (Marble City Market) open anymore,” he said. “Logistically, it’s just difficult. We make all of our sauces from scratch. We have to transfer all of those over there. … We’re just stretched a bit.”
Penne For Your Thoughts opened a location at 9430 S. Northshore Drive last year. The company still has its food truck and catering service.
“We’ve always liked the concept, and I think it has a bright future,” Bernstein said of the food hall.
Cochran is working on opening a gluten-free food truck under the brand name The Donut Theory and is negotiating a lease in Turkey Creek for a celiac-friendly kitchen. As for Myrtle’s, it plans to open a full bakery with cookies and bread in the upcoming Kern’s Bakery food hall south of downtown.
“I don’t think I can take on this decline”
Marble City Market opened with 11 vendors in November 2021. Since then, the food hall at 333 W. Depot Ave. in downtown Knoxville has lost vendors due to reduced foot traffic.
Cochran recently told Knox News that The Donut Theory earned just $182 on its worst day on sales.
“I don’t feel like I can handle this decline,” Cochran said. “I don’t think it was me. I don’t think my brand changed. My marketing got a little loose because I opened the Northshore store; I’ll own a little. But I don’t didn’t go from $40,000 per month to $16,000 per month (at each vendor booth) because of something I did.
The downtown culinary community seemed hopeful for an improvement when leadership shifted from the National Curator of Hospitality HQ food hall to Paul and Ashley Moody of Moody Foods, the company behind Marble City Market’s original vendor, SmashCity Knoxville.
SmashCity, Seoul Brothers, and Gekko Poke & Ramen are all that remain of the inaugural lineup.
The Moodys joined Knox News podcast “The Scruffy Stuff” shortly after taking on management responsibilities to share planned improvements, from lower credit card rates for vendors to implementing better strategies. marketing to make the space more warm and welcoming.
While some changes are already in place, including an updated bar schedule, Cochran previously told Knox News that he felt some of the issues facing the food hall were “unsolvable.”
“Some of these issues are not about anyone other than where he is physically,” Cochran said. “It looks like an apartment building. You’re not going to tear it down, remodel it. … And it’s going to cost a lot of money or take a lot of creativity to make it look appealing.”
Several new vendors have signed up at Marble City Market. The food hall recently hosted Chick-N-Sack and Hot Shot Knox, a spokesperson told Knox News, “along with two others backstage.”
This includes Kianga’s Kitchen, a local vegan soul food brand soon to be featured on knoxnews.com.
The Moodys also opened their Reagan’s Lobster Roll Shop in the food hall last month.
Is there still hope for the Marble City market?
Marble City Market is located below the Regas Square condos, which opened in February 2017. The first units were sold in May 2019.
Four years after construction began, Knox News announced that Marble City Market would take up more than 15,000 square feet on the ground floor.
This large footprint on a growing side of town was seen as a potential catalyst for future growth, with the property suggesting the project could expand the boundaries of the town centre.
After the tumultuous first year of business, Marble City Market received the newsletter treatment from Knox News, which assessed the food hall’s operations and potential in the second year.
Ryan Wilusz,downtown reporter and urban explorer for Knox News, can be reached at 865-317-5138 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Ryan’s work on Instagram @KnoxScruff and sign up for Urban Knoxville’s free weekly newsletter. Unlock premium benefits and support strong local journalism at knoxnews.com/subscribe.