Downtown businesses took a hit in the pandemic. According to a report from the Downtown Knoxville Alliance, revenue is up by nearly 20% from 2021 to 2022.
“COVID was really tough downtown, particularly in downtown but also citywide in 2020,” Executive Director of the Downtown Knoxville Alliance, Michele Hummel said. “So our numbers in 2021 really rebounded to where we saw an increase of 64 percent which we were pleasantly [surprised]. We knew we’d see an increase but we were surprised with the increase of 64 percent.”
“This year we saw a nice increase of 20 percent overall,” Hummel added. “So those numbers are showing that downtown is strong and that our businesses are doing well.”
The Downtown Knoxville Alliance said that within that nearly 20% increase, restaurants make up 72% of the overall revenue numbers. Service providers and retail accounted for the remaining 28%.
Some businesses say they are seeing that growth, but others say not so much.
Echo Aliang is the owner of Hello Tea House and said, “I like downtown. It seems like it brings more foot traffic.” She opened Hello Tea House in 2021 at the corner of Cumberland and Gay Street downtown.
“In the beginning, we barely made it,” Aliang said. “We didn’t prepare for that. But later on, it’s getting much better and much better.”
She adds that their annual revenue from 2021 to 2022 was a little bit under 20 percent.
Numbers like these are bringing in new companies like The Spice & Tea Exchange Of Knoxville, which opened last December.
“We opened right before Christmas, so that was crazy,” Owner Annette Morejon said. “Not only was it our first time here, but we also had people buying all kinds of stuff for the holidays. So even into January and February, we saw really good numbers.”
According to the Downtown Knoxville Alliance, retailers and other shops on Market Square, Gay Street, The Old City, and the surrounding areas are doing better in revenue than other businesses within the city limits.