citybeat (2008-04)

The Crown & Goose?True Values

City Beat

Opening soon, Knoxvilleâ’s first gastropub

It may be safe to say that in all of Knoxvilleâ’s byzantine history of taverns, saloons, and beer joints, there has never been an establishment called the Crown & Goose. The new pub materializing at 123 South Central in late February will be different in other ways, too, a challenge to several paradigms. On the banner above its century-old facade is a line which doesnâ’t quite explain the matter: â“Coming Soon: Authentic London â‘Gastropub.â’â”

â“It sounds like something to do with the doctor,â” admits Jeffrey Nash, the silver-haired, black-attired Englishman whose casual accent and dashing demeanor might remind you of a Carnaby Street Mod. The former Londoner has been well-known among downtowners for several years, but until now primarily as a residential developer: the Keystone Building on Church and the Sandstone Building on Clinch, both successful townhouse-type renovations, are his. Larger projects like North Central Village and the Crimson Building post-fire reconstruction are in the works. The Crown & Goose may be his most personal project to date.

The name is explained in a press release: â“The crown is a symbol of respect for the royal family. The use of the crown was also rewarded to British subjects for good service in a long-standing trade, so the significance of a pub bearing the crown was a great honor.â” As for the Goose, thereâ’s a longer story having to do with the Temple of Juno in ancient Rome.

â“The goose is one of the royal birds, but is also known for its loyalty,â” Nash says. â“We have a real loyalty to Knoxville and to the Old City.â”

Just when you start to suspect heâ’s putting you on, Nash puts it all into context. â“The Crown and Goose is a little pub in northwest London,â” Nash says, â“where my son and daughter-in-law met. Because several people who met there got married, it got a reputation as the Love Pub.â”

The loyalty part, at least, seems genuine. Nash says heâ’s determined to give adults a beachhead on the Old City, which, despite some diversity of attractions, has for the last few years been best known for its attractions to young adults who, valid ID finally in hand, are in a hurry to get in some variety of trouble. Nashâ’s establishment is intended to appeal mainly to the neighborhood; he emphasizes that the 100 block of South Central and South Gay is indeed a neighborhood now. Thanks to several recent condo developments, a few hundred residents can walk to the pub without even crossing a street. He adds that dedicated parkingâ"at some expense, theyâ’ve bought 40 spaces from the lot across the street, just for Crown & Goose patronsâ"will appeal to mature suburbanites who arenâ’t used to walking around downtown.

The other attraction to the mature has to do with that odd word on the front of the building. From now on, when you see â“gastropub,â” Nash would prefer you not think first of your gastroenterologist, but rather the French gastronomique, which implies an emphasis on food. English pubs rarely offered much in the way of cuisine; the term was coined in the â’90s to connote an English pub traditional in every way except for its more-upscale menu. New Yorkâ’s first gastropub opened only about four years ago. Nash says heâ’s aware of only three or four in the U.S.

The architecture of the Crown & Goose will also be a departure in some respects, something more of a European line; in good weather the front wall will fold open. â“It will open completely to the streetscape,â” Nash says, giving even the interior of the pub a bit of the ambience of a sidewalk cafe. As if thatâ’s not enough, it will also have a rear beer garden. Wrought-iron gates will offer an entrance to the garden, which will wrap around the back of the block of buildings, rendering a grassy patch with some interesting views of the middle of an interesting urban block that looks something like a scene from The Naked City or an early experiment in cubism. Nash says itâ’s inspired by the yards beside English pubs of his childhood. His parents would go inside for a pint, but kids under 16 werenâ’t allowed. â“They would plunk me outside with a bag of chips and a Coca-Cola.â”

Amenities for kids are amenities for older adults. An intuitive scene of London will appear in a 60-by-30-foot mural alongside the beer garden.

Helping Nash and his American-born wife, Pat, co-owners of the project, are Jeffrey DeAlejandro, Pat Nashâ’s son, a former Louisiana Tech baseball pitcher who will help with the day-to-day operations of the pub, and general manager Bob Wilson, late of the Baker-Peters Jazz Club.

To suggest an English pub might require a chef would have seemed bizarre a few years ago, but gastropubs do have chefs. The one at the Crown & Goose is Michaelangelo Morse. He might be employable for his name alone, but with experience at Baker-Peters and the Knoxville Convention Center, he has a reputation as an expert chef specializing in French, Southwestern, and Asian cuisines. Heâ’ll be adding English to his repertoire. â“Weâ’ll have fish and chips, and bangers and mash, but it wonâ’t be greasy, nor heavy. It will be prepared in a much more healthy manner than it would usually be in the U.K.â”

This challenge to the conventional English pub may not mean as much to Knoxvillians as the English pub itselfâ"and it will be very English, Nash promises, with a polished-oak bar and all-English live music on weekends. The English music part is rather vague at this point, but Nash suggests a bluegrass band playing Beatles or a jazz band playing Eric Clapton. â“Weâ’ll present British music in a number of different genres,â” he says. Would he stretch to include, say, Irish music? After a pause that suggests you should have known better than to ask, he says, â“This is an English pub.â” â" Jack Neely

New ownership keeps a South Knoxville institution alive

On any given day, the westernmost corner of the store is the most heavily trafficked portion of Colonial True Value Hardware in South Knoxville, though thereâ’s not a single item for sale there, nor even a cash register nor a checkout lane. Rather, that sector of Colonial is set about with a crude agglomeration of oddly mismatched furniture, including a barberâ’s chair and an old stained oak bench seat that grows almost uncomfortably warm in the sun steaming through Colonialâ’s front window, even on a frigid winter day.

â“Thatâ’s where the Education Committee sits,â” says new store owner Jeff Allen, referring to the regular informal gathering of mostly retired gentlemen that convenes at Colonial throughout the earlier half of most days. â“When I took over the store, that was one of the first things people asked: Am I gonna leave this corner open? But if I took out this corner, the store would probably close. This little section is probably just as important as everything else in the store combined.â”

Allen purchased Colonial True Value Hardware, located on Chapman Highway next to the old landmark Kayâ’s Ice Cream, on Dec. 15 from former owners Roy and Gerry Garnett, who had operated the local institution for nearly 30 years. When Allen, a South Knoxville-based long-haul trucker and a longtime Colonial customer himself, moved to take over the store from the retiring Garnetts, he determined to keep its mom-and-pop character and its status as a locus of community activity intact.

â“Itâ’s nice to see, because the mom and pops are going away,â” says Tom Collins, milling around the front counter in a ball cap and a blue Colts pullover. Collins is something of a regular, too, having served as the seed rep to Colonial since the early years of the Garnettsâ’ ownership.

â“The big-box stores keep hammering at them,â” he continues, â“so you donâ’t see too many of them anymore.â”

Colonial opens its doors Monday through Saturday at 8 in the morning, and by 8:30 most days, the first of what will likely be several regular visitors has come in, poured coffee in a styrofoam cup from the old coffee machine in the back, and taken a seat in the Committee section.

â“We come in to discuss world issues and to solve world problems,â” chuckles Jim Anderson, a retired railroad man and longtime South Knoxvillian whoâ’s just wandered in with a cup of coffee from the Burger King up Chapman Highway. â“We wondered where we were going to meet after Roy and Gerry sold, but it turned out to be the very same place. Iâ’ve always said, if you want to know whatâ’s going on in South Knoxville, come here.â”

On a busy day, the western corner is standing-room only, says Jason Allen, Jeffâ’s grown son, taken over by a crew of fellows with names like Dan and Dex and Cranston and Crawfish. On an especially busy Friday around lunchtime, a couple of the regulars break out acoustic guitars, as they are sometimes wont to do, and a round of strumming and singing ensues that includes the likes of Ritchie Valens and Elvis Presleyâ’s â“Donâ’t Be Cruel.â”

â“If we get real busy, sometimes the fellows back here will jump up and help customers,â” Jeff Allen says. â“Theyâ’ll wait on you, even ring you up.â”

â“Well, everyone except Cranston,â” says Jason Allen. â“Heâ’s scared of the cash register.â”

â“Weâ’re keeping everything pretty much the same as it was,â” Jeff Allen says, noting the lone exception that he might â“freshen up the inventory a little, make some things easier to find.â”

Just then, two more older gents stride urgently through the front door, both of them obviously familiar to Allen; the first man is evidently pastor at a local church.

â“Need to use your bathroom,â” the preacher croaks, scarcely slowing down on his beeline for the facilities.

Allen laughs: â“You never know what one of our customerâ’s is gonna need.â” â" Mike Gibson


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