Jackson Avenue Market
Strolling along the Old City, I often can be found looking up at the architecture like a tourist with my neck bent curiously as if something was falling from the sky. As I walk down the sidewalk on Jackson I am struck every single time by the peak that is Patrick Sullivan's. It's almost obsessive that I look up at it each and every visit to that corner, but I do. Wires criss-cross the skyline and portions of brick road can be seen exposed in random spots on the street. Further up the block, the light from a glowing sign that sits atop a building catches my eye once again. Its bright lights spell out JFG Coffee with the tagline "Best Part of the Meal."
At the bottom of that building now resides Jackson Avenue Market, and in years of passing by and occasionally stopping in for an energy drink or bottled water, I've noticed indications that it's more than a neighborhood convenience store.
First Friday in the fall in downtown Knoxville has a special energy. Football season is back, so quite often the traveling fans come down and mingle with the hip gallery-hoppers. On this specific First Friday, however, the football Vols had a weekend off. This bye week for the team results in an audible hum of activity in the downtown nightlife scene.
I walked in the front door of Jackson Avenue Market and heard a sound I had yet to hear at this spot: live music. I passed the coolers that line the wall facing the front door and walked right past Kristina Mynatt, who was strumming a ukulele and looking at the many beverage options. I turned the corner and in the seating area to the right of the register was a full group of musicians wielding various instruments. I introduced myself and after a little conversation learned that they had concluded their performance. So I coaxed them into playing a little jam for me.
Shop owner Matt Weidenhamer was preparing various sandwiches and placing them on the counter close to where I had set my gear to get ready to shoot a photo and quick video of the band. The group, Sunshine Station, consists of vocalist Jennifer Parker, Ayca Yayman on oboe, Sean O'Connell on mandolin, Ross Shapton on bass guitar, Tom Massey and Zach Younger on guitar, Steve Cowie on Djembe and of course, the aforementioned Kristina on ukulele and vocals. The excitement in the room began to build from the patrons thinking they were starting to play again. At the conclusion of the tune they cheered for more and the band thanked them and went back to packing up as they had been when I had arrived.
I later talked to Matt, the owner, about the history of his establishment. He began Jackson Avenue Market on Oct. 1, 2010. When he first acquired the location the equipment from the JFG Coffee Co. was still throughout the facility. Matt pointed out a spot in the floor where you could see gear had been bolted down. Behind Matt, I noticed an extra-tall chalkboard covered in different beer names, and he explained that currently the bar/market has around 237 beers, which he has a goal of raising to 365 — one for every day of the year.
The awesome thing about this is that you can order any one of those beers as a single to drink there OR to go! Not many places sell single beers that are of that quality. (Sounds like a beer lover's bucket list if you ask me.) On top of the coolers was an actual Fat Tire bicycle with the name of the "New Belgium brew" painted neatly on the side. Also very eye catching were the classic arcade games including "Mario Brothers" (not Super Mario, the ORIGINAL) and "Ultimate Mortal Kombat."
As for seating, booths line the front window for eating and drinking, and a few tables dot the back of the place where the band was setting up.
I was so happy to stumble into a place that was outside the realm of my normal nightlife article, a place that was run by a local resident (Matt lives just across the street) with an unusual concept combining a convenience store, a sandwich shop and a bar. Next time I stop in I plan to try the Cajun Turkey and Ham because it seemed to be the most popular menu item and I can't resist such and interesting combo.
If you are in the Old City and in the mood for a beer, or even an energy drink, stop in and see Matt at Jackson Avenue Market. Play yourself a game of "Mario Brothers" as well, just for old time's sake.
Jackson Avenue Market
200 W. Jackson Street
Knoxville, TN 37902
Mon - Thu: 9:00 am - 11:00 pm
Fri: 9:00 am - 1:00 am
Sat: 10:00 am - 1:00 am
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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