March 22, 2012

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There are many aspects of economic development and business that impact a city’s livability and vibrancy. Consider what the impact of food and dining culture have on a city and its health. As citizens, what other aspect of that economic fabric do we interact with on a more regular basis with our cold, hard, and of late, limited cash?

Chef Daniel Lindley is on the cover this week. The investments made into his three culinary ventures, St. John’s, St. John’s Meeting Place and Alleia have been successful not only for Lindley, but they have been important components of revitalizing the Southside of Chattanooga. Likewise, Matt Lewis’ trio of restaurant-bars—Hair of The Dog Pub, Terminal Brewhouse and The Honest Pint—have also had significant influence and economic impact on the surrounding blocks of their locations.

When 212 Market opened it doors a block away from the newly minted Tennessee Aquadrium 20 years ago, it was, perhaps, the most significant new investment downtown besides the Aquarium itself. Skeptical of that statement? Ask yourself this: When someone walks out of the penguin exhibit, where do they go next? The vibrancy of neighboring retail and restaurant establishment to destinations and landmarks is important in obtaining the interest, and dollars, of visitors. These developments are even more significant to our local population and fanning the embers of growth. Consider how often a consumer engages in purchasing those services within, say, a given week. Quick lunches at a local food truck, a dinner with business colleagues, happy hour cocktails with friends, buying some hand made chocolates for a gift ... the number of occasions one has to spend their money locally and its impact on the local economy is, collectively, massive.

Our current mix of food and beverage choices continues to expand with the more recent additions of Hot Chocolatier opening their Main Street location and The Mean Mug coffeehouse hanging their shingle across the street from their sweet-treat neighbors.

Looking forward, some significant developments are coming soon. Fork & Pie Bar will be opening on Market Street, specializing in savory and sweet pies that will fill out with a full menu tailored to this national food trend.

Pure Soda Works, local makers of tasty carbonated beverages, will soon be setting up a bottling and retail shop on River Street in the North Shore.

Tiffanie Robinson and Brandi Siler are looking to take advantage of the expanding choices by starting a venture called EATS: Chattanooga Food Tours. For a flat fee, people can take part in a tour of local restaurants with menu tastings, offering a culinary overview of the city’s fare. With Robinson, an owner of the Brewhaus and On The List Catering, and Siler,  owner of the Southern Burger Company, leading the way, it’s a good bet that the food and beverage industry will grow.

Active recruitment of restaurants remains a priority, and much more is currently in the works. Blair Waddell, a retail recruitment specialist with River City Company, said in an email regarding the organizations active efforts, “River City Company is actively seeking and recruiting new retail and restaurants for the downtown, specifically in the City Center district in an attempt to connect the North Shore to the Southside with plenty of activity occurring on the ground floor level. We have multiple prospects for restaurant/ retail in this area that are mostly independently owned businesses, which will protect the unique culture of our downtown and keep it distinct from other downtowns.”

Expanding choices is central to the equation. What’s better than one new restaurant opening on a city block? Three. People would rather commute to a single location, look around and have multiple dining options on a Friday night. If satisfied, they come back and try another place. Indian cuisine one night, steaks the next, gastro pub fare and a pint of ale the next. Smart restaurant owners in dense urban areas realize it’s more of a risk to sit alone on the block. While they likely want to be the only restaurant offering their type of cuisine, they would rather not sit alone. There is safety and economic strength in numbers.

There is a lot of investment riding on the food and beverage industry in our city. We get to take part in that engine of growth on a regular basis and we reap immediate rewards in the process. The fastest way to a city’s economic heart is, not surprisingly, its stomach.

Not to mix commentary with commerce (as if we are not already), but a short note on The Pulse’s role in the local restaurant scene continues to expand. On April 19, our seasonal restaurant guide, Chattanooga Chow, will make its debut within the pages of the paper, which will also mark the debut of the Pulse Pour-Off Bartender Challenge. For details on that upcoming event, see Page 12.

Until then, bon appetit and cheers!


March 22, 2012

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