Hello, Phoenix Pharmacy & Fountain

Step into history. A 1930’s era experience is just around the corner. Hot fudge, marshmallow fluff, and sprinkles are waiting to top off your hand-crafted dessert. Listen to your favorite oldies and spin around in a stool at a classic soda fountain bar. You’ll be met with fresh flowers and friendly service that will make you grin. You might think that the Phoenix Pharmacy & Fountain is just like any other ice cream joint, but it’s not. It’s a truly special place filled with creativity and true Knoxville spirit. Sit down, stay awhile and let me give you the scoop on it!

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A classic from the Sherrill family archives!

Ron and Nolan Sherrill are the father-son duo behind the Phoenix Pharmacy & Fountain which opened 2 years ago. “Everybody has their own idea of their soda fountain,” Nolan shared with me. “It’s the Max in Saved by the Bell, or Pops in Riverdale.” For his family it was Trowbridges in Florence, AL, a place his grandparents took him over and over. The American soda fountain dates back to the early 1900’s and was known for being the gathering place in local communities. Neighbors, families, and friends would come together to share life and probably a laugh or two over ice cream sundaes. The Sherrills wanted Knoxville to have a space like that. After years and years of looking for the right space, a historic storefront on Gay Street opened up that was the perfect fit.

The storefront used to be Fowler’s Furniture for 63 years and it was the first building reconstructed after the 1897 fire. Nolan shared that they really let the space speak to them about what it wanted to be. It didn’t feel like it wanted to be a modern soda fountain or even a 1950’s one. The original brick, hardwood floors, and space spoke to them of the 1930’s era. They honored the space and you can feel a historical presence when you step in the door that reminds you of the 1930’s, a simpler time.

With the right space, Nolan left his full-time job in Washington and joined his father to start the wild venture of opening a business together. The planning, design, and developing would not have been possible without help from Peter Freeman of Brooklyn Farmacy & Fountain, the pioneer of the soda fountain revival. His expertise, mentorship, and friendship is what pushed them forward to opening! Nolan also credits a lot of Phoenix’s success to their family history. “A lot of what we are doing here is related to what is in my blood,” he shared. “My dad has always been an incredible entrepreneur. His dad ran a gas station and convenience store in front of their house. I grew up with grandmothers who always loved to cook for people.” I love seeing someone like Nolan create their own unique path where it is proudly a reflection of their family. In charge of the fountain, he is bringing fresh creativity and authentic vision allowing Phoenix  thrive in this growing city! Goodness, his magic-makers are shaking and banana-splitting for a few thousand people every weekend BECAUSE there is something special in the menu and the vibe he helped create.

Even just reading the menu is exciting because it’s so elaborate and fun! It gets your taste buds moving for sure! The sundaes are decadent with all kinds of toppings – like the Afternoon Special Sundae that has a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on a bed of rice krispies, covered in nutella, and topped with house-made marshmallow fluff. Although Nolan didn’t go to culinary school, he has a true knack for crafting creative menu items. “My dad plays piano by ear and I liken this to that. I can taste the food before I make it. I can see something before it is finished,” he shared. The items come from his creative intuition and from his life experiences. My personal favorite sundae is the Breakfast at Brennan’s which he created based off of the well-known New Orleans restaurant called Brennan’s, the birthplace of bananas foster. Growing up he spent a lot of time there as a kid and then joined his college girlfriend’s family who had a table reserved there. So, this sundae pays tribute to his experiences and has a local white whiskey instead of brandy, bananas, caramel, vanilla bean ice cream, and whip cream on top. The best part is watching the bananas get torched before they slide it over to you at the bar. YUM!

There’s so many other sundae specials with stories like the Great Smoky Mountain with Sinclair’s Smoked Nib Brittle or the Cookie Monster which is perfect for kids. There’s the 38-Special with a chocolate and orange combination paying tribute to the Vols and an inside joke with his friend Seth Reagan who was number 38. I haven’t even mentioned the craft sodas or milkshakes! Like I said, the menu is an adventure even just to read! You need to go see it for yourself.

Everything about this place is authentic – it’s all homemade, except for the nuts, cherries and sprinkles. All the ice cream is made fresh and oh my goodness go and try for yourself the homemade peanut butter sauce and the marshmallow fluff. The pharmacy area is fully-operating and literally is unlike any drugstore I’ve ever been in, authentic through and through! Co-owners Brad and Hannah Blackwell run that side of the business and have done an incredible job. Not only are the ingredients and service authentic, but the whole decor and vibe of the space is pure and original. The hand-crafted wooden bar is the perfect centerpiece with a vintage antebellum chandelier above it. The iron stools were made by local artist Kelly Brown and the hardwood floors date back to 1899. There is Tennessee stone marble to eat on and the perfect “Drugs” sign lit up in green that Nolan found American-Pickers style from an old drugstore in Rutledge. There are even local handmade toys and goodies for sale. I love what Nolan said, “All the pieces can live on and have a story they are telling.

One of the coolest parts of what Nolan is doing with his creative and authentic vibe is collaborations. New2Knox is having a social there May 17th – come join us to make some new friends! SoFarKnox just had a secret show there which was AMAZING. My favorite part was when one of the singers thanked Nolan by saying, “He looked at our songs and created a sundae based off of one. I almost cried. So, now I’m gonna play Miss Olivia – you can listen to it and eat it all at the same time!” 🙂 It was adorable! Nolan also did a collaboration with Hexagon Brewing and Knoxville Weekend. On usual weeks, the fountain uses Status Dough doughnuts for one of their sundaes and local farms for produce. At various events around the city, you can find their new bicycle scoop cart – how cool is that?!? Also, this summer they will be hosting a Summer Cooking School, taking kids out to the farmer’s market and coming back to create desserts with local ingredients. From creative collaborations and investing in our community, Nolan and his team at the Phoenix Fountain are helping Knoxville continue to move forward!

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I love my city so much and it’s really cool to get to hear from one of our movers and shakers, someone who is pushing our city forward to a more authentic, collaborative, and creative place. When Nolan was working in Washington, he said what drove him crazy was the lack of creativity, not getting to do anything artistic with his hands. The Phoenix is like his ongoing art project that he’s been able to pour himself into, keeping it fresh and challenging with new menu items and collaborations. “I get really excited to give people an experience. We get to craft something and then give it away and see someone’s reaction right there and who doesn’t light up for ice cream. You see those moments and then you see the grandparents come in with their grandchildren and it reminds me of my childhood at Trowbridges.” 

To be honest, stories like Nolan’s is why I wanted to write about Knoxville. I knew there were people and lives that were culminating presently to create special corners in this city where others could come to connect and be inspired.

To close, I wanted to share my favorite words from my new friend and ice-cream magic-maker:

“The theme here is if it’s special to me then I think you will like it too. So, this is me sharing the things that make me happy or that are meaningful to me in some way.”

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A calling, a contribution, a way to spend your time can be as simple as that. What your story leads to might not be creating the new and improved craft sundae like Nolan, but there’s got to be something you love that could be shared in a special way. It might even turn out to be the next fascinating contribution in our city that only your story could bring!

If you need some inspiration, head over to the Phoenix Pharmacy and experience the creative masterpiece showing up from simply someone else’s story.

Thanks for listening and thank you to Nolan and the others in Knoxville who make our city sprinkled with creativity and life!

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Hello, Lauren

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I adore this new friend I made through the lovely world of Instagram. She’s honest, real, and such a joy to be around. Lauren’s from New Hampshire and moved to Knoxville last summer. She was teaching Spanish at a pretty elite boarding school for four years and then toke a big leap to Knoxville to work at a local private high school. At a New2Knox Social, Lauren hooked up with some local girls who run a health and wellness business. She’s now partnering with them as her side hustle and teaching our community about amazing ways to be healthy. She is so much more than what she does though and I hate emphasizing that. Lauren’s got a heart full of beauty and an important story to celebrate!

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So, sit down, grab yo’ self a cup of coffee or tea, and join our conversation about who she is and what makes her special!  

Hey friend, tell us about yourself. What are the things in life that bring you the most joy?

Sure, over the years, I feel like it has the changed. I feel like the simpler things in life bring me joy like a cup of coffee in the morning or sunshine in the afternoon whereas when I was younger or in college it was the big monumental steps that were fulfilling. Now, I can just sit and reflect and find so many more moments of gratitude. Connecting with people is another huge thing that brings me joy and it has been a learning process. When I was in college, I stuck with a core group of friends. Moving to Knoxville from New Hampshire was a huge step – I was 26 and stepping completely out of my comfort zone, picking basically a spot on the map. So, when I got here, I really didn’t know anybody. I had to throw myself into situations to meet people, like the New 2 Knox socials or going to breweries by myself and just talking to random people. Through that, I feel like I’ve made connections here and really grown more of an appreciation for them. A great example of this is recently I was traveling with my field hockey team and struck up a conversation with the bus driver. It turns out he lived in my hometown for a portion of his life. How crazy is this small world we live in? He told me about his experiences fighting in Vietnam, his travels, and how he came to my hometown and Knoxville. I learned so much and if I hadn’t said hello and asked how his day was going, I would’ve never got to experience that! 

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What’s a lesson you have learned throughout the years, friend?

So, I feel like being confident in who you are no matter what stage of life you are in super important. When I was younger and in college, I went through so many trials and changes and I wasn’t always confident in those decisions. When I look back at them now, I just wish I would’ve been confident in them. I transferred from a big school to a smaller school and at that time, I wasn’t sure of that decision, but now I am so proud of it and where it led me. Now, I feel like any decision I make, while there might still be a little wavering, I try to go into it with the utmost confidence in myself. In the past 6 months in Knoxville, I’ve grown so much in this ability. Through my health and wellness journey, I’ve taken so much more time to reflect, to spend more time being grateful. Also, through the big life change of moving, I’ve learned to take risks and no matter the outcome I trust my decisions. If something doesn’t work, I can move on and be confident no matter what, knowing that there is no set in stone timeline to live by. It’s okay to not get your dream-job ‘til your thirty. It is still bad-ass to own a house when you are forty. Getting married is amazing at any age! Those monumental things can happen at any time!

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What’s a tension you find yourself in right now?

Procrastination and time management right now. There’s a lot I’m juggling – teaching, the health and wellness side hustle, friends, self-development, and just life. I’m trying to find a balance between all those things. I’m so passionate about all of them, but it’s hard to give them all the time they need. So, ya know I find myself snoozing my alarm five times or turning to Netflix first. I want to get better at managing when my self-development habits happen, like journaling or reading. With procrastination, I’ve set a couple goals this month and not met them, but I’m human. I wanted no phone twenty minutes before I go to bed – that lasted two nights. Haha. Ya know, it’s a learning process though. I still want that goal (and write in my journal which I’ve done a lot better with) and others like exercising. Those are my struggles right now and there’s more. We all have struggles no matter what front people put on, they have internal battles. It’s about how you deal though, how you learn from them, and how you move forward. Nobody’s perfect. I would rather be authentic and real at the end of the day than crazy unique.

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Love these real words from my new friend. I think honesty and vulnerability can have the power to bring us together. So, I hope you know that you aren’t alone in whatever tensions you find yourself in. Lauren, myself, and all of us are with you, trying to juggle our different things and trying to find meaning in it all.

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Thanks so much for listening and celebrating this special girl with me! I hope you have a wonderful weekend, friends! Hugs!

Hello, I Love Juice Bar

Processed with VSCO with g3 presetThere is a green and vibrant corner of our city’s square called I Love Juice Bar that deserves praise for its juicy approach to serving not just Knoxville, but the whole country. The story behind this energetic brand comes from our neighbor and my original hometown, Nashville.

 John and Vui Hunt of I Love Juice Bar (Photo Credit: ilovejuicebar.com)

John and Vui opened the first Juice Bar 5 years ago. He was unhealthy, tired of the corporate hum-drum, and exhausted. After the simple act of watching a documentary, his life took a new turn (props to the power of excellent film-making and to spending your time choosing to learn). After seeing the film Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, he began juicing everyday. “I started losing weight and very quickly felt better than ever – my energy levels went sky high,” John remembers. They are from Atlanta where Vui owned a vegetarian restaurant and they were both missing the passion-driving fulfillment of running their own business. Shortly after John had begun juicing, they saw a sandwich shop for sale in Nashville and WENT FOR IT! Vui said, “It was simply a now or never type of thing to us. Nothing changes if nothing changes.” Six weeks later, the first I Love Juice Bar opened its doors and this brand began its kale-green-juicing national takeover!

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Now, I Love Juice Bar has over 50 locations in over 16 states. John and Vui still live in Nashville with their two daughters and two dogs and run all the workings of the growing company. Vui still creates every menu option!

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I have so much respect for the two of them and for their message behind the brand – have fun, be amazing! Being amazing in your health can be fun! What a phenomenal lifestyle to promote – that you should eat to nourish your body and you can still have fun while doing that. Come on, health is often seen as a cycle of fad diets and the mentality of “should eat” vs. “want to eat.” However, step into a Juice Bar and there is a different story being told. You can pick from ANYTHING on the menu – vibrant colors (green, orange, purple, yellow) and a variety of options (juices, smoothies, bowls, power shots, salads, snacks). You can fully ENJOY any of the items. Plus, your body salutes your decision to nourish it with the jam-packed nutrients, amino acids, and vitamins.

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Featured above, is a selection of their juices – Super Greens, We Got The Beet, Orange You Glad, and the most popular Sweet Greens (which has apple, kale, spinach, cucumber, parsley, and lemon). From fiber, amino acids, antioxidants, to vitamins like B12 and B9 (folic acid), these juices basically become your natural and delicious vitamin for the day. If you need more than juice, the other yummies for sale include spring rolls, sandwiches, overnight oats, quinoa power bowls, seasonal soups, and  four new smoothie bowls (Aloha, Tumeric, Go Go Green, and Acai Bowl). I got to try the green bowl and it was phenomenal!

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So, you need to visit one of John and Vui’s locations and experience all the healthy fun. You will especially LOVE the franchise here in Knoxville at Market Square. Ali, the national marketing coordinator, met me in our local store and told me all about what makes I Love Juice Bar special. She is amazing and in charge of making sure you catch on to the powerful message behind their brand. At this location specifically, you’ll find yoga every Friday, fun employees like Morgan and Elliot, board games, and really good vibes. You can step into this healthy spot and do something good for not just your body, but also your soul! The bright windows and space opens you up no matter what kind of day you are having and the nutrient-packed menu items will energize you for whatever is next!

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Thanks for listening to my love-fest for this local store and national company that has its roots so close to us. THIS SPRING from March-May, if you mention my blog, then you get 30% off any juice at our downtown location. So, go get your discount, re-fuel for your day, and support this special business!

Hello, Lisa

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I’ve got something special for you to read – the first of many new posts I’m rolling out this year, featuring Knoxville locals. I invited one of the girls I know via Instagram to share her story with me over coffee. Oh my goodness, I was blown away by the spunk and vulnerability of this beautiful new friend!

Lisa is a ball of energy, a true bosslady, and one of the most genuine girls I have met in awhile! She is a manager at Clayton Homes, owner of SugarChef Knox, and co-owner of The Paisley Swan (a vintage booth inside the local store, Nostalgia). Her friends call her a renaissance lady and rightfully so! She also leads a book club called “Love 2 Get Lit.” How fun is that!?

I’m thrilled to celebrate this amazing Knoxville local by letting her share her story with you and am so thankful for her honest and real heart. So, grab a cup of coffee, sit down, and join our conversation.

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Hey Lisa, what’s a lesson you have been learning in this past season of life?

Well, for the latter part of 2017 I was having a really hard time mentally and emotionally about getting older. I was about to turn 30 and was feeling caught in comparison to where I “should be” and struggling with the feeling that I was supposed to be doing more with my life. I just kept thinking, I am single with MULTIPLE CATS…this is not a good look. I then attended a creative workshop in January where we were creating a self portrait and exploring the misuse of power and control. We brought a picture of ourselves and were asked to hold the picture in front of our face while we did a blind contour drawing. Basically we outlined the shape of our face without looking at the canvas and believe me when I tell you, it ended up looking really wonky. Once we were done, we picked out fabrics, oil paints, and newspaper clippings and adorned our canvas. Then, we shared what our finished piece meant to us. While everyone before me was relatively lighthearted, I literally lost it. I start crying and saying, “I’m having a crisis. I’m turning 30 and I feel like this is the end.” It basically turned into a therapy session at that point…I’m pretty sure someone said “this is a safe place.” It is hilarious looking back but I share all this because through that extremely bizarre and beautiful experience, I realized everything on my canvas reflected this hard season I was navigating. I had chosen cutouts of maps and placed them on my shoulders…so symbolic of how I was struggling with what direction to take in life and how it was weighing on me daily. I also had all these creative words coming out of my mouth and fabric flowers growing out of my head which reminded me of how I felt this urge to cultivate my creativity and growth but also felt this pressure from society to fit inside a predictable box. As I was sharing this, still sobbing, with a entire group of strangers, I realized I don’t HAVE to be one thing. It was really a tipping point for me. I felt more grounded and focused going forward and I began recognizing that trying a whole bunch of things doesn’t mean any one thing loses its value…it just means that you are growing exponentially in many different ways. When I was younger, I thought being a jack of all trades had a negative connotation, but now I feel empowered to be and do it all. I can have a corporate career during the day and also cultivate my creative outlets. Whether it’s in my baking or painting, writing or renovating furniture, I’m creating not because I feel like I have to be the best at it but because of the self-discovery that comes with it!

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We all typically find ourselves in some kind of tension currently and have to work through it. What’s the strain you are feeling in your life right now?

I would say it’s still a continuation from this past year to a certain extent. Self-love has been a lifelong struggle for me and as a result it is something I’m super passionate about. I am constantly having to remind myself that even when you are practicing self-love, there are good days and bad days. When I look back at my life even five years ago, that was not something I was intentionally practicing and cultivating. Self-love can be a million different things, not just going to get a mani-pedi and despite that knowledge, there are still days when doubt or anxiety creep in. I might know my value, but I might not necessarily be feeling it in those moments. So, a strain for me is separating my emotions from the truth in times of weakness. It often takes a lot of strength and heart to be able to push through that hump of feeling vulnerable or afraid and I’m slowly learning to do it with more grace and bravery.

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Tell us what brings you the most joy in your life? What makes your heart giddy?

Right now it is definitely pursuing my creative outlets with more intention. I used to to do them here and there, but now I’m actively pursuing them with purpose. I have an amazing planner by Inkwell Press and as silly as it sounds, it has completely changed my life. The focus is less about getting to an appointment on time and more about goal setting and living a designed life. Through their processes, I developed a goal statement for the year, “To actively seek out opportunities to cultivate my intellectual and creative growth and to pursue new and old friends”.

This year I am focusing more on intentional creativity and learning to find joy in the process and not just the end result. I have a lot of creative outlets that often lie dormant – restoring furniture, painting, writing and then of course baking. As a little girl, my mom told me there were no rules in the kitchen. I could get in there and do whatever I wanted, which led to some weird, inedible creations. I hope my parents forgive me for what is now remembered as “the mustard seed phase”. Now, I have been making wedding cakes and cupcakes for 13 years and one of the best moments for me is those initial moments of joy when you first deliver an order and they see and taste their vision come to life.

I am also really passionate about community. I love when you are in a space with a bunch of personalities that are vulnerable and we are all trying something new but have no idea how to navigate the process. It always becomes this incredible experience that brings joy and togetherness and so much more than something we produced on paper. 

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Beautiful words from my new Knoxville friend. Thank you for listening! I hope you feel reminded you’re not alone. It warms my heart to know that there are so many wonderful people all around us like Lisa that we can get to know, share our stories with, and build honest community together! 

A Creative in Our Midst

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She is not just creative, she is a creative. Unlike anyone I know, my friend embodies the true spirit of this word. She’s a visionary, with boundaries that have never been set. The work she makes comes from her soul, and her unique voice delivers a specific poetry. She is Kelsey Prater – photographer, artist, writer, wife, and dear friend. Let me introduce you to this creative in Knoxville.

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Born in our scruffy city, Kelsey was a little artist from the beginning – drawing, writing, and always finding avenues to express herself. Before she could even write, Kelsey would dictate stories to her mom who would write them down and bind them into books. After joining the yearbook club and getting her first SLR camera, she became enamored with photographing people. Years later, this obsession would become not just an outlet, but a career.

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After getting her creative writing and English degree, Kelsey took a social media and marketing position for a local beer distributor. She was shooting weddings and portraits on the side and eventually knew that she needed to make the switch. So, last May, she cut the cord with her office job and went all in as a freelance photographer. Praise hands for Kelsey! Praise hands, for not staying in a job that doesn’t fill you up! The transition has gone so well, with 20 weddings booked already this year, and with a new passion and motivation to “go to work” each day! I’m so inspired by the gumption of my brilliant friend.

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This is her beautiful work. She captures the honest and emotional moments between people. Her photography is so special and you can see for yourself that it tells a story and captures all kinds of raw feeling.

This quote is Kelsey’s favorite and I think it is the undercurrent in her creative process as a photographer: I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

As she focuses on connecting with people, getting to know their story, their nuances, and expressions that make them unique, she simply gives them the space to feel like themselves. Then, in that state of ease and honesty, her camera can capture a moment that reflects the soul. She has a phenomenal ability to do this. In my mind, this skill makes her a true artist even more than the ability to choose the right settings or lighting.

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Before I finish this praise-fest, I have to share a little bit more about why I personally LOVE HER! Kelsey is my very-own-personal Elizabeth Gilbert (if you’ve read Big Magic or listened to the podcast Magic Lessons, then you know to feel jealous). She reached out to me in a time where I was just starting to take myself seriously as a writer/blogger and modeled what it looks like to CREATE JUST TO CREATE, just for the sheer joy of it! “Yes, I need to make enough money to live, but for me it’s about telling people’s stories and the joy I get from that,” she explained. “You could have a different relationship with your career where you think, ‘This is who I am,’ but I want who I am to inform what I do.” Pure gold, from her heart.

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Her word for this year is rooted. Kelsey responded as a true creative with what she’s rooted in, “beauty and attention.” Our days might seem busy, but they can slow down to beautiful moments if you’re paying attention to the who and what around you. “It’s easy to sleepwalk through your life, but this year I want to let the beauty of my surroundings overwhelm me and break my heart open,” she sweetly said. What a special and magical soul Kelsey has! I love getting to see that translate to her art and the way she lives her life.

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Thank you for getting to know this creative in Knoxville who inspires me! I hope you go do something for the sheer joy of it or slow down and pay attention to your day in her honor. Also, since Kelsey is your friend now too, go schedule her for whatever you have coming up next – engagement, weddings, senior, baby, family portraits, boudoir, styled shoot, you name it!

Follow her on Instagram, @kels.prater, or go to her website, kelseyprater.com.

Hello, Deco Scent Lab

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It was a Sunday afternoon, with champagne among strangers, gleaming sun, and a charming heart who brought us all together. Susan Verekar of Deco Scent Lab has a special art that I got to experience and now get to share with you.

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This new friend moved here from Portland, Oregon last year and he has a heart, smile, and business that will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I love when you meet a stranger who feels like a friend right away. It’s magic, if you ask me.

The story behind her business is pretty special so let me set the scene for you! Susan studied music performance in college, playing the flute. She then had a business career for 12 years doing litigation counseling for large firms. Tired of the daily grind, she began seeking a creative outlet. Her search went well, because she found TWO.

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First, wanting to do something with her hands and fashion, she began crafting elegant handbags. It turned into a business and you can still buy them today! I love her outlook on this craft because she said, “Many mentors tell me the next step is wholesale, but I don’t want to mass produce. That ruins what I want the brand to be. When you get to the point where you have to make a bag to fill so many orders, you lose the artfulness and magic of what makes it special. I will just make a few bags a month, and focus on perfume the rest of time.” It’s so refreshing to have an outlet where you don’t feel the pressure of further success, but success can look like what it is right now. So much admiration for you, friend!

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Susan’s second business of hosting perfume workshops began with … A TRIP TO PARIS! She took an adventurous trip abroad, by herself. (I wish we weren’t all jealous right now, but hello, could we reverse time and join her???) My brave friend shared, “I adopted this philosophy in college, figure out whatever it is that scares you and then do that. That is how you grow, experience new things, and then you find amazing things that you love. That’s how I discovered perfume. I went to Paris, walked around, and found a workshop to join!”

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In a Parisian apartment on a street that overlooked the Eiffel Tower, she learned the art of perfume. The smells, the memories they bring, the creativity of crafting a scent, and the art of telling the story – she had an experience that opened a door to a whole new passion and business.  “I loved it so much, having a finished product that no one else has – its unique to me, my signature scent,” she remembered. “I had this big studio space in Portland and thought this would be the perfect complement to handbags to have people in the studio for fragrance workshops!”

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So, this is her special business that she has now brought to Knoxville. It’s called Deco Scent Lab, an ode to her love affair with Art Deco style and architecture. You can join her for a group workshop at the Hive in February or in the future around Knoxville and Maryville. You can also book private workshops with her for all kinds of occasions, such as bridal parties, birthdays, girls’ nights, and eeeeeven work parties (throwing that out there in case my boss reads this!).

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One of her favorite groups she hosted was for a girl who had her mother, mother-in-law, and grandmother in town. She told me, “Watching the 3 generations bond over something and getting to see them all walk away with something they loved was really special.” Susan has actually never had someone not make something they didn’t like, although it can be intimidating for people at first. Trust me, it was for me. There are over 100 premium perfume oils to smell – coconut, plumeria, sandalwood, patchouli, grapefruit, rose, and the list goes on. You get tester bottles and you have a guide with different base, middle, and top note suggestions. Once you start smelling, your unique preferences, memories, and creativity takes over, and it is a one-of-a-kind experience!

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These sweet Knoxville girls and I got together per Susan’s organizing: Whitney Jade (@whitneyjadephotography), Brandi Kuch (@smittenwiththree_blog), Anna Moss (@rosemossfleurs), and Jan Allen (@mommajanellen). We were beaming and although champagne tends to have that effect on me, it was the fun task at hand making us giddy. Honestly, it felt like we were getting together (strangers might I add) and getting to PLAY with the same spirit and merriment as little girls coloring or playing dress-up.

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If I haven’t convinced you already to look up Deco Scent Lab, I wanted to end by sharing with you an insider’s perspective on perfume that I found fascinating. Susan shared, “Commercial perfume is made to appeal to the masses, so when you are trying to reach as broad an audience as possible, you lose some of the intricacies and complexities of really interesting perfumes. The old school way is to start with a concept, for example a fashion house would employ a perfumer. They would say create a perfume that smells like a silk fuschia scarf around the neck of a brunette sipping coffee on a street in Paris. They would make a scent that smells exactly like that. It’s really artful – you are telling a story in a scent.”

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You can do this artful storytelling in her workshop and guess what – you get to tell the story of YOU! With your distinct palette, memories, and creativity, your crafted perfume reflects how you are one-of-a-kind. How beautiful is that? I’ve been learning lately how easy it is to neglect celebrating your own spread of traits and abilities, how second-nature it is to admire others before ourselves, but oh man YOU AND I are so worthy of celebration. Whether you can book a perfume workshop with Deco Scent Lab or not, I hope you adopt the spirit of Susan’s business – to celebrate and experience your special uniqueness.

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Follow Susan on Instagram, @decoscentlab, and check out her website:  https://www.decoscentlab.com/. Thanks for listening, friends, and I hope you get to sit down soon with Deco Scent Lab and make something that smells as lovely and marvelous as you are!

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Sign up for Susan’s next workshop here: http://www.thehiveknox.com/calendar/2/6/perfume-class

A big THANK YOU to WHITNEY JADE PHOTOGRAPHY for all these lovely images. Follow her at @whitneyjadephotography.

Hello, Chef Kendale

This guy is killing it in Knoxville, one pop-up brunch at a time, and I’m pumped to tell you about who he is and what he’s got cooking for you in the future.  

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Chef Kendale of Simpl Food, Arts, & Catering grew up in Newport with a grandpa who was the master chef of the neighborhood. Watching good ol’ Lloyd craft southern classics every Sunday for the people he loved, Kendale experienced how art could happen in the kitchen. Years later, my friend is doing the same thing for our city (every Sunday).

I don’t think there is time to tell you about every step Kendale has taken in life that has led him to where he is today. It’s a story of many jobs, many lessons, and many seasons. His previous career though was selling cars. He was making all the moohlah he could want and beating sales records, but got to a breaking point, “Here I was, working 60 hours a week and making Ted Russell millions of dollars, but I wanted to do something for me, for my name.” ENTER, CHEF KENDALE!!!

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Because he was mesmerized by the kitchen growing up, Kendale began to seriously consider culinary school. He started pursuing this dream by cooking for his friends. A chef in the making, he began getting creative with foods and loved watching people enjoy what he made. The day Kendale knew there was no turning back was when Chef Scott Conant from Chopped agreed to meet him via twitter at his New York restaurant. Kendale shared that he had always wanted to be a chef and Scott’s response was simple yet the right amount of empowerment he needed – “Well, then make it happen, Chef.”

“Making it happen” is exactly what Chef Kendale has done in the past year. He enrolled in the UT Culinary Institute AND no big deal started HIS OWN BUSINESS 6 months ago called Simpl Food, Arts, & Catering! It’s so cool the momentum people have when they know their purpose, right?

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If you don’t follow @simpl_food_arts on Instagram, check it out because you can find out what Chef Kendale is doing every week. Bank on him having a pop-up brunch most Sundays at Honeybee Coffee South. On Fridays, at Awaken Coffee, you can get his homemade baklava. Throughout the month, he has private dinners, catering events, and is even putting on his own special experiences like whiskey and bourbon pairing nights. What he is doing could really go anywhere – maybe a future food-truck, large event caterer, restaurant owner, who knows!? His goals right now are to continue growing as a chef, building his business, and taking the next step when it is time.

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His next step is already here!!!  Simpl Food, Arts, & Catering will be the official in-house food service of Pour Taproom. Beginning September 28th, Chef Kendale will be serving his pork sliders, possibly beer cheese nachos, and other features every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in Old City! YAHS! 

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Let’s talk FOOD already! The name Simpl represents Chef’s approach to food – keep it simple, fresh ingredients and good cooking. He also likes to push the envelope on what you might expect in a dish. I made a deal with Chef Kendale that my hubby and I would bring the wine and dessert if he would make the magic in the kitchen … a private dinner at his place!!! It was so cool to watch a chef create right in front of you. He prepared for us a delicious avocado bruschetta for an appetizer. Then, for the main course – beef tenderloin over a carrot puree with barley and radishes. We got to watch and learn about the sous-vide cooking style he used for the meat. Translating to “under-vacuum” in French, the style uses vacuum sealed bags in heated water at a precise temperature, resulting in literally a perfect piece of meat. This colorful dish reminded me of an elevated “steak and potatoes” – filling, seasoned to perfection, and honestly one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had.

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What was special about this meal and Chef’s cooking is the daring and forward-thinking approach that pushes him forward. He is not scared to try new things. He takes risks with interesting combinations and in result makes something that surprises people. I’ve never had carrot puree, but Chef Kendale’s got me dreaming about carrots in blenders! At his brunches, some of my favorites are fried chicken and waffles with an apple slaw and maple cayenne syrup OR delicious shrimp and grits with pickled red onions. It’s not often that I eat in Knoxville and truly feel surprised by something on my plate. So, this new chef is a rare gem if you ask me.

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If you meet Chef Kendale in person, you will see for yourself, he is one of a kind – not just as a chef, but also as a friend and husband. He and his sweet wife, Courtney, have two great danes and live downtown. He loves to travel, be outdoors, is obsessed with minimalism, admittedly OCD, and loves creating vegan dishes for the challenge. Friends, eat his food AND get to know him – you won’t regret either!

So, there you have it, a little introduction to one of Knoxville’s upcoming chefs. He is pretty special and unique and I know that his future is going to be just that as well. What I have loved most about hearing his story, is being inspired by the choice he made, to follow a new path for himself. A lot of people stay stuck in one sucky job or one career or one way of thinking about themselves, but he took the risk to pursue something new. He told me, “I’m not positive where I will end up, but I know that I am building a future for myself.” It’s pretty inspiring. I hope it gives you some kind of encouragement, maybe to keep pursuing your craft, maybe to take the risk you’ve been running from, or maybe just to know that we are all watching our stories unfold. How cool is it that years, jobs, and seasons later, Kendale is responding to the purpose he saw and felt as a child and now years later is creating meals for his community just like his grandpa did?!?