Today will be the last day that downtown eatery Fork & Pie Bar is open for restaurant business.
"It is a strategic business move," owner Mike Robinson said. "We evaluated the cards and hand we've been dealt, and it makes more sense to close the storefront. Operational costs have exceeded the amount of sales we are doing."
The restaurant, which is in the 800 block of Market Street, opened in June 2012 and offered both savory and sweet pies.
But because of the bulky operating costs, Robinson said he is pivoting to focus on ventures that will be more successful.
So he's going to offer catering services out of the Market Street space, and he is also going to launch a new retail line of pie fillings.
"We will have all our sweet fillings jarred," he said. "We'll have a few organic options and normal pie fillings, like apple, cherry, blueberry and strawberry."
The filling line will be sold at the Chattanooga Market, as well as online and likely in some local grocery stores, he said.
Fork & Pie has been doing dessert catering and it's gone well, so Robinson is going to continue doing that, he said.
He's also working on a deal to take over the concessions at the Tivoli Theatre and Memorial Auditorium. Officials are in the process of finalizing that deal, and the issue will go before City Council soon.
Robinson said he wants to offer a full bar and unique concession items, such as Caprese cups. He also hopes to add in more locally sourced food and get away from the traditional concession options, such as chips or candy.
Robinson is also co-owner of the North Shore's Brewhaus, and he said he's always working on something, so people should keep an eye out for what is next.
"We would like to have seen Fork & Pie be more successful; we made some mistakes, and we tried to turn some of those around," he said. "We like that part of town and feel really strongly that it's going to be a great place for business in a year or two years. For now, sales just aren't there."
Earlier this year, Blacksmith's moved from St. Elmo to the 800 block of Market Street. And for a few months, leaders worked to create a Cuban cigar bar called Oye & El Jefe Cigars Restaurant and Lounge next door to Blacksmith's in that same block.
But River City leaders said that project is now on hold.
"Oye has made some infrastructure upgrades to their facility but has decided to put the cigar bar on the backburner for now and lease the space until they are ready to proceed," Amy Donahue, communication specialist for River City Company, said via email.
River City officials are working to find the right tenant for that space until the Oye team is ready to be there, she also said.
Donahue also said that downtown merchants know there is strength in numbers, and they have recently formed the City Center Merchants Association, which meets once a month and has 23 retailers and restaurants represented.
That block has seen several changes in recent years—Market Street Tavern has come and gone, for example. And there are challenges in running a downtown business, including getting crowds to come out after business hours, she said.
Part of River City's plan for boosting downtown business is adding more affordable downtown housing. Click here to read more about plans for the City Center.
"While it is never easy starting and nurturing a business, especially in an unfamiliar area for your customer, the tenants of 800 Market St. are making great strides for City Center," Donahue said.
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