The former Knox County Federal Teachers’ Credit Union stood empty at 6000 Chapman Highway, waiting for the right tenant for years.
Meanwhile, South Knoxvillian Eli Cockrum said opening CommonPlace Coffee + Community has been a 2.5-year journey. In January he signed the building lease and in March he quit his job at YOKE Youth after renting the old building from the bank. Since April, Cockrum has worked hard to bring his vision to life.
After extensive renovations, CommonPlace Coffee + Community officially opened on July 12 and will be open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.
The space has been decorated in an earthy color scheme that reflects the proximity to the Smoky Mountains National Park.
“We have purposefully set up these lounges where people can come in and hang out if they need to relax, work or have conversations,” Cockrum said. “From the beginning to the end, it is simply a space to build a community. We want this to be a community space, we will make it available after hours for groups if they wish to have a little larger meeting space.
Comfortable seating has been added to the bank safe, and there are meeting tables in two additional secluded spaces that can be booked by groups.
CommonPlace Coffee + Community is located between the Lake Forest and Colonial Village neighborhoods. Cockrum, his wife Heather and two children live within a mile and a half. The location was too perfect to ignore, and Cockrum said he made a point of using the word “neighbors” instead of “customers”.
“We try to be good neighbors. The heart behind this is the community, ”said Cockrum. “We want to be a space where the community can come together, have fellowship, their meetings and get away from it all. We’ve been living here for 16 years and all of this insight into it came from conversations with families at our elementary school.
The neighbors are already invested. When Cockrum posted exterior color swatches on his Facebook page, he was surprised. “We weren’t expecting the response to the color swatches,” he said with a laugh. “The other colors were designed to make this a warm and inviting environment centered on South Knoxville. “
A door and window were salvaged from the old South Knoxville High School and are a prominent feature inside the new cafe, and a striking mural of Paris Woodhull greets all who enter.
The coffee was sourced from ShareWell Coffee Co. in Hendersonville, North Carolina.
“The reason we chose to go with them was our relationship with the owners and their mission behind coffee roasting aligns with what we are trying to do,” said Cockrum.
“They’re also great community builders, and they make great coffee.”
The bank’s drive-thru has been updated for a quick caffeine boost. “We will sell the coffee beans – we can grind them fresh for people – as well as mugs and t-shirts,” Cockrum said.
CommonPlace Coffee + Community’s menu will include traditional handcrafted espresso drinks, as well as drip, pour and French press coffee. The menu will include Richy Kreme Donuts, Goldman Bagels, Mama C’s Gluten Free Goodies and Myrtle’s Bakehouse.
“Myrtle’s cookies are amazing, they’re almost half a pound cookies,” Cockrum said. “We’ll start with a light menu and sandwiches. “
During the construction phase, CommonPlace Coffee + Community hosted pop-up events for vendors. “They were so warmly received that I think when we get our feet under us I’d like to do at least one a month,” he said.
The bank’s drive-thru has been updated for a quick caffeine intake and will open once CommonPlace Coffee + Community finds good flow. For those in a hurry, they can place an order via https://www.commonplaceknox.com/s/order. “We will sell the coffee beans – we can grind them fresh for people – as well as mugs and t-shirts,” Cockrum said.