Knoxville: Craft Beer Mecca!

An interesting thing about spending enough time in a place is that you have the perspective of seeing locations grow, change and develop. I remember being a freshman at the University of Tennessee in the early 1990s. I so wanted to explore the big city though a lot of my friends on campus were content watching bands on the Strip or doing the fraternity thing, I wanted to see what else was going on in town. The love of some of the ‘new music’ at the time was enough to entice me downtown before it was anything like the wonderland that it is today.

I blame Ska… the concept of horns, clever lyrics in a rock band were enough to bring me out to a little club on the old Market Square called The Mercury Lounge – it was starting to get dark and nobody was around. The Subway was only open during the day and there were not even homeless people were milling about since there was no-one around for them to ask for help. I remember being a little scared until I heard the music spilling out. I was a foreigner in the land of kids who were a mix of goth, redneck, rockabilly and skaters – I guess I was the only preppie that night – the people I met there have mostly either become West Knox parents or hipsters at this point. I still see some of them when I venture downtown and Mercury Lounge is now the super-popular Preservation Pub. If you have been to Downtown Knoxville lately, you’ll know what an amazing change has been happening in the past few years. Among other cultural developments, Knoxville is becoming a destination for beer lovers!

While I have passed the biggest ‘going out’ phase of my life, I’m currently beginning the Mediterranean diet – something my amazing girlfriend assures me will make the rest of my life much better – but I have gained an appreciation of the spectrum of tastes and especially the social impact on Knoxville (and many other Southern cities) that the thriving culture that has grown up around craft beer.

Last night I saw my friend Sallye, the brand champion for Blackberry Farms own craft beer label. She was talking about a partnership that Blackberry Farms had formed with Madisonville’s world-wide culinary sensation Benton’s Bacon founder Allan Benton. Any foodie will be wowed if they don’t already know that Allan was awarded a Who’s Who membership with the James Beard Foundation. Recently Benton contributed his amazing rich smoky flavor process to the Blackberry Farm’s Tennessee Smoke. When I heard this the image of Primus’ Pork Soda album cover flashed in my mind – but when I smelled the stuff she was sampling it was pretty amazing!

Just about anyone walking down Gay St in Knoxville will know about the venerable Downtown Grill & Brewery, kind of the granddaddy of Knoxville brewing. These days micro breweries dot the landscape from downtown’s reclaimed warehouses like “Crafty Bastard” and “Fanatic” spaces to the Disneyland-like “Schulz Bräu” and ultra-hip Elmont Exchange. The scrappy outliersd like Hexagon & Last Days of Autumn are tucked into unlikely spots just out of the way enough to encourage true hops hunters to go hunting for the patios where they would normally speed by.

A personal favorite place to explore new and exotic local creations isn’t even a microbrewery – of all things, it was originally known as a bakery! Sitting in the tawny 100 block of Gay St and priding themselves on a rich assortment of “locals-only” taps, Sugar Mama’s is the perfect spot for lunch or dinner. Aside from the homey old-Knoxville environment, Sugar Mama’s boasts a richly warm and fun cast of characters including Premiere Beer Snob Jason “Ratchet” Carpenter, the friendly and under-stated Matt Jackson, the wonderfully witty Leslie Berez and many others behind the counter and helmed by perfect hosts Mike and Hannah McConnell, Sugar Mama’s is the place to be when you’re looking for the ultimate sampling spot for local flavors.

Even if you’re not an imbiber, you’ll love soaking up some of Knoxville’s beer culture flavor! Knoxville is a wonderful place to live, if you’re thinking of making it your home, or relocating closer to downtown we’d LOVE to help. Give us a call! Hutch & Howard (865) 216-2009 at Keller Williams (865) 966-5005. Each Keller Williams Realty office is independently owned and operated.

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Zooming into 2018!

Gentlemen -and Lady — Start Your Engines!

As we thunder or stumble or crawl into this new year of 2018, we’re reminded of the resolutions we set last week or made jokes about. I resolved to spend less money on concert tickets and adventures – more toward kicking up the real estate another couple notches. This blog is part of that so, as a reader, I implore ya to “keep me honest!”

Supermoon welcomes in 2018! Photo by Caitlin Ryan

My friend Randall quipped about his mad dash toward procrastination on twitter, my first LOL of the year – but as an American icon once said ‘it’s funny ’cause it’s true.’ – Homer Simpson.

This morning I was 15 minutes late to the first of our weekly Knoxville Hutch & Howard ‘Crush the Goal’ conferences where we discuss specific tasks and targets we plan to accomplish for the coming week. In doing that I learned an important lesson about myself – it’s one of the things Keller Williams teaches in our Bold Training – there are reasons and there are results! There are plenty of reasons why my alarm wasn’t fully affective, 7 degree temperatures outside of an exceedingly warm bed, frost on my windshield, wallet and keys out of place. In retrospect, those late night football games weren’t really that compelling though I loved the camaraderie of spending time with my guys and No Regrets about the epic Chicken Carbonara or the fun that accompanied it.

The #goals are challenging there are several Kellerisms that I’m going to try to keep bouncing around in my head to keep on task. Gratitude, positivity and consistency aren’t usually measurable – I expect to have some  measure of each of those in the words I use each day in life and each week here  in written form.

Our new office General – Carrie – has already shown us how much easier it is operate a professional service when there is a focal point with an eye on everything thank God for her gentle reminders and checklists.

Unlike a lot of people who are ‘successful’ in our business, we have no interest in specifically beating the competition – as I’ve heard others say. I don’t feel like someone’s success diminishes my own. I’m not stealing food from your children’s mouths when I close a deal. There were 19,111 single family homes sold in Knoxville this past year. All tolled, we sold 107 of them. It seems like a tiny drip in that pond, but it’s a mix of challenge and encouragement. When we decide we’re going to sell a bigger piece of that, it’s not going to hurt someone else. This year the pool was a little diluted when a lot of new folks decided to jump into the business – the same thing happened in 2003 when I jumped in with a bunch of other people!

Who knows how much any of us are going to actually sell this year? We do! Because we decided to set our goals and keep everyone on track to hit them!

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Resolutions and Gratitude as we wrap up 2017

This last week of 2017 at Hutch & Howard has already been interesting. Amid some wonderful listing appointments, closings, creating vision boards, discussing a variety of new tactics and plans, plus meeting new people – we got to enjoy our families and friends at Christmas in Knoxville and out of town!

This week we listed a beautiful horse farm in Lenoir City with an epic tack room, barn and showing ring just a few miles from Farragut. What fun it was to talk about the farm and hear stories about the place with the owner. His Tennessee Walking Horses had won several championships – hats, belts, ribbons and trophies were all prominently displayed in a few of the rooms, along with all the accouterments that come with being horsey people. I look forward to showing the place once Eric, our photographer, has the pictures back. That’s the perfect place for him to shoot with the drone and possibly do a video tour skipping around more than 19 acres with a small airplane hanger and lots of other cool things to see! I’ve been amazed how many people have decided to buy/sell and move this year around the holidays! Historically, real estate has been a little slow this time of year but the closings in December and coming up in January are still happening!

I’ve had several friends contact us over the past couple weeks talking about THEIR friends who were ready to make moves. I really appreciate

Andy, Gina, Victor, Jennifer, Macy, Gina, Oscar, Lindsay, Alissa, Shawnee and Meghin and others who have called to talk real estate and mention either friends in common or their friends and family who are making moves. It’s always encouraging to get recommended friend when people are looking to sell or get a new home. I was excited the day before when I got a message from a friend and former client that her friends were moving into town and she wanted us to help!

A neat thing I learned this week, as an aside, was that most folks have identity fraud coverage through their homeowner’s insurance! A nifty bit of information that came up in conversation with my smart girlfriend when we were discussing what folks might like to know as added value from this little blog.

Making vision boards and looking at stuff related to how we will accomplish our goals was very inspiring as well. It’s funny how individual and different yet similar our desires, needs and wants were once put to paper – they aren’t as elaborate as my friend Natalie’s epic works of vision have been over the years- but she’s an artist at heart and puts her all into things like envisioning her goals. Probably a big part of how she accomplishes so much! The way vision is shared around our offices is one of the more inspiring things about the team of teams and individuals at Keller Williams. I’m proud that Hutch & Howard is part of that.

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Knoxville Christmas Memories

Earlier today we were all sitting around the West Knoxville office of Hutch & Howard laughing about some of our Christmas memories. Our little group feels like family – partially because we basically are. I met Brandon – 8 years ago, Dustin is his actual brother, I met Carrie back in 2003 selling her mother’s home in South Knoxville during my first transaction. She was probably no more than 18 years old.

Brandon, Brittany (his wife), Carrie, Cayce (her sister) and Rob in a KW Christmas photo booth!
Our Christmas experiences have all been different and the same.
Carrie’s great memory was that she always got a brand new fresh set of pajamas to wear to bed on Christmas Eve. Regardless of the presents she and her twin sister Cayce would always rise and shine with new pj’s and all would be good.

Carrie and Cayce’s Christmas pj’s 1994.

Brandon and Dustin played back and forth in the conversation picking on each other for something they remembered the other one saying, Dustin remembered his little brother being the mischievous brat that would always get him in trouble at the kid’s table.

Brandon remembered sneaking into the fridge and thinking he was really doing something big when he snuck and stole one of his grandpa’s O’doulls Non-alcoholic beers when he was about 9.

He decided that drinking wasn’t for him just from the rancid smell and a sip confirmed it for many years!

Baby Rob Circa 1974

Baby Amy (Rob’s girlfriend) is dubious about Santa!

I think my favorite memory was always the night before Christmas. My parents and I would sit in a circle around the Christmas tree, with candles and 1980s blinking lights – an animated angel that Mom always put at the top of the tree gently whooshing and awaiting the arrival of a heavenly host. Dad would start, reading a few paragraphs of the Nativity story then Mom would take over. Finally, I would finish and we would talk a little bit about what the story meant to us – or we’d sit quietly and sip hot chocolate before going off to bed with visions of mangers and sugar plums dancing in our heads.

Whatever your Holiday Season looks like we hope you’re safe, warm and happy with someone you love and have a blessed season with just enough Perry Como and Bing Crosby – there’s NEVER enough Burl Ives for me!

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Knoxville: Where Else IS There?

After spending my entire adult life in Knoxville, I’ve grown to adopt an attitude about this place – Knoxville is the perfect fit for everyone! Truth is, it’s the perfect fit for me and possibly you too, but not everybody! When I arrived on the campus of the University of Tennessee in the fall of 1991 as a fresh faced lad who’d never really spent much time in a city, the whole world seemed to open up. It was a good time for me, since I was surrounded by similarly fresh faced people in an adjustment period and, while my first couple room mates were a bit of an adjustment and the overly amorous suitemates that lived on the other side of a very thin wall made my first semester … loud… Knoxville was both fun and strange – a challenge I wanted to explore.

From that time on I’ve grown accustomed and grew to really enjoy the rumble, the constant hum that is a city rather than the constant quiet of rural life with a small cadre of friends and family quietly singing hymns at church, the rustling of critters outside and chirping of crickets. That being said I love the country – just in smaller doses. In a life that has included visits to places of every type and variety from the nearly deserted (by man) wilderness of the rainforests near Cahuita, Costa Rica to the relentless roar of wall-to-wall people crammed together and interacting in truly foreign ways in downtown Seoul, Korea or the solitary invisibility in crowds of 42nd St in the middle of Manhattan– where everyone was rubbing elbows and moving in pods but pretending not to notice anyone else. Standing alone in all of these places and myriad others that spanned the spectrum of human interaction there is nothing like coming home to East Tennessee.

Maybe it’s “Growing Up” in Knoxville – maybe it’s my personal character as someone who can’t sustain a stranger in most circumstances, but that first day on campus at old UT, I decided that Knoxville was my place. Walking to class I learned the faces and names of hundreds of the folks I passed every day and set out to meet or know something about everyone that I possibly could. This was a unique challenge on a campus with 26,000 students, plus professors, facilities staff, restaurant workers, administrators, catering and library folks – what I small city within a city I was taking on! It was my first unachievable goal in life and I’ve put a huge dent into it!

What I’ve learned is that there are good people all around – varying degrees of good, varying definitions of good, varying lifestyles and perspectives and talents and strengths and all of them have something I want to know a little about. Knoxville is brimming with interesting folks, situations, needs and a rich cast of characters that are unique to this place. After a few minutes conversation most folks talk about what’s on their minds – I try to picture their perspective and see how they see – something through their eyes. It’s a trip! So many stories are in that sentence that would take volumes to represent – not this time.

Walking down Gay St. in the early evening is one of the finest experiences I’ve ever had – it feels like being back on campus – seeing a steady stream of people going to the theater, to dinner or to meet others in coffee houses or one of the new breweries that seem to pop up each weekend. The character of the city has shifted a bit – more people adopting the hipster vibe (Knoxville was recently ranked 15th most Hipster city in America) – the millennial faces fill in among many of the same people I’ve run into making the same rounds for the past 27 years – I never spend much time anywhere without seeing someone that I know (or knew) since the grand “meet everyone” experiment began at Reece Hall in Presidential Court when I was a boy.

I imagine those other teenagers walking to class grew up, some moved – many are still here and hopefully somewhere in East Tennessee those amorous suitemates have a brood of children who are about to graduate from UT, themselves. I know Knoxville is where I want my family – friends and acquaintances to be when I’m not visiting the parents, uncles, aunts, cousins and original friends back in Polk County.


If you’re ready to find your place in my vision of the best place to live on Earth, give me a call – we can help you find your niche and your new home!

If you’d like to talk about becoming a KW Realtor we’d love to chat!

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Hutch & Howard….and Carrie!

From Rob:

It’s been about a year since I started casual conversations with one of my best friends, superstar Realtor Brandon Hutchison, about how cool it would be to join forces.

Since we met in a transaction back in 2009, we’ve been great friends – I was very happy when he called in 2012 and asked how I liked working with Keller Williams and whether I’d be interested in being his ‘sponsor’ in joining the company. From there he grew into the professional with excellent reputation that he’s gained through years of hard, consistent and thoughtful work. In my 15 years of Knoxville Real Estate I’ve known nobody better!

So in 2016 when he broached the idea of creating a team of close friends that would grow into the Hutch & Howard team I was intrigued. Since I had joined KW several years ago I had been invited to join teams, I even had a very brief stint with a burgeoning husband/wife team that has since grown into something great – but wasn’t a perfect fit for me personally.

This was something different – Brandon wanted a true partnership, something outside the scope of Keller Williams’ normal team structure. I say I was intrigued – in hindsight I should’ve been giddy. This young man with plenty of achievements on his own – who had created a structure incorporating well- designed marketing, client service and a fantastic professional reputation was asking to ‘throw in’ was a godsend. I’m personally more motivated, excited to come to the office every day and looking for new ways to help my friends / clients and future clients.


This week we were excited to welcome another wonderful friend, Carrie Mays, who had been serving as our ‘boss’ for the past few years, serving as our Broker. In a lot of ways she’s still our boss – taking the reigns as Director of Operations.


When joining forces, Brandon came with his amazing brother Dustin Hutchison, our marketing powerhouse and a since officially joining forces, our team has many other pieces poised to fall into place – keep an eye on Hutch & Howard!

Each Keller Williams Realty Office independently owned and operated.

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Who says Real Estate isn’t real work?!

Since my real estate partner Brandon bought his boat, I’ve occasionally gotten some good natured ribbing about occasionally having our weekly scheduled staff meeting, progress and planning events on the water. Sure it affects the seriousness of a reprimand when the person who is playing taskmaster is sitting there with his big tummy out and a glob of SPF 50 whitening his bald spot, but in truth it’s a good incentive to get everyone on-board (literally and figuratively) with our plans for the next week. Plus, with our amazing staff reprimands are non-existent.

That being said, what I love about real estate is personal interaction with people who’s lives are really affected by the decisions that I help them make. Yesterday, at a listing appoint that Brandon and I attended together the seller told us that her previous agent had never taken done what she promised and illustrated by pointing at some boxes of tchotchkes that they’d said were impossible to move for her. Promptly, after we offered our service and talked about the ‘Hutch & Howard difference’ Brandon and I toted these little ceramic treasures to her basement for the garage sale she’d planned. I have to say, after three other listing appointments during the day (together and separately) it wasn’t necessarily the top of our priority list to move furniture, but if showing that we do what we say makes a difference that’s will result in this lady (whose home is great and will sell quickly, with the right positioning) getting to live the rest of her days up the street from her grandchildren in Kentucky then carrying a few boxes will be well worth it.

We have a limit of listings we want to take, we meet with everyone and choose homes where we’ll make a real impact on people’s lives regardless of the sales price. If you are thinking of selling give us a call. We might even be pursuaded to carry unwieldy objects downstairs for you!

– Rob Howard is an agent of the Hutch & Howard group at Keller Williams 865-966-5005 in Knoxville, TN. He may be contacted directly at 865-385-9070 or on Twitter: @KnoxvilleRob (ridiculous, we know). Each Keller Williams realty office is independently owned and operated.

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