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September 22, 2014

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Knoxville’s Blackbird Coffeehouse opens with focus on coffee, comfort

Blackbird Coffeehouse, Knoxville’s newest coffee shop, opened yesterday at it’s location on 1208 Kenesaw Avenue in Sequoyah Hills.

The focus of Blackbird is both the quality of coffee, and providing a comfortable place to relax said co-owner Ali Johnston, who has been an occasional employee of coffee shops since she was 16 years old.

“I tried to do other things, but always kept doing this instead,” said Ali.

Blackbird has been a work-in-progress for at least a year, said Ali and co-owner and husband Craig Johnston. The couple moved to Knoxville from Nashville where they attended the School of Audio Engineering.

Ali and Craig had originally intended to start a business where kids could come to record and perform music. Despite starting a coffee shop instead, the couple continues to take an active interest in the recording industry.

But their coffee shop is dedicated to something more sentimental.

The Johnston’s started Blackbird Coffeehouse in part because of their dog Skippy, who passed away nearly a year ago. His photo adorns the refrigerator behind the front counter.

“He survived every possible thing a dog could go through,” said Ali. “After he died, it was like our focus shifted. It put a lot of things in perspective for me.”

Skippy’s death also had an impact on her husband.

“I think I came home from work one day, and said ‘Let’s open a coffeehouse’,” said Craig.

Blackbird Coffeehouse serves coffee (and beans) from Mattie’s Mountain Mud Coffee, a roaster from New Castle, Va. who used to roast for Mill Mountain Coffee out of Roanoke, Va.

Author’s review

Location: I love the fact that this shop is nestled back in a quiet neighborhood. And it’s much closer for West Knoxvillians than downtown coffee shops The Golden Roast and Old City Java, among others.

Ambiance: The interior is small, but cozy. There are three tables (two inside and one outside) and a couch. The music choices are a mix of indie rock and alt country. I’m sure they’d be open to requests.

Blackbird Coffeehouse also offers free wireless Internet access for customers.

Coffee: I tried the house blend called Blackbird House Blend, and found it very tasty. The shop currently serves this option in addition to an Italian (Appalachian Smoke) and decaf (Shade Tree).

They make all of the usual mixed drinks such as lattes, and sell whole beans from Mattie’s Mountain Mud Coffee in half pound and pound bags.

Food: Blackbird Coffeehouse serves a variety of food including: cupcakes from Cities Cupcakes, bagels from Hot Bagel in Oakridge, muffins, cookies, cinnamon rolls and breakfast sandwiches. They also serve several lunch sandwiches.

Creative Commons License Photography by tonx

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  • Jigsha Desai

    That’s in my neighborhood. I’ll have to give it a try.

  • Patrick Beeson


    You should. Great location, great people and great coffee.

  • rev bro

    best coffee ever. trust me–i’m a minister.

  • em

    this sounds really nice, but i wonder: is there a possibility for a sustainable business in this neighborhood? i know the trend speaks against it. but i hope so. i like small guys to succeed.

  • Patrick Beeson


    Does this neighborhood pose a problem for long-term businesses like Blackbird Coffeehouse?

  • Jeremy Cook

    Congrats to Craig and his Wife. I use to work with Craig and he’s a great guy!

  • Pandorasbx

    I’m so glad this place is here, I love coffee shops! It’s nice to have one alittle closer to the area I spend most of my time in.

    Congratulations to the owners.


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  • BrianGM

    I just checked out these guys today and I think their coffee and customer service is excellent! Even though we live in Halls, me and my wife are definitely coming back.

  • The Modern Gal

    I just stopped by this morning. I love that they sell Goldfish by the cup.

  • CK

    i think em is citing the fact that nothing besides a few offices and that weird gas station seems to survive in Sequoyah Village. It’s a little too hard for a person to find from Kingston Pike if they don’t live there. That being said, coffee shops are more tenacious than restaurants with lower overhead, so I hope Blackbird makes it! It will really hinge on whether the neighborhood gets behind it instead of heading to Starbucks in Bearden.

  • Kristi Bodley

    My husband and I have known Ali and Craig for a few years, as the three of them attended school together. They’re awesome people, and Nashville is at a loss in their absence. We moved here not knowing anybody, and they welcomed us in with open arms. Get to know these awesome shop-owners; they’re hard workers, great friends, and have a great passion for the best things in life: music, people, and coffee. :)

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