I’m always amazed when other people are amazed that Knoxville has something they didn’t expect — really good locally-owned restaurants, unique music, an organic art scene, cozy, tree-lined neighborhoods, a lively downtown — to name just a few things that come immediately to mind. In fact, Knoxville has all these things and more, if you’re willing to open your eyes and explore.
One new gem, tucked away off North Central is a true Knoxville original. The Glowing Body, which will celebrate its first birthday in September, is a yoga and massage studio, a raw food restaurant, a wine bar and a live music venue. There’s no other place like it in Knoxville or anywhere else.
The Glowing Body is the brainchild of Hollis Church, Knoxville native, caterer to the stars and entrepreneur extraordinaire! She dreamed it up and brought it to life, partnering with Magpies’ Peggy Hambright to gut and renovate an existing building. Hollis has vision and style. GB is effortlessly hip and homey. The space is warm and inviting with exposed beams, natural lighting and good vibes. Turns out Hollis (formerly known as Holly) and I went to elementary school together, but that’s another story.
I go to Glowing Body for the yoga. An avid power yoga practitioner for over seven years now, I am drawn to the ancient practice, as choreographed by impresario, Philip Clift. I’ve practiced with other instructors, but Philip’s take on yoga is entirely his own. Set to playlists of classic rock, alternative music or even Christmas carols, Philip creates an environment that enhances the yoga experience. The heat is turned up in the studio, so stiff muscles loosen and relax. The skylight offers an open feeling, while the bamboo floors ground you on your mat. Philip’s classes are challenging, especially when he roams the room and makes adjustments … twisting you tighter, folding you deeper and stretching you farther than you thought you could go. Philip, incidentally, is from just down the road in Strawberry Plains.
Glowing Body doesn’t feel like “Knoxville,” according to some folks. It’s more L.A. or New York in its sensibility. But that’s exactly my point. Knoxville isn’t a place that’s easily categorized. Due in part to the Whittle influx of creative spirits back in the eighties and now HGTV’s bi-coastal workforce, Knoxville is populated by all sorts of people from all over. Then there’s the international influence of foreign students and visiting professors at UT and Oak Ridge.
In his book, The Rise of the Creative Class, Richard Florida talks about the “power of place” in determining where creative people choose to live and work. It’s not just about cost of living and jobs anymore. What the newest wave of professionals is looking for in communities is “an openness to diversity of all kinds, and above all else the opportunity to validate their identities as creative people.”
I’ve traveled a bit and lived abroad, but I happen to be from Knoxville, an indigenous person, if you will. I’m constantly meeting interesting, creative people who have relocated to Knoxville, are attending school here or are just passing through. Yes, I’ve heard grumbling and grousing from some disgruntled transplants about all the amenities we’re supposedly lacking. But the majority of Knoxville newbies I meet are charmed by what our Scruffy Little City has to offer. Like the Glowing Body.
And those of us who’ve lived here all our lives just smile and nod.