Published: Wed Oct 03, 2007
The South’s Finest Chocolate Factory (http://www.chocolatelovers.com)
Tucked away in World’s Fair Park is what most people refer to as the Chocolate Factory. For over 25 years the chocolatier has been churning out thousands of pounds of candy. But the history of the Chocolate Factory dates back even further to the late 1800s when the Littlefield and Steere Company started making chocolates and other treats. Nearly a decade after the shop opened, a devastating fire demolished the company’s store.
But the company was able to rebuild a factory to produce chocolate once again. Soon, it began to expand the menu and made more than 20,000 pounds of candy per day. When the candy factory closed, the building became a storage space for the next 50 years.
When the World’s Fair came to Knoxville in 1982, the building became a shopping center, housing several restaurants and boutiques. Once the fair left, the South’s Finest Chocolate Factory moved in and the business flourished. Now, it ships all over the U.S.
The Chocolate Factory is known for pecan–caramel turtles, butter creams and double chocolate fudge, though it makes over 100 different candies in-house.
“The one thing I really like about it is (that) I’ve been going there since I was little and it brings back memories,” said UT sophomore Sarah Varandoe. “They have really good chocolates too.”
The shop makes its famous chocolates nearly every day from morning until night.
“We hand-make our chocolates and use the best quality chocolate and nuts, and it’s fresh,” said employee and former customer Charlotte Culvahouse.
The chocolates have no preservatives and a shelf life of over four months. Aside from its main location at World’s Fair Park, just below the Sunsphere, the Chocolate Factory has another location on Kingston Pike.
Bijou Theatre (http://www.knoxbijou.com)
One of Knoxville’s most beloved landmarks is the Bijou Theatre on Gay Street. The theater, Knoxville’s fourth oldest building, is now 98 years old. Though it was closed briefly in 2005 because of financial issues, the theater is back in all of its glory.
“The (Bijou) is beautiful because it’s been there for so long and it’s cool to see the architecture,” said Elizabeth Cox, a UT graduate. “It’s very charming.”
The Bijou opened in 1909 as part of the now defunct Lamar House, a hotel and tavern built in 1817. Its first performance was the musical “Little Johnny Jones.”
When Knoxville was segregated, black members of the audience could only sit in the uppermost balcony of the theater.
Besides bringing in diverse productions from local jazz groups to big-name musicians, the Bijou is also visited by ghosts, according to local legend. There have been enough reports of paranormal activity from employees and stage crew that the East Tennessee Paranormal Research Society decided to investigate.
The ETPRS investigated the Bijou in 2006 and found some eerie instances. For example, the society claims to have recorded “conversations” on the fourth floor and in the basement, where a Civil War general is said to have died. When asked a question, a smoky, floating ball would appear, but it only appears when asked a question, according to investigators. The ETPRS has also captured several pictures of the balls and apparitions in the aisles and stage of the theater. The photos and audio are posted on the web site, http://www.tnseeparanormal.com/Knoxvillebijou.html.
This month the Bijou will feature Hanson, the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra, Elliott Yamin, Guster and comedian Henry Cho. The theater will also host this year’s Fall Festival of Arts, a seven-act series of musicians and performers from all over the country.
“It’s a cool old theater with great acoustics — the best acoustics in the state, from what I’ve heard,” said Tom Bugg, a Bijou employee.
The Tomato Head (http://www.thetomatohead.com)
The Tomato Head, formerly known as the Flying Tomato, fits right in with the local businesses in Market Square. It is known for turning first-time customers into regulars with its pizzas, sandwiches and baked goods.
“We have a pretty strong group of regulars that come in almost everyday,” said Trace Bateman, a Tomato Head employee.
It all started back in 1990 when the Tomato Head was originally set to open as a French bistro, but it became much more when owner Mahasti Vafaie found a pizza oven that had been left behind.
Though Tomato Head is mainly a restaurant, it is also part art gallery and artistic venue. Musicians, poets and performance artists occasionally come to perform.
The Tomato Head comes up with its own T-shirt designs that feature the signature “pizza gal” or its own version of the Sunsphere, with a tomato mounting the top.
Walking in, it is hard to miss the artwork showcasing local artists covering the walls. All the artwork is for sale and changes every month.
The Tomato Head now has a 40-member staff and a new location in Maryville.
“Tomato Head is the one place I always take my friends from out of town,” said Holly Lucas, senior in studio art. “The service is good, the crowd is varied and the food never disappoints.”