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Welcome, neighbors! Check out CommonPlace Coffee, a new gathering spot in South Knoxville

The Knoxville News-Sentinel logo The Knoxville News-Sentinel 7/15/2021 Ali James

The old Knox County Teachers Federal Credit Union sat empty at 6000 Chapman Highway, just waiting for the right tenant for years.

Meanwhile, South Knoxvillian Eli Cockrum said opening CommonPlace Coffee + Community has been a 2½-year journey. In January he signed the building lease and in March, he stepped away from his work at YOKE Youth after leasing the former bank building. Since April, Cockrum has been hard at work bringing his vision to life.

After extensive renovations, CommonPlace Coffee + Community was officially opened on July 12 and will be open from 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturdays.

The space has been decorated in an earthy color palette that reflects the proximity to the Smoky Mountains National Park.

“We deliberately set up these living room areas to where people can come in and have that time if they need to relax, work or have conversations,” said Cockrum. “From the origin all the way through, it is just about a space to build community. We want this to be a community space, we will make it available after hours for groups if they would like to have a little bigger meeting space.”

a room filled with furniture and a large window: Eli Cockrum, owner of CommonPlace Coffee + Community, on July 8, 2021. “We deliberately set up these living room areas to where people can come in and have that time if they need to relax, work or have conversations,” he said. © Ali James/Shopper News Eli Cockrum, owner of CommonPlace Coffee + Community, on July 8, 2021. “We deliberately set up these living room areas to where people can come in and have that time if they need to relax, work or have conversations,” he said.

Comfy seating has been added to the bank vault, and there are meeting tables in two additional secluded spaces that can be reserved by groups.

CommonPlace Coffee + Community is between Lake Forest and Colonial Village neighborhoods. Cockrum, his wife, Heather, and two children live less than a mile away. The location was too perfect to ignore, and Cockrum said he makes a point of using the word "neighbors" instead of "customers".

“We are trying to be good neighbors. The heart behind this is about community,” said Cockrum. “We want to be a space that the community can come together, have fellowship, their meetings and get away from whatever. We have lived here for 16 years and this whole vision of this came from conversations with families from our elementary school.”

CommonPlace Coffee + Community will serve handcrafted espresso drinks using ShareWell Coffee Co beans. July 8, 2021. © Ali James/Shopper News CommonPlace Coffee + Community will serve handcrafted espresso drinks using ShareWell Coffee Co beans. July 8, 2021.

The neighbors are already invested. When Cockrum posted some exterior color swatches on his Facebook page, he was taken aback. “We didn’t expect the response to the color swatches,” he laughed. “The other colors were done to make it a warm and inviting South-Knoxville-centric environment.”

A door and window were salvaged from the old South Knoxville High School and are a big feature inside the new coffee shop, and a striking mural by Paris Woodhull greets everyone who comes in.

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 roasting coffee aligns with what we are trying to do,” said Cockrum.

“They are big community builders, too, and they make really good coffee.”

CommonPlace Coffee + Community will sell coffee cups, ShareWell Coffee Co beans, T-shirts and locally made mugs. July 8, 2021. © Ali James/Shopper News CommonPlace Coffee + Community will sell coffee cups, ShareWell Coffee Co beans, T-shirts and locally made mugs. July 8, 2021.

CommonPlace Coffee + Community’s menu will include traditional handcrafted espresso drinks, as well as drip, pour over and French Press coffee. The food menu will feature Richy Kreme Donuts, Goldman Bagels, Mama C’s Gluten Free Goodies and Myrtle’s Bakehouse.

“Myrtle’s cookies are unbelievable, they are almost half-pound cookies,” said Cockrum. “We will start with a light food menu and some sandwiches.”

During the construction phase, CommonPlace Coffee + Community hosted pop-up vendor events. “They were so warmly received that I think that when we get our feet under us, I’d like to do at least one a month,” he said.

The bank drive thru has been updated for a quick caffeine pick me up and will open once CommonPlace Coffee + Community have found a good flow. For those in a hurry, they can place an order via https://www.commonplaceknox.com/s/order.

“We will be selling the coffee beans – we can grind them fresh for folks – as well as mugs and t-shirts,” said Cockrum. 

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This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Welcome, neighbors! Check out CommonPlace Coffee, a new gathering spot in South Knoxville

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