After moving into the county more than two years ago, Alcoa’s Blackhorse Brewery’s restaurant/pub at the intersection of North Hall Road and West Bessemer Street finally will open its doors to the dining public.
Owners Jeff and Sherri Robinson said Tuesday their target date for opening the eatery is April 27, marking the completion of something they set out to do since Alcoa brewing operations got underway in late 2018.
Jeff Robinson told The Daily Times a year’s worth of COVID-19-related financial stalls caused delays, but he will be elated to finally see diners spend time at the company’s central brewing operations. They have other locations in Knoxville and Clarksville.
The restaurant will be open at various times seven days a week and right now Robinson and company Vice President Brandon Crotzer said they’re looking to hire about 70 people, including cooks and servers.
Directly adjacent to the brewery itself — there will be guided tours of it at some point in the near future, Robinson said — the restaurant will be able to seat an estimated 170 people between its indoor seating and beer garden.
Owners may have no problem filling those seats since the restaurant sits next to one of Alcoa’s busier intersections and one of the main thoroughfares to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
“This is the backdoor to the Smokies,” Robinson said, pointing to North Hall. “It’s not lost on us, the fact that this is a primary tourist route.”
And while the Robinsons know Blackhorse may be a hot spot for out-of-county visitors on their summer vacations, they also know they’re becoming a bigger part of the Alcoa community.
“We definitely want to be a community gathering place for the residents of Alcoa and Maryville,” Sherri Robinson said. “That’s the primary target.”
She added Blackhorse always had a “family environment” and will stay that way.
“We used to get phone calls all the time with our first pub, ‘Hey, do y’all serve food and are kids welcome?’” Jeff Robinson said. “Yes and yes.”
He added the crowds he personally hoped to see are families leaving Alcoa and Maryville high school football games.
“Public houses — pubs — traditionally coming out of England, Ireland and Scotland, they’re neighborhood gathering places,” he said. “It’s where people go to see the whole family.”
Blackhorse is fostering local traditions in more than one way. City leaders have lauded the company’s efforts to preserve the brick building, once home to ALCOA Inc. operations and then used by the city of Alcoa.
Exposed, original brick walls and iron window frames are standout features in the restaurant, which also features medieval-style chandeliers, a shaded patio and a large bar.
A handful of contracted crews were working Tuesday afternoon on the finishing touches.
Just beyond, brewery operations didn’t stop. Director of Brewing Operations Mark Walters oversaw employees as they filled and cased cans of the company’s signature Blackhorse Brewery IPA and Vanilla Cream Ale.
“Please come see us,” Sherri Robinson encouraged Blount Countians, noting many have reached out over the past two years, asking when the place would open. “We are excited. It’s been a long wait and we’re happy it’s finally over.”
The Robinsons expressed their thanks to the city of Alcoa for working with them to make the restaurant a reality. The Robinsons live in Clarksville and Knoxville and started the company in Clarksville in 1992.
New Hope Blount County Children’s Advocacy Center last year served nearly 600 children who suffered from abuse.
New Hope, whose core mission is to ensure all Blount County children have happy and healthy childhoods, serves as a one-stop resource for child victims of sexual and physical abuse. Law enforcement, physicians and therapists work simultaneously with victims at one location to limit the amount of trauma victims experience through abuse investigations.
The children’s advocacy center’s work is year-round, but New Hope spends April — Child Abuse Prevention Month — raising awareness about how to stop child abuse in Blount County.
“When a community comes together, there are studies that show that it really does help prevent child abuse in that community,” New Hope Events and Marketing Coordinator Tori Thomas said. “But it takes awareness. It’s not just about the kids. It’s about the whole family, about taking care of everybody.”
New Hope has several events planned for Child Abuse Prevention Month.
From 1-9 p.m. Thursday, April 8, children 12 and younger can get free ice cream at Capitol Coffee & Ice Cream in Maryville. New Hope also will pass out blue pinwheels, the national symbol of child abuse prevention.
People throughout the county are encouraged to “plant” their wheels and make “pinwheel gardens” to raise awareness about Child Abuse Prevention Month.
“Normally, we just hand people a bunch of blue pinwheels, and they plant them however they want,” Thomas said. “This year, we’re giving them nine blue pinwheels and one silver. That symbolizes that one in every 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday.”
During 2020 alone, New Hope received 1,124 calls about children potentially being abused. When the advocacy center gets these tips, it turns them over to the state Department of Children’s Services.
Part of the quest to end child abuse in the county means making the county aware of how to spot the abuse as it’s happening. To do this, New Hope is hosting a Stewards of Children training session from 6-8 p.m. at First Baptist Church in Maryville.
Masks are required.
During the session, a New Hope worker educates adults on how to identify and respond to children who have been or are being sexually abused. The class is free and open to the public.
New Hope also will host a virtual internet safety course from 12:15-1:15 p.m. April 27. Lisa Ivey of Street Hope TN, a Powell-based nonprofit that seeks to end child sex trafficking in Tennessee, will facilitate the event.
Parents and caregivers will learn “how to monitor, what techniques to use, any settings that can be put on your computer to help your kiddos,” Thomas said.
The biggest event of the month will be the second annual Heroes for Hope 5K on April 17.
While race day is April 17, participants can run the 5K at any time. Those who want to compete should submit their race times. Winners of each age group will get a $20 gift card to Little River Trading Company in Maryville.
It’s $30 for adults to register and $20 for kids. All proceeds from the 5K will go toward New Hope’s operating budget.
“That money goes back to the everyday items that we need to get our jobs done,” Thomas said.
Last year, Heroes for Hope raised $17,500 for the children’s advocacy center.
Anyone who registers for the race is entered to win one of four door prizes: a customized home gym from Dynabody Gym and Fitness, a child’s bike from Cycology, five personal training sessions from Get Fit Maryville’s Tony Saddy and ON Running Shoes from Boyd Thomas Clothing in Maryville.
The first Heroes for Hope 5K was last year when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the event solely online. This year, it will be a hybrid: Participants can run the race on their own and record their times, or go to the Theater in the Park on the Maryville Green Belt to run the 5K through Maryville.
“You can make it competitive, you can just be in it for the cute soft T-shirt or you can come out on race day and make a whole day and event out of it,” Thomas said.
The New Hope staff will be at the Theater handing out T-shirts for race participants and capes for children.
New Hope also is putting on a concert featuring country duo The Young Fables at Blue Tick Tavern from 6-8 p.m. April 23. Attendees will be asked to pay a $10 cover.
For more information or to register for any of these events, visit blountkids.org/child-abuse-prevention-month.
Raising money is particularly important for New Hope this year, considering their 2020 fundraising efforts hugely were impacted by the pandemic, officials said.
The biggest money-maker for the organization, the annual Black Tie and Blue Jeans Gala, brought in $42,000 in November 2020. New Hope Executive Director Tabitha Damron told The Daily Times that the event usually brings in about $100,000.
But Child Abuse Prevention Month is about more than raising money for New Hope, Thomas said. It’s about reminding everyone that they play a role in helping kids in their communities.
“It does take a community to help prevent child abuse from happening,” Thomas said. “It’s not just one person. It’s not up to an individual. It’s up to all of us.”
For the past six weeks, Marine veterans Matthew Gordon and Jesse Hawe have been seeking food donations and planning a community service event in Blount County to help their fellow comrades.
The event, which they are calling Operation MRV, or Meals Ready-for-Vets, is being orchestrated through a nonprofit called Team Red, White and Blue. Hawe serves as the Knoxville chapter leader of Atlanta-based Team RWB, and Gordon is veteran engagement director for the chapter.
Operation MRV will take place from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 17, at Hawe’s business, Dents and Details, 430 S. Washington St., Maryville. Gordon said they already have received close to $5,000 worth of donated food, which will be packed that morning and delivered in the afternoon.
Gordon moved here from Florida 18 months ago. He is a veterans advocate for Benchmark Home Loans in Sevierville and assists veterans and military service members in using the benefits they have earned. Operation MRV is sponsored by Benchmark Home Loans.
He has served in the Marines since 2007, on active duty until December 2011. Gordon served overseas in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and is currently in the Marine Corps Reserves.
Hawe is a former corporal in the Marines. He served from 1998 to 2002 and is also an Afghanistan war veteran.
As Gordon went to various places like churches and veterans organizations seeking assistance and information on the veteran population, he said he discovered there are a lot of food pantries that exist locally. However, there is one component missing that is essential, he said.
“We don’t have a food shortage,” Gordon said. “We have a problem with logistics.”
To fill that gap, this Marine veteran is hoping to get area veterans to serve at this event by packing and then delivering the food. He has reached out to Nathan Weinbaum at Blount County Veterans Affairs, the American Legion and to others.
Weinbaum said he has provided Gordon with a list of about 20 veterans who could use extra meals. Gordon said he hopes to be able to deliver to more than 100 veterans in Blount, Knox and Sevier counties.
The food to be distributed will include items like pasta, rice, quinoa, applesauce, chicken stock, canned vegetables, canned fruit, soup, peanut butter, crackers, nuts and canned beans. Each recipient will get several days worth of the shelf-stable foods.
Gordon has worked with Team RWB since January 2020. He said the mission is to bring service members and veterans out of isolation. Each year, more than 250,000 active duty service members transition out of the military, joining 3.5 million post 9/11 veterans already living in communities nationwide, Team RWB reports on its website.
Team RWB seeks to connect the veterans with community service projects in their communities. There are fitness activities and social gatherings that also are part of Team RWB’s plan to increase mental and physical health.
For those wanting to help, there are several ways. One is to donate food. The deadline is April 16. People also can come to the April 17 event and help pack or deliver. Gordon said people can also contact him or Hawe if they know of a veteran in need of food.
“We want the public to know what we are doing and if they know of someone who needs help,” Gordon said.
As for what’s already been donated, he said the food has come from close to 200 donors and is stored at Gordon’s office and home.
There have been businesses like barbershops and car repair shops that have aided in this endeavor by collecting donations. Gordon expressed thanks to all who play a part.
The legwork of getting supporters onboard has gone well, he added. Gordon has invited different groups to the April 17 event, including some motorcycle clubs.
“I am looking forward to seeing a good mix of people,” he said. “People are looking for things to do outside now that the weather is good.”