When members of the venerable Coffee Club, who have been meeting at least weekly in downtown Knoxville since the 1930s, looked at their bank account record the other day, they noticed they had a tidy little sum saved up.
Since their expenses are minimal and their $50 per year dues more than cover their costs, they pondered what to do with the money. The answer: a party!
The last time the Blue Streak wrote about the Coffee Club was in January of 2014 when the group started admitting women for the first time. (Click here for that story.)
According to club documents, the Coffee Club was born in 1930 when James S. Hall, of Hall’s Gay Street Men’s Clothing, invited Charles Griffith, the new manager of the Sears Roebuck & Co., to join him for a cup of coffee. They met at Cole’s Drug Store in the nearby Greyhound bus arcade. Soon, they were joined by J.P. Roddy, W.S. Hall, W.G. (Fats) Chambers, Edward S. Albers, Tom McCroskey and Wallace Woodruff. Many other business and professional men joined them occasionally for a cup of coffee and some friendly discussion.
Unfortunately, Robert H. Cole, the owner of Cole’s Drug Store, asked that the group leave his enterprise on Gay Street. Seems they spent only a nickel for coffee and took up much needed space in his soda fountain area. The group moved to the Farragut Hotel Coffee Shop until it closed. They then moved to the Garden Restaurant, followed by the City Club, until it closed and its building was demolished. Next stop was Club LeConte, the current meeting spot.
Mintha Roach, the president and CEO of Knoxville Utilities Board and one of the two women admitted to the Coffee Club two years ago, says she has enjoyed being a member. “I learn a lot from the conversations and it’s been a good opportunity for me to get to know some great leaders in our community,” she said. “And when they DO have a party, it’s a good one!”
Jeff Lee, the general manager of WBIR-TV, Channel 10, also is very enthusiastic about the group. “It’s just such a nice social occasion that I look forward to on Fridays,” he said. “Everybody is in a different business and I like to hear the wide variety of opinions. You never know what subjects are going to come up and we never all agree. I like that.”
Alan Carmichael, the president and COO of Moxley Carmichael (and also my husband), also values the assortment of people and viewpoints. “It’s always been about getting together to share opinions about what’s going on,” he said. “I like the discussions about current events, politics and business news.”
Apparently the party was such a hit that club members are hoping to have another one in the not too distant future. In order to finance it, they are contemplating doubling their annual dues to $100.