Vienna Coffee Company Opens Downtown
In 1996, John Clark and his wife, Sue, moved back home to Tennessee from San Francisco, and one of the things they brought with them was an affinity for good coffee. John had no luck finding the flavor he longed for, so he did what any coffee connoisseur would do and started buying green coffee and roasting it in a popcorn popper in his garage. Soon he started giving the grounds away as gifts, and when a fan base started to grow, John knew he was onto something.
“I bought a used roaster online in 2000 and roasted in my garage, but that became an expensive hobby,” he says. “In 2002 I left my day job for coffee full-time. The company I worked for wanted me to move to Philadelphia, but Sue had a good job here, so we decided to hunker down and try it.”
For the next eight years, Vienna Coffee Company was a wholesaler. John focused on building the brand by putting their coffee in local restaurants and grocery stores. Occasionally, they served coffee at nonprofit walks and other events. Finally, in 2010, the first retail space opened on High Street in Maryville, and in 2013, they expanded to their current space on College Street. Today, Vienna Coffee can be purchased from more than 100 grocery stores and restaurants across East Tennessee.
This year, Vienna is expanding again by setting up shop on the ground floor of the recently renovated Regas Building. As Knoxville’s go-to hot spot for 90 years, the Regas Restaurant was a space where engagements happened, where wedding receptions were held and anniversaries were celebrated. When it closed in 2010, there were plenty of ideas about what to do with the 2-acre block on North Gay Street. However, in 2015, the Knoxville Leadership Foundation bought the building and started renovations to turn it into a meeting space for nonprofits and other organizations in need of meeting space.
“Renovation included state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment, a boardroom, which is beautifully outfitted, and that’s the appeal of the building. Chris Martin spent a couple million dollars outfitting it, and he runs his office on the second floor with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Girls Inc., and others,” John says. “The conference center and our cafe are on the first floor.”
Vienna Coffee at the Regas Building reflects the aesthetic of its Maryville home base with similar artwork and the same color palette. It accommodates 100 patrons comfortably with standard table and chairs, areas of soft seating and a fireplace, as well as a window bar that runs the length of the space. There’s even a corner spot for live music, suitable for a singer/songwriter or a small group. The goal was to create a professional space with warmth and a coffee house that worked for professionals, passersby and the eventual residents of the 130 high-end condos currently underway.
“The main thing in Maryville we get repeatedly is that it’s cozy and like your living room. Regas is a little more modern in style but not all chrome and glass,” John says. “Because we’re a coffee company, and the coffee is so important to us, the photography we’ve decorated with are from coffee-growing regions. We have great coffee, and it’s a beautiful space.”
Vienna Coffee at the Regas Building is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.