K Brew transitions from local business to cultural hub

North Knox coffee shop eyes further future expansion

One of Knoxville’s greatest qualities is its support for locally owned businesses, and Michael and Pierce Lamacchia exemplify the kind of entrepreneurial spirit and culture that its citizens value so deeply. The brothers founded K Brew, a local craft coffee shop whose name honors the municipality. I sat down with Michael to discuss the story of its foundation and how it’s become a budding Knoxville staple.

The Lamacchia brothers first dreamed of opening a coffee shop in 2008 while on a family vacation to Seattle. They witnessed firsthand the enthusiastic craft coffee culture of the Emerald City, and they became acutely aware of the dearth of similar enterprises in the Knoxville market. They had noticed the trend that culture moves from west to east and felt a longing to participate in that process, but, because of age limitations and other circumstances, K Brew remained just a dream at that time.

Fast-forward five years to 2013; Michael, 20, was attending the University of Tennessee, and Pierce, 25, was working at a public relations firm. Pierce made a phone call to Michael during which the former expressed his rekindled desire to open a coffee shop in Knoxville and asked for the latter’s involvement. Excited about the prospect, Michael dropped out of college, and Pierce quit his job. They originally envisioned a small, double-drive-through, hut-style shop, a very successful model west of the Mississippi, but they settled upon a small corner shop at 1328 N. Broadway St. This first location opened its doors in October 2013.

This initial site enjoyed quick success and became a favorite of the North Knoxville community. When asked about that speedy success, Michael explains, “We were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. The surrounding neighborhoods were on an upswing, and we just happened to open during that expansion.” New and seasoned residents alike enjoyed a quick walk to the small shop that rarely had enough seats to accommodate all of its loyal patrons.

With the immediate achievement and special limitations of the first location in mind, Michael and Pierce set their sights on expansion. In a year and a half, multiple opportunities for expansion presented themselves to the brothers. In February 2016, K Brew closed its original location and relocated down the street to 1138 N. Broadway St. The new store launched in a beautifully repurposed auto shop complete with openable garage doors and hammock chairs.

Within a month, they also opened a satellite location downtown in the Howard H. Baker, Jr. United States Courthouse, located at 800 Market St. “Who does that?!” Michael exclaims, still shocked at the gutsiness of the move. In spite of the craziness surrounding the opening of two shops within a month of one another, both locations have enjoyed immense success due to the faithful support of Knoxville locals.

And the backing is mutual, as K Brew actively invests in Knoxville beyond merely providing quality craft coffee. The Broadway location often hosts local food trucks such as Farm-to-Griddle Crepes and Wood Oven Eats. It also regularly holds free cupping classes to further teach and educate coffee enthusiasts in hopes of continuing to develop Knoxville’s coffee culture.

K Brew invests heavily in its baristas, too. With its features menu, which provides baristas with opportunities to create their own specialty drinks, five percent of each individual sale goes toward the creator of the respective drink. This encourages the baristas to further their coffee education and invest more personally into their work.

Moving forward, Michael and Pierce envision further expansion while steadfastly continuing to uphold their three tenets: quality coffee, friendly conversation and promotion of the city of Knoxville. Michael expresses the fear and uncertainty inherent in dropping everything to start a business, but he stresses that everything worthwhile requires some difficulty. He encourages all Knoxville natives to follow in his path and create businesses that, like K Brew, positively affect the local community and culture.

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