Before its grand opening on April 13, Pearl on Union opened up quietly, serving coffee unannounced in the mornings.
Pearl is a new coffee house located on Union Avenue in downtown Knoxville and is among an ongoing line of local Knoxville coffee shops. The new location is the third installment of coffee shops owned by Shaun and Meg Parrish. The two have previously opened and managed Old City Java — Knoxville’s oldest coffee shop, which opened in 1992 — and Wild Love Bakehouse.
Although it just opened, Pearl has history in its name. The name comes from Shaun’s grandmother, who he describes as a strong and inspirational woman.
The newly arrived cafe offers baked goods alongside its coffee. Its pastries are delivered each morning fresh from Wild Love Bake House, named Knoxville’s best bakery.
It uses fresh and local ingredients for its dairy products, even down to its in-house made vanilla syrup. Many of the local ingredients it offers come from Cruze Farm, a local dairy farm from East Knoxville. Cruze Farm's milk is used, alone as well as what is incorporated into pastries.
Crafting brews from coffee beans around the world, Pearl has specific coffee blends that are unique to its business. This includes a light roast blend called Luis Huayhua, which has notes of apricot and toasted almond and is named after the farmer from the location the flavor originates from.
The blend was offered to the coffee shop as a grand opening gift. Because only a certain amount of the beans were harvested from the single source in Caranavia, Bolivia, Pearl is the sole server of the blend.
Pearl as a whole focuses on lighter-roast coffee. According to the staff, the lighter blends allow them to hit more flavor notes, while a darker blend of coffee has a masking effect on the flavor. When arriving at Pearl, the baristas will willingly describe the various flavor profiles for the coffee.
Jess Stapleton, a barista at Pearl, applied to one of the coffee houses owned by the same owners here in Knoxville but was directed to open the newly-arriving store on Union Avenue instead. Stapleton said her experience at Pearl is unique because of the care the company has toward the coffee itself.
“Although I have previous experience working as a barista, (I’ve) never worked in a place that has this much passion in their coffee,” Stapleton said.
Caytie Wilkes, another barista that works for Pearl, has worked for different coffee shops in the Pearl family for two and a half years prior to working at the new location.
“The place is unique, and it offers things you cannot get anywhere else,” Wilkes said.
Wilkes said her personal passion for coffee is found from her work, and her knowledge is gained from the products found at the cafe.
As a newly arrived shop, Pearl has welcomed both longtime Knoxville natives excited for a coffee shop in the downtown area and fresh faces that are new to the area. Hillary Bloom is a recent member of the Knoxville community who said it was the top suggestion for a coffee shop upon her arrival.
“I just moved from Southern California a week ago, and out of all the coffee shops found locally, Pearl was the top one suggested,” Bloom said.
Out of all the items at Pearl, Bloom picked an iced latte and a chocolate croissant, which she said she recommends to anyone who decides to visit Pearl.
Pearl has already been busy since opening, and the staff hopes that the arriving warm weather will bring more people in with outside tables that provide a city view. The cafe opens every day at 7 a.m. and closes at 7 p.m. every night except on weekends, when it closes at 8 p.m.