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Plans to redevelop Kern's Bakery building are cooking

As Ralph Jones walks through his old stomping grounds at the Kern's Bakery Building in South Knoxville, he takes a few moments to reminisce. 

"It's helped me buy everything I got, helped me do everything and what I got," Jones said about his time working at the bakery for 43 years. 

He began working at Kern's Bakery in 1968 with most of his time spent in the maintenance department.

Jones is one of the many people who got the chance to see inside the historic building before it goes under complete renovations to restore and redevelop the building into something new.  

"It’s just good they are keeping it open and keeping the building there," Jones added. 

Kim Trent, the Executive Director of Knox Heritage, said buildings like the Kern's Bakery make Knoxville a special place.

"This building is such a part of South Knoxville and its history and identity," Trent said.

Knox Heritage is the group that stepped in to save the building from being demolished. 

The future of the building is now with Dewhirst Properties, who have started the redevelopment process.

"We are just trying to find the right tenant for here or the mix of tenants ultimately and we don’t know who those are yet. We are still thinking and cooking up what we want to do here," said Mark Heinz, an architect and partner on the project. 

The building covers 70,000 square feet of space with original brick, hardwood and windows that add historic charm. 

"Even though it’s full of stuff and the roof is leaking and it looks terrible and the paint is chipping we still know the opportunity here is unmatched. You can’t build this anymore," Heinz added. 

Right now, the plans for the property are undecided as Dewhirst has really just begun the cleaning and renovation process. 

Talks of a residential and commercial hub was good news to former Kern's Bakery customers like Elaine Reed and her husband Ken. 

"I remember Kern's when it was open. They had these little carousels that they would take around to places and they gave out little loaves of bread and that’s kind of what made us want to come tonight just to see what is here now and find out what they are going to do with it," Reed said. 

For some, the property looks vastly different. For Jones, it looks relatively the same, just a little dusty and empty. 

"I thought they were going to let nature take it’s course and rot it down because that’s what happened if you don’t get in here but I’m glad they are doing something with it. They are going to make something out of it," Jones added. 

As he finished his tour of his old workplace, he left his signature behind to make his mark on a place he used to maintain for so many years. 

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