Crafting a Life and Business in Knoxville with Eugenia Almeida
Eugenia: Exactly. You know, I want to try it all, right? This is so magnificent. I’m freezing here but at the same time the time— Julia: [laugh] . Eugenia: —the sun is shining. Life is good. Life is good.
Julia: Hi everybody and welcome to this episode of Connect the Knox. I’m your host, Julia Hurley, connecting Knoxville with the nation. Today’s guest is a rockstar interior designer. I’m telling you all folks right now, if you can get your hands on an appointment with this woman, everything that you have ever thought was stylish, she will make it better. Miss Eugenia Almeida, owner of A New Hue, as in the color, H-U-E, A New Hue, and you can find that on Facebook and online.
Eugenia, please introduce yourself and tell us every amazing thing about you because I can’t even. I wish I had photos that I could post in the video of things that I’ve seen you design. I can’t even imagine your story. So, tell us about you and how you ended up in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Eugenia: Julia, thank you so much. My name is Eugenia Almeida. I am originally from Argentina, South America.
I came to this country 38 years ago with my husband and my kids. And my husband was at the University, Iowa State University, so for many years, I did many different jobs. But when we came to Knoxville and my youngest daughter started school, I decided to do something that was going to fill my heart.
So, we are a plaster company, we do plaster sand for finishes, we work with the boxes, and concrete, and all the materials that you can imagine. And the beauty about our company right now is 80% woman, female, and 70% Hispanic. So, we are a company full of artists that love what they do. And we travel all the time, we travel all over United States. At this moment, I am in Charlotte, and a week ago I was in Texas in Woodland.
So, we travel a lot for work. We are humble, but we have so much pride in the product that we give. And when we said we have a hundred percent client satisfaction because our priority is the people that we work with. For many years, we didn’t have cards or anything, not Instagram, Facebook, because it was a word of mouth. And I really believe that is super important for a company to have that, to always have their eyes on the client, on what the client wants, what you can provide. You never promise things that you cannot achieve.
Be honest. We are a hard-working group of people. I have 15 full-time employees. We have a beautiful studio in Knoxville that I hope you come for a cup of coffee. Julia: Oh, you count on that. Count on that.
Yes. Eugenia: And get your fingers dirty with some plaster and color. And we’ve been blessed. We’ve been blessed with super fantastic jobs that we can create and innovate and bring new things into the plate. Because I am Hispanic, I have a different view of colors, so it took some time for people to have faith in me, you know? I was like, “Oh, we need to paint this store red.” And they were like,
“I don’t think so with red.” No, it’s like, “It will look phenomenal.” But now it’s something incredible. We are blessed. We are a blessed group of people who do what we love. And we do it with honesty and hard work and always God with us, honestly.
I cannot have a conversation without mention him because he is the one that took us through so many different things. Julia: So, tell us, everybody out here in the world, from Argentina to Knoxville, Tennessee, to all over the country with clients, how did you settle on staying in Knoxville? What makes Knoxville the place for you? Eugenia: The most important thing in my life is my family. I have five kids and I came to this country because my husband was going to do his Master’s and PhD in Iowa State University. So, I was like the bag, you know? We are carrying her with us.“, oh, she’s going to make it.”
I came to this country with no English. I learned French in my country. My parents thought that it was a great idea to send me to a Catholic school that was French. So, when I came here, I didn’t have any, any English.
So, from Iowa State, when my husband finished with his PhD, he have a position at the University of Tennessee. So, we move here, my kids went to school. My youngest one started school and I decided this is the time that I’m going to do something that it will fill my life. Before I did so many odd jobs and I did everything that I need to do, you know, to help, but at the point that I was able to say, “Okay, I’m jumping. I’m going to jump and I’m going to do it and it’s going to work.” And
I think that is what we need to feel when we start something and put every cell of our bodies on what we do. Julia: I think that that’s probably the best advice I’ve heard from people in general. And that is a across the board conversation with every person that we’ve interviewed, every person I’ve met who’s successful, you’re either in it or you’re not.
And it’s one thousand percent, every part of you has got to be in it to win it. Eugenia: And it’s harder, you know? When you start it’s really hard because you get, oh my gosh, where is the money going to come from? I don’t have any clients. I cannot show what I do. I worked from my basement for years until I was able to rent a studio, and now we own our studio close to downtown. So, they are hard times, but I really believe that we need to do it in faith and hard work. If you don’t put the sweat and the prayers together, when you do it, I think it’s harder, you know.
So it, we were extremely blessed. There were years that they were hard, really hard. But right now, our company is, I think we are one of the best companies in the country because we have such manpower that we can come and do 15,000 square feet in ten days. Julia: Wow.
Eugenia: Of plaster, Venetian plasters, concrete, carved concrete. Because we are a group. We are a group that we love each other.
We know what the other person needs all the time, but our main focus is our client, our clientele, the people that said, “Okay, I have faith in this company. Let’s do it.” And I don’t think I have one client, never, that cannot—can say that he wasn’t satisfied. We don’t leave the place until the client says, “Oh, I love it.” If
you say that you like it, I’m sorry. It’s not enough. You need to love it [laugh] . Julia: That is so perfect. I love to hear that. Can you share—if you cannot that’s okay—can you share some of your client list with us? Is there anybody that we would know? Eugenia: Residential, I work with many, many different people. I worked for developers downtown in Knoxville. When I started, I worked with David [Duchart] , I worked with Jeffery Nash, I worked with, oh, so many, so many developers downtown.
I can name many residential clients but I didn’t ask them, so I’m sure they will be happy to do it. And in commercial we were with Patricia Nash. She’s a phenomenal artist. I love working with her.
She’s my personal friend as her family is. I work with Altar’d State, the clothing company that is in Maryville. We do all the stores for them over the country. And wonderful people, wonderful people. We work for many, many—we done some stores for [unintelligible] , and we just finished the first Saks Fifth Avenue that we done in Atlanta with some— Julia: That’s amazing. Eugenia: [laugh] we did some columns with Venetian plaster for them.
And but I’m going to tell you, absolutely everything that we do, somebody refers to. Somebody said, “Oh, I know the person.” We done a concrete [unintelligible] under cabins, and the person could call us said, “You know, they told me that for this crazy idea, the only human that can achieve this or the only company is A New Hue.” And we done it. We are going to do another big project with [trees] in Oklahoma, in January. We are going to be doing a huge hotel downtown with the Fall architects and designers.
We do big places, but we do some residential. That is what I really love, you know? I like that connection between my client. I mean, I love the coffee, I love talking to them and knowing how can we help. We have servers. We are really servers. Julia: I love this.
I love this so much. So, one of the questions that I ask every person on the podcast is, as you’ve traveled and experienced all the world and all the food and all the culture, how do you feel like Knoxville is still culture-forward, but home? How does Knoxville encompass that for you? Eugenia: And you’re asking that question to the perfect person because my roots are in Argentina, South America, but Knoxville is the city that make me feel home. I’ve been here 30 years, 30-something years in Knoxville, and Knoxville, and the people from Knoxville, the city, the culture, the artists, I felt home. I feel a hundred percent calm. In Knoxville, you can get any food you want from any country you want because we are so diverse.
You have artists who are magnificent in the city, you know? You have artisans that they are proud, we’re proud of what we do. I’m a part of The Maker City that I love with all my heart. They invited me a couple of years ago to be a part of that.
And it’s so many things that make Knoxville my home. On top of that, I have all my grandkids—three of my grandkids here, too in Ithaca, New York. But I think Knoxville and after living for five years in Ames, Iowa, every day when I woke up and I leave my house, I live in a top of a hill and I see the mountains as a background and I see the green.
I said, “Thank you God. What a beautiful place to be.” On top of that, I develop friendships who are family. And that make it even more home. I go to Europe, I go to South America, I go to Central America, and when I come back, Knoxville is my home. Julia: I love that.
And everybody that we talk with says the same thing. It’s the biggest small town. Eugenia: Exactly. Julia: Exactly. You see the same people that you see everywhere you go with new twists and turns, but it’s so familiar. Eugenia: It’s familiar, it’s inclusive.
I always felt a part—even you know when I arrived. I always felt a part of the city. And the weather is beautiful [laugh] . Julia: Yeah [laugh] . Sometimes you get four seasons in one day [laugh] . We all know that real estate is location, location, location. Our team at Just Homes Group Realty Executives has the true expertise: pairing buyers and sellers with the right opportunities. Whether you're looking to buy or sell a home right here in Knoxville, Lenoir City, Clinton, or Farragut, we have the expertise throughout every Knoxville surrounding area. Call Just Homes Group Realty Executives today.
So, all right. Is your studio open for tours or is that a closed studio? Tell me about the studio. Eugenia: My studio is open, on a schedule.
We have visit, but we have somebody at the studio every day from nine to five. We are expanding the studio right now because when we bought the property, they have a couple of houses on the side that my plan is to have it for people who wants to learn and wants to come and take classes—I teach a lot—and for artists that don’t have a place yet to fit in. So, we got these two houses and we’re renovating right now. Probably by February, we’ll have them working.
And it’s a great idea. All that area, I mean in Tennessee Avenue, in the Lonsdale, it’s improving by the day, it’s getting beautiful, it’s getting full of people who wants to do things, you know? So, it’s going to be a really—I have a vision. I can see that that is going to be a small art district in the city where people can come and participate, or if you don’t have a place that you can do your samples or your paintings, “Hey, Eugenia, can I use this?” Come and use it. Julia: I love that. So, where can people find the studio? Eugenia: At the studio? Actually, you can find it in Google.
If you put ‘A New Hue,’ they will guide you to the studio, but the address is 1009 Tennessee Avenue. Now, we have 007 and 111. So, I’m thinking what is the studio [laugh] ? 1009 Tennessee Avenue. And people loves it.
People who comes really like it, so I hope you come for a cup of coffee soon. Julia: Oh, I will come for sure. That sounds amazing.
So, let me see. You pretty much traveled the world, you design all over the world, you design huge, huge retail stores, you do individual residential. What’s the dream? What’s the next step? What’s the big next thing? Eugenia: To start, I want to tell you, we do the design of the plasters and the walls.
We work with designers who tell us what their idea is. These are the colors, this is what we want to see, we want to see a thick texture, a very soft texture. So, we usually work under them. We do the samples, they approve it, we do the walls.
What is my next step? Because even when I’m trying not to do it, I’m getting older, I think I’m going to start working on huge canvases— Julia: Oh yeah. Eugenia: Collaborating with people who do different kinds of art. And I see helping new artists because it was hard, you know? And if you have somebody who can give you a hand and said, “Okay, let’s do it together.
Let me show you how you can do it.” You don’t have a place that is big enough for you to be, come to the studio, come to the studio. I see myself there. I see myself—but the problem is all my people said, “Eugenia, don’t go in the scaffold.
Don’t go in the scaffold.” I’m going to go on top of the scaffold until they have to take me down. And probably that will be my last time in the scaffold, but for now— Julia: [laugh] . — Eugenia: [crosstalk] and more carefully. But I love what I do. I love that life gave me so much, coming from another country with three small kids, I have another two here. I have so much.
And I really am a walking testimony that when you work hard and you’re honest—you are honest; if you’re dishonest, you will never make it in life—but if you’re honest and work hard, you’ll make it. This is a country of possibilities. This is a country who give chances. Don’t take chances from people. Do it.
Show them that you can do it and they will give you the space to show that you can. That is my belief, as an immigrant, as a woman, as a mother of five, as a grandmother of five, as an artist, as an artisan, as a woman, [unintelligible] I need to start giving. I always give back, even when I didn’t have anything. But this is my time to give back, to help the new generation that is starting.
“Listen, we can do it this way. I know nobody teach you to do it but I promise it will work.” Julia: Side note, I’m currently in the process of writing my very first book in the book is about exactly that. Like, here’s all the things that I’ve learned to do through mistakes and I’m not only going to tell you what they are, I’m going to share with you how to also do it a different way. And I feel like that’s been missing for so many people. They like to talk about, “Well, you know, you could do it a different way but—” or they say, “Well, this is wrong,” or whatever, but they never help you understand how to do it right or different.
Eugenia: Exactly. We need to give—we need to all hands. I think in this life we have this hands to hold people, to hold people when they are hurting, to hold people to go the next step.
Because I had people who inspire me all my life. My parents are my inspiration. My sisters are my inspiration. And I miss them dearly every day, but I have all these other people who said, “Eugenia, yes, let’s do it. You can do this.” And I was like, “Thank you.
Thank you.” And now it’s not that we don’t have to prove ourselves anymore. We need to keep proving ourselves and doing better and better. Because we are creating things that I never thought we will be creating. You see? I’m creating plasters who are three inches thick and carving them. So, we need to help the people and when we see that they are going through that stage, say, “Hey, I don’t hold the truth on everything, but I know how we can do it faster, or better, or shinier.”
Julia: I love that. I love that. I love that give-back spirit. I think it’s very Knoxville-indicative. I feel like Knoxville brings that out in people even if it’s already there, they bring it out in a different way.
Because everybody here wants you to be successful. Eugenia: Yes. Julia: I really feel like that. I feel like Knoxville itself is just like this big hug and it’s just waiting for people to come in and say, “Okay, what can we do for you today?” And that’s how Knoxville makes me feel. Eugenia: Yes.
Julia: All right, so I’ve got a few interesting questions for you. Eugenia: Okay. Julia: Okay. What is your favorite Knoxville restaurant? Eugenia: Can I do OliBea. Julia: I like OliBea’s breakfast. It’s so good.
Eugenia: We’d eat OliBea. All the finishes on the walls are from us. Julia: What is your favorite, like, ethnic food restaurant? Eugenia: Casa Don Gallo. Julia: Yes. So, one of my favorites is the Ethiopian restaurant on Sutherland. Eugenia: I’ve been there.
I love it. I’ve been there. I love it. I love it. I love all the foods from every country and every culture.
And I’m open to try absolutely everything on food, and drinks, on anything. I want to—when I leave this world, I want to experience all that I could. Julia: I think that Knoxville has such a diverse ability to do that.
Eugenia: Exactly. You know, I want to try it all, right? This is so magnificent. I’m freezing here, but at the same time the time— Julia: [laugh] . Eugenia: —the sun is shining. Life is good. Life is good. Julia: Life is fantastic. All right.
Favorite bar in Knoxville? Eugenia: Favorite bar? Actually, I’m going to tell you I love my margaritas. It’s a restaurant, Chez Guevara. I cannot find another Margarita like that.
So, when I go to drink, I go with my husband to Chez Guevara and we are old enough that if we drink too much our kids pick us up. Julia: That is a—you’re the first one to list that but I was actually there last Wednesday. I love that place. Eugenia: You need to have those Margaritas [laugh] . Julia: [laugh] okay. Let’s see.
Um, favorite clothing store? Eugenia: Altar’d State [laugh] . Julia: Oh, yes, obviously. Obviously. Um, favorite grocery store? Eugenia: The Whole Foods. Julia: Yes.
We only have the one Whole Foods. I’m waiting for more. You know, I’m waiting for more.
I’m like, “Okay, can we get one in [Veragan] [laugh] ?” Eugenia: It’s going to come. It’s going to come. Julia: It will. If Knoxville is growing— Eugenia: Yes. Oh, yes. And it’s building and so much work here to do, so much work is offer.
So, even us, we are going to recruit more artists to work with us because we have more work for next year. So, everybody’s hiring. We are going to keep growing.
It’s no way that this country doesn’t keep growing. Julia: Well, since you mentioned that, I know that the Knoxville Museum of Art does so many things that people don’t know about, classes, just like beginner lessons for parents and for kids. They do a lot of things that people don’t know are very hands-on artist projects that if they don’t—if parents outside of the downtown market do not have the ability to understand art or don’t have an art class at their schools, tell us a little bit about what they can do in Knoxville to connect with you, to connect with the art scene, to get their kids involved in understanding art. Eugenia: We are working with a couple of organizations.
I’m working with [unintelligible] and we are trying to bring more kids to have—you know, I want to start with a Saturday play date. And after the kids have Covid, it stopped absolutely everything that we were planning. We were planning this three years ago.
So, now what I done is I went to a school and I work with the kids as a volunteer doing summer work. But we are going to be reaching out to families and I want to reach out to my community, to the Hispanic community because some of the parents, you know, cannot communicate very good in English, it’s hard for them to understand what they can do. I’ve been talking with Austin-East School, too. We did a huge mural for them there a year and a half ago.
So, the idea is to start working with elementary school, middle school. We will start with elementary and see how this goes. But I will keep you posted with all this news.
Julia: Yeah, please do. You know Mark Nelson… Eugenia: Yes, I know— Julia: Mark Nelson [crosstalk] , he went to Austin-East and while he was there is when he took all kinds of classes on design and sewing, things my generation has no access to and I think this next generation after me, the Gen Z generation has no idea about art or working with your hands. It’s just not something they talk about or teach.
And I think that what you’re doing is amazing. Please let us know so we can get that information out. Eugenia: I will keep you posted. Julie, I will keep you posted. Julia: Yes. And I’ll come visit you in a couple—after Thanksgiving, after the holiday, I’m going to come visit your studio.
Eugenia: Perfect. Julia: Perfect. All right. We are out of time and you’re freezing. Thank you for taking time for me today.
Thank you so much for sharing your blessing with the world. Eugenia: Thank you. Thank you for inviting me and I want to meet you in person. I know Patricia put us in contact because I saw the comments that oh because you went to [unintelligible] Village. Julia: Yeah, yes.
Oh, my I have—I’m interviewing. I’m interviewing their marketing—like, the lady that runs the whole thing. Marissa.
Melissa. Eugenia: She’s phenomenal. She’s phenomenal. You’re going to love it. That was a fantastic project. You see proof like this that comes from an idea, from a dream that you were able, you saw the walls, and absolutely everything, that they—the core.
Julia: Stunning. I took pictures of the bird, the little bird [unintelligible] . It’s this big. I took a picture of it. I was like I cannot believe that one person did all this amazing. Eugenia: It’s incredible, but it was my crew. I always said when we finish a project like this, this is 15,000 square feet what we’re doing here, it was not me.
It’s not me. I cannot do it. It’s all my people. It’s all this talent and talented people who loves art and love me.
Julia: You’re easy to love. Eugenia: I’m [crazy] . Julia: You’re easy to love [laugh] . Eugenia: You so much. Julia: Thank you, Miss Eugenia. Have an amazing day.
Eugenia: You too, my dear. Julia: Bye. Eugenia: Bye-bye.