Local songwriter Todd Steed has a song called “North Knoxville.” The song is an ode to Knoxville, particularly the northern side of town, and to the city’s quirks and foibles. In the bridge of the song, Steed croons, “Thank God for West Knoxville, where the mall never really stops. Thank God for South Knoxville, with all them good pawn shops.”
That’s an accurate way of describing the shopping in South Knoxville. If West Knoxville is the city’s retail hub, specializing in flashy and new shopping, then South Knoxville is the city’s quaint yard sale.
That’s particularly true of the Chapman Highway area. What once served as “the gateway to the Smoky Mountains” is now a hodgepodge of thrift stores and locally owned shops selling stuff with plenty of character, much of it used.
The shopping in South Knoxville feels local and real. It’s a bit like rummaging around in your grandmother’s basement for the afternoon or looking through an old junk drawer. You never know what you’re going to find, and it just might be the best thing ever.
The thrift stores and pawn shops range from little hole-in-the wall joints with bars on the windows to the ones sponsored by groups like Knoxville Area Rescue Ministries, Goodwill and the Salvation Army. Like a good garage sale, there’s no telling what you’ll find inside such places. You might walk off with an ironing board, old records, dishes, beer glasses, Southern Gospel cassettes, toys, an old school TV set, VHS movies, comic books, vases, clothing needed to complete your next Halloween costume, maybe even a footbath or a wheelchair.
Nestled amongst the hills and kudzu in South Knoxville, you’ll also find some of Knoxville’s favorite stores. The Disc Exchange, for example, is an independent music store at which you’ll find CDs and vinyl of all your favorite artists. The selection of local music is top notch, and you’ll find other genres like jazz, blues, gospel and bluegrass that can be difficult to get at mainstream stores. There’s also Book Eddy, a used bookstore with lots of old books, great prices and a cat roaming around for no discernible reason. It’s the perfect place to wait out a summer thunderstorm.
Other unique stores in South Knoxville include Basement Records, Comics Exchange, Garden Fresh Market and Emery 5 & 10. Liquor stores and hardware shops aren’t hard to come by either, so you can build your own bar and then stock it.
© 2008, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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