Allan Miller, president of Disc Exchange, was a graduate student at the University of Tennessee getting a degree in nutrition in 1987 when his love for music inspired him to start a business exchanging used CDs with students.
He started with 30 CDs and met clients on campus. When his backpack got too heavy from carrying CDs, he opened the Disc Exchange on Chapman Highway, just south of the Henley Bridge. It started small and has grown into a 12,000-square-foot space housing 100,000 new and used CDs plus a website to download music.
Now Miller is worried that with the Henley Bridge shut down for at least two years, his clients will detour elsewhere. First quarter sales are down 15 percent compared to last year. And if numbers continue to decline, Miller will be forced to layoff some of his 14 employees.
"My concern is that (the loss) is increasing," says Miller, "because as customers give up, and say this is just too much hassle to come over here, they'll quit coming."
Construction on the Henley Bridge was halted Wednesday, May 25, after the second bridge worker, employed by Britton Bridge LLC, died on the site in the last four months.
A safety review on Britton Bridge began Friday and is ongoing, according Mark Nagi, spokesperson for Tennessee Department of Transportation.
"As long as that is ongoing, there will be no decision as to when the project will start back up," said Nagi. The safety review should take about a week.
Britton Bridge workers will be allowed back on the site Tuesday for clean-up work and to perform maintenance on their equipment.
"This does not mean the project is starting back up," said Nagi. "Nothing will be open until Friday at the earliest."
There is an incentive by TDOT that makes Britton Bridge eligible for a $1 million bonus if the project is completed by Dec. 31, 2012. The general estimated completion date is June 13, 2013. It will be unknown until after the safety review is complete if the completion date will be altered.
The Disc Exchange is located in what the City of Knoxville has named the "Downtown South Business District" on its website, southknoxisopen.com.
The site was designed in January when the 78-year-old bridge was closed for repairs to help publicize businesses along Chapman Highway, where cars are being rerouted to James White Parkway then Moody Ave.
The route lands drivers one mile south of the Disc Exchange on Chapman Highway.
"Going all the way down James White Parkway and back up, is just way out of the way," says Miller. "James White Parkway is great for commuters. But for our customers, we don't want to send them out there because they are going to get lost."
Miller is telling clients to use the Gay Street Bridge instead.
On behalf of South Knoxville business owners, he is creating a petition asking the city to temporarily remove the service and delivery parking along the 800 block of Gay Street between Main Street and Cumberland Avenue while the bridge is being built. He says this would allow traffic to flow better and alleviate some of the congestion causing traffic to build up on the Gay Street Bridge. This would make traveling back into the city from Chapman Highway easier for customers.
"The pain of closing the Henley Bridge does not exclusively reside in South Knoxville," says Miller. "If there is a way of making the situation better, then somebody else on the north end of the river is going to have to feel some of the pain as well."
South Knox columnist Rebecca Simmons is a freelance contributor to the News Sentinel.
© 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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