With a burgeoning number of antique stores vending everything from relics of grand estates to kitschy bric-a-brac, Knoxville is steadily becoming Tennessee's destination city for antique collectors and dealers alike.
"We had the Antique Roadshow here this summer and they didn't go to anywhere else in Tennessee," Laura Spaller, owner of Four Seasons Vintage in Bearden, said. "I think we're becoming a more popular destination city."
One factor behind this is the competitive pricing in Knoxville's antique market, Spaller said.
"I've had people from other parts of the country tell me that our prices here are much cheaper than back home," she said. "We have dealers come from Atlanta and Asheville that buy in our store and take it back to their stores to resell. So they're able to make a profit off of what we're already making a profit on."
The comparatively affordable pricing makes buying vintage goods an attractive alternative for Knoxville's growing number of young antiquers, according to Terry Davis of Nostalgia on McCalla Avenue.
"We have a good crowd of college-aged and young professionals coming in here," Davis said. "A lot of the young people moving into downtown have a quirkier aesthetic and are seeking furniture with more personality."
Nostalgia's heavily-frequented location in Bearden expanded out of demand in January to include a Nostalgia store just a few blocks from the Old City.
The new location has 80 booths to the original's approximately 50 and specializes in the mid-century modern style.
"This store heavily concentrates on the '50s, '60s and '70s," Davis said. "There's more mid-century modern furniture here than any other store in Knoxville and it's all very competitively priced compared to what you'd see the same items go for in bigger cities."
Although much speculation as to the rapid resurgence of mid-century aesthetic has centered around the popularity of TV shows like "Mad Men," Davis said he believes that the look's true lore is grounded in style and practicality.
"A lot of people say its because of 'Mad Men,' but I think shows like that are maybe a result and not a cause of the look's revival," Davis said. "There's always been a big collecting group. The style is so clean and unfussy and the quality and construction is so much better than anything you'd buy today for three times the money."
Davis said he thinks these pieces make terrific investments for college-aged kids in particular.
"If you're just starting off and are trying to decorate your first place or new apartment, this furniture is a great place to start," Davis said. "There's a reason it's lasted this long."
Along with an increasing percentage of young antique hunters and collectors, Knoxville is also seeing a greater number of youthful dealers. Spaller's grandchildren, Elizabeth, 7, and Gabriel, 5, have their own booth within the bathroom of Four Seasons which they enthusiastically maintain.
"We also have one dealer, Sasha Richey, who's 14," Spaller said. "She makes jewelry and sells a lot of vintage hats and cameras. It's great to see young people expressing an interest in antiquing and starting to collect so early on."
Part of the appeal of antiquing, besides style and financial good sense, is undoubtedly the thrill of the hunt, according to Bea Barnett, a vendor within Four Seasons who has been antiquing since the early '70s when Knoxville had only one antique mall.
"The fun part is not knowing what you're going to find," Barnett said. "All dealers that I know collect certain items. I have a house full of collections and over 200 pieces of signed Heisey glassware myself. You never know if you're going to find one of those items to add to your collection."