If you are like most college coeds, you have undoubtedly spent a weekend or two searching aimlessly for the perfect karaoke bar in which to display your vocal abilities.
A bar with beer, simple service, a relaxed atmosphere and a variety of song selections can, at times, seem impossible to find.
Toots Little Honky Tonk aims to put an end to your search. Located in the heart of Knoxville's Happy Holler community on East Anderson Avenue, about a 10-minute drive from campus, Toots is a Southern song shack with one simple mission: to entertain, owner Bonnie King said.
King was in the midst of working three jobs when she opened Toots 13 years ago.
"I was working at the J.C. Penney hair salon, running a paper route seven days a week and working at a bar in Oak Ridge," King said. "I just decided to combine all three and open my own place."
King aptly named the karaoke honky tonk, "Toots," after her daughter Trula's childhood nickname.
Toots celebrates its 13th anniversary June 15 and continues to see a steady incline of success along with Knox County's efforts to improve its historic Happy Holler community. King notes that when she opened the doors in 2001, the only other business on the block was the upholstery shop on the corner.
"We were here long before anyone else, and we've watched it boom," King said. "Toots is growing like weeds."
Growing up off Baxter Avenue in Happy Holler, King and her brother, Moses King, affirm that the area was not always the desirable, up-and-coming community it is now.
"Back then, this area wasn't the best to be in," Moses King said. "I've definitely seen it change over the years. It's starting to look up."
Any Friday or Saturday night, the brother and sister duo can be found entertaining Toots' multi-generational crowd. Bonnie King operates the karaoke system while her brother runs the bar.
Bonnie King asserts that the secret to the business' longevity is honesty, hard work and friendly service. Admitting that she loves to socialize, King said she values getting to know her customers personally.
"You don't hardly see places like this anymore," King said. "We are friendly to everybody. Nobody is treated like an outsider. Whether we know them or not, we get to know them.
"We try to remember everybody's name."
With its simple mission and consistent service, Toots is a shining example of Knoxville ingenuity. She is an independent business owner and is now a fully-licensed karaoke disc jockey. Bonnie King's bible of a song selection book holds more than 33,000 options ranging from Gloria Gaynor to Shakira to – her favorite – Johnny Cash.
The cash-only bar solely serves a variety of 38 long neck beers along with a menu of pizza, chips, popcorn and cokes. A pool table, jukebox and dartboard accompany the karaoke entertainment.
"Toots is such a fun place to hang out on the weekends," said Maggie Miller, graduate student in art education. "The crowd is never the same, and it isn't overrun with cliques. You can really just be yourself, sing karaoke off-key, and just have fun."
Currently, Toots is open from 4 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings, with additional nights expected to be added later in the spring. Toots also hosts the occasional live band, which will be advertised on their Facebook page.
"If you like karaoke and love to sing," King said, "just come on down and make yourself at home."