When word spread last fall of Urban Outfitters opening at a Market Square location, it made news. Located in the southern corner of the square in the 1906 Arnstein Building, Urban Outfitters opened its doors to customers of May 2, and since then has only added to the positive atmosphere of downtown Knoxville.
"When we open a new store we have to be confident that we're a good fit for the city," said Justin VanLaeken, district manager for Urban Outfitters. "The large student population certainly factored into the decision making process. Knoxville is the right city, we found the right space, and it was the right time.
"The stars were aligned on this one."
Urban Outfitters typically appeals to the young crowd, with trendy clothing and exclusive brands. The store currently sells some of summer's coolest styles, including camo prints and graphic shirts, along with their BDG jean collection.
The store hosted a grand opening on May 11, offering shopping customers free beer from Saw Works and providing music with three performing DJs, including Washed Out, Torres and Jackson Scott. VanLaeken said the culture Urban Outfitters provides reflects their customer – self-expressive and creative.
"We are committed to being invested in the local community and have a strong history of being involved in the contemporary art, music, and fashion scenes of the moment," he said. "We want to let the community know that our store is a fun place to hang out and this event is the perfect way to do that."
Ellen Hooper, an employee of the nearby boutique, Fizz, said Knoxville style has always leaned toward the hippie/bohemian direction and that the store opening will only reinforce that.
"The Old City has really had that hippie style, so we've had it before, and it's just enhanced it and brought more people here," Hooper said. "It's a popular place so a lot of people like it."
Despite the potential competition Urban Outfitters might have brought to Fizz, Hooper said the store opening has been "great" for Fizz's business.
"It's brought a lot of customers that wouldn't be in Market Square normally here," Hooper said. "I think a lot of younger people come here and say 'Urban is here' and they find a lot of the other stores and say 'oh I didn't know this was here.'"
Janice Ryan Bock, sophomore in journalism and electronic media, is a hostess at Tupelo Honey Café, next door to Urban Outfitters. She supported Hooper's theory that Market Square's demographic is younger as a result of the new store.
"I would describe (Market Square) as a place that many families and adults spent a lot of time in," Bock said. "But now Urban draws in a younger crowd to the Square, which is always great for business.
"A much younger and trendier crowd comes into the restaurant now."
Having experienced the change from pre Urban Outfitters Market Square to its post version, Bock said the trendy clothing store is "a perfect addition to the Market Square family."
"Because Tupelo gets very busy and our wait times can be incredibly long, customers are always thrilled to know they can go shopping at Urban while they wait on their table," she said. "It keeps our customers happy and I'm sure our customers keep Urban happy."
As a college student and a big fan of the store, Bock said she can't see the downside of Urban Outfitter's latest location in Knoxville.
"I hope Urban will bring in even more retail stores in the market square area," Bock said. "It's great having a nice big store that our customers can shop in while they're waiting."
"If I ever have a few minutes to spare before work I always run into Urban."