It’s hard to say exactly when downtown began its re-emergence. The Old City flickered with life a bit around 1990, but faded again for a while. The Mercury Theater and Tomato Head pretty much held down Market Square for a long time. Even the early 2000’s found both the square and downtown in general languishing with only good intentions to show for years of work by various individuals and groups to bring it back.
In 2003, feeling that downtown needed more than bars and restaurants, one of the couples who would shape downtown’s evolution stepped into the breech. Scott Schimmel told me they realized if it they felt so strongly about it, they should step forward and make something happen. And they did.
That year they opened Bliss, a variety store of sorts, with a heavy dose of women’s clothing. Market Square was undergoing extensive construction and it was anybody’s guess as to whether the result would be the vibrant place it was to become. They added Bliss Home just across the square focusing on home furnishings and decor and later added a furniture showroom in west Knoxville.
It’s not easy succeeding in any business, but to expand throughout a ten year period, particularly a difficult economic time such as the one we’ve been in recently, is nothing short of remarkable. The stores now employee nearly forty people and have become a mainstay of the downtown retail market.
This past week they showed their appreciation for the support they have received through several efforts. On Wenesday night they featured Mic Harrison and the High Score on Market Square for a free concert. They had cupcakes from Magpies for the first five hundred people. The weather was iffy enough that attendance was more sparse than might have been expected, but the event was fun for those who showed up and the weather actually turned quite nice.
There are several couples who help make downtown the vibrant place it has become. One thinks of Scott and Bernadette West, Matt Pacetti and Anne Ford and others, and they all deserve support for the good things they do. Support Bliss and businesses like it when you can. That support makes the good things keep happening. If nothing else, Lisa and Scott deserve something good to happen to them as karma for posing for five minutes for a photograph while I struggled with my camera settings to find the sweet spot for a good photograph.