The latest of the occupants at 31 Market Square, Bluetique Cheap Chic is a clear departure from the previous tenants. Formerly a restaurant and, more recently, Riversports Outfitters, inexpensive, stylish clothing may be what the space has been waiting for. The store represents the Knoxville entry of a small chain based in Lexington, Kentucky.
One might guess that the “blue” in Bluetique Cheap Chic comes from its origins in the bluegrass state or even as a reference to the university sports program in which the store originated. Rachel Turner and Emma Gill, who were working in the store when I visited, said that it derived from the initial focus on blue jeans and denim. The store did very quickly add University of Kentucky items to its inventory and that quickly became a focus.
As the owners looked toward expanding, they began replicating the idea: They located in college towns next to campus and sold an abundance of game-day apparel tailored, of course, to the nearby school. In addition to the original Lexington location, they now have stores in Bowling Green, Kentucky, Oxford, Ohio, Charlottesville and Harrisonburg in Virginia and, now, in Knoxville.
Inside the Market Square store you’ll find dresses, jewelry and large quantities of the aforementioned game-day apparel. I didn’t see anything inside the store representing any other teams, so for each local store the selection is for that school’s team only. The prices, as the name of the store implies, are intended to be lower than you might expect. Online the prices for dresses start around $40, with most of them falling between $50 and $70.
Rachel and Emma pointed out that this is the first store in the chain that is not located adjacent to campus. The idea is that enough UT students inhabit Market Square to make the concept work. I think they may find that non-UT students also become patrons of their store. It is clearly designed for young women, but I can see the typical college demographic shifting to include young and somewhat older women.
It is definitely a store designed for beautiful, young women. The models are beautiful, young women. The employees are beautiful, young women. And larger dresses didn’t seem to be in large supply. It’s not so much a store that a lot of men will flock to, though there was a family inside when I visited. And that, actually, made for an interesting story.
The family was from New Jersey and looking to relocate somewhere in this region. They were staying in Gatlinburg and decided to spend a day in Knoxville. It sounded as if they had a pretty good day going, but wanted more information about the city. The girls really worked hard to give them the information they needed and tried, unsuccessfully to print a map of local points of interest. It made me wonder if Visit Knoxville might want to spread a few brochures and other materials around the square just for such occasions. The girls said they’d had customers from all over, including some from Japan in the two weeks they’ve been open.
So, there you are. Are you young, beautiful and female? You’ll probably find yourself drawn to this new store. For me, well, I’m still waiting on a Grumpy Old Man’s Haberdashery. Not that I’m any of those things, it’s just that I think that’s what downtown needs next. Anyone up for an investment opportunity?