Out North Central – just over the hill from Happy Holler is a cool set of buildings and another one of those urban nodes we sometimes talk about on this site. The first retail anchor for the area opened a year ago and plans a big blow out this weekend. It seemed like a good time to take a look at what they’ve got going on.
Mid Mod Collective includes ten partners which could be an unwieldy number of people to get moving in any particular direction at one time, but they seem to make it work. In fact, the business has succeeded from the beginning. They were covered up from their grand opening and haven’t slowed in the months since. That they have since been joined by some very cool neighbors only makes it all better.
The partners had been collecting and selling items for years on their own and knew each other through the business. Recognizing a similar inclination toward mid modern collections and having a growing desire for something different than the segmented booths common at vintage stores, they decided to join forces and try a different concept. You’ll find items arranged by theme or look – most of the space feels like more or less complete rooms – and may include items owned by several different people.
I asked about the popularity of the style and, after the acknowledgement of the often discussed impact of “Mad Men,” I was told that often it starts with one piece that starts a quest for more. Mid Modern features clean lines and a timeless look. They are also often very well built pieces which have maintained their value.
After looking for a space in the Old City and other locations around north Knoxville, they fell in love with the Dewhirst Properties building at 1617 North Central Street. Formerly housing Higgenbotham’s Auto Service, the building wasn’t very appealing to look at initially, but with work it has been transformed. Bay doors line the front, one door has been painted to look like a mid-century work of art.
It’s all been cleaned up and even the front counter was uncovered in the building, it’s cheap top stripped away to reveal a fine wood piece which formerly featured glass panels across the front. The remaining glass panel was placed in the center and still contains the advertisement for “Span O’ Life Heavier Duty Battery,” which fits right in with the retro feel of the place which in a previous generation welcomed customers who wanted those “new” car air-conditioners retro-fitted into their automobiles.
Now the collective includes many of the best known designers and their furniture and other items. You’ll find items by designers such as Michel Arnoult, Milo Baughman, Adrian Pearsall, Kofod Larsen and more. They are the only dealer in Knoxville for Vita lighting – which are the distinctive lamps you see hanging throughout the store. They have several brutalist pieces. They’ve had pieces used by HGTV and often have odd items – such as a boar’s head – and rare items that attract national attention. You’ll often find the pieces have been thoroughly researched and their background has been documented to assist customers who are interested. You’ll also find rare books and cool vinyl albums.
Word of the store and their carefully curated collection has spread so widely that some weekends they see more customers from places like Asheville, Charlotte, Nashville and Atlanta than from Knoxville. Customers have planned trips to the city specifically to come to the store. And thanks to Facebook and Instagram, items often sell as soon as they are located and photographed. In other words, it’s not a common store available just anywhere. They’ve shipped furniture to New York and other places around the country.
They’ll celebrate their heady first year – a year that has included winning Top Knox awards from the Mercury for Best New Retail and runners-up in several other categories – tomorrow night from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM. Calico, the new roaming boutique vendor using Deb the Truck (formerly used by Vagabond) will be around, as will Shawn Poynter who will be taking photographs in front of that cool color backdrop you see in one of the photographs here. Byron and Kiki will have the Savory and Sweet Truck on hand for your dining needs. The store will have anniversary savings throughout the weekend.
The store will also be joined in their celebration by Smoky Mountain Vintage Lumber which has moved across the street (and about whom I will have more, soon) who is selling Christmas trees in their lot across the street. Another business will be celebrating their grand opening and I’ll have that story and photos tomorrow. For now, go to their Facebook Page and give them a like and follow them there and on Instagram to see photos of items as they are added. And come see this cool new spot in the city.