- I am proud to be your host here in the Holler! Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you. And I'll be sure to keep you up to date on what's happening. Thanks for being my friend... See you soon!
My story starts on a dusty road just north of the city in 1915.
Back then Central was the heart of the North Knoxville community. From 1889-1897 this was actually the City of North Knoxville. Oklahoma Avenue was called Brookside because it led to the Brookside textile mill down across Second Creek on Baxter Avenue. The mill employed many of the folks that patronized the businesses here over the years. Today the mill site is a big, mostly open piece of ground. Time took its toll on the industry and the grand old buildings. Today the site remains a relic of Knoxville's time as the Underwear Capitol of the World.
The street car ran right past my front doors here. The tracks are buried out there under layers of asphalt. The street car was fantastic because it was electric, non-polluting and convenient. Amazingly, the street car system carried far more passengers down Central in 1925 than all the cars and buses do today. Back then the street car system handled 20 million passenger trips a year. The bus system now handles less than 4 million!
So back to my story...
I was born C.I. Vest Dry Goods and Manufacturing Store Furnishings. At first I just shared this site with a couple houses that faced on Anderson. If you noticed the depression in the parking lot, that's an old cistern from one of the houses. The middle tree on the patio is actually planted in another one; maybe that's why it grows so funky!
My four brother and sister buildings fronting on Central were built over the 15 years between 1915 and 1930.
The corner building, 1200 Central, was Weeks Drug Store for many years, behind it was a barber and beauty shop called Veta's for almost 70 years. Those space are now home to a tv production office and a fashion designer.
Next door, 1202 Central, was a whole bunch of things. It started out as an eating house, as restaurants were known back in 1924. After that it was a butcher, jewelry store, package store, drycleaners, guitar shop, printing press and more. Today a studio for some mighty fine photographers takes up residence there.
1204 Central, the middle building, was built in 1930 as the second location in the Holler of the White Stores Food Market. They moved two doors over to my space, 1208 Central, in 1943. At that point 1204 became a restaurant, which it was until 1966. It has returned to be a vegetarian restaurant once again after 40 years of a variety of businesses.
1206 Central was built the same year as 1204, but was a smaller building back then. If you look toward the rear you'll see the old windows that looked out from the building next door. 1206 was occupied by a radio repair shop, barber, cafe and 5 & dime before becoming an appliance repair shop. Authorized Appliance was there for the 40 years until it became "cheaper" to build something so poorly so that it wasn't repairable. After years of saving things from the scrap heap, it was out of their hands. It's now a fancy smellin' salon called the Chop Shop run by Ms Cindy Lou.
So I was telling ya how I started out as CI Vest Dry Goods, which I was for about twenty years. Then in 1934, I became JR Ellison, still doing dry goods, but fell on hard times.
In 1939 I went vacant.
In 1943 when the White Stores decided to move from two doors down at 1204 Central, my second floor was in such bad shape they torn it off. Some of my orginal wood columns had to be removed and replaced with the steel ones you see now.
If you look up, you'll see the wood structure is actually the original floor joists from the second story. And you can see where the stairs used to be. Those joists now act as a sound dampening baffle and they look pretty cool too. A close inspection of the original wood columns at the back reveals where the mezzanine for the meat department used to be.
In 1964 I became the Central Cafe, but sadly could only survive two years.
Things got real tough around here after the Sinisterstate was built.
You see Central used to be the main highway coming down from the Midwest on the way down South. But overnight Central was cut-off at Sharp's Gap and severed from Clinton Highway. All of the traffic was gone and with it the hotels, restaurants and all the other businesses catering to passersby with their pockets full of cash. Now those businesses are relegated to a cluster of faceless buildings at a placeless "exit".
And so then...time and "progress" bypassed the Holler. And it couldn't have been better. There was a long and steady decline of jobs and residents. However, the flawed planning and policy decisions yielded our biggest asset, a place of un-reproducible character. The businesses and grand old houses survived, albeit a bit worse for wear.
The greatest irony of the situation is why they survived. One reason is the the lack of "potential" for the area meant that no one wanted to tear down the buildings and make yet another parking lot or strip mall. The other reason is tied to the property owners. Most property owners had turned their noses up and fled to the new found Eden of Suburbia. However they needed the income from these properties to pay for it... and over time they took, and they took. Never reinvesting in the properties unless it was to divide the property into yet another substandard apartment. One house up the street was turned into 9 apartments! Today these same people object to spending any of "their" tax dollars downtown. They obviously don't realize that property taxes from downtown were used for the last fifty years to build suburbia.
But, that's history for you, always sneaking up when you don't want it to.
I became Sherwin Williams Automotive Paints from 1966 until 1995. I became several "Antique" stores until 2007. I'm not sure what exactly was happening here over the last little bit; There were auctions of outdated food, old calendars for the "value" of the pictures and what I believe were straight-up bags of trash which they called Deal Bags.
You can understand then why after such a long decline I felt my days were numbered. But then came a friend that could see the warmth and character that have come with my years. He believed in me, fixed me up right, and gave me a new name and purpose. And he brings some pretty cool people in here and some fun like we aint had around here since forever.
My name is now Relix which comes from the spirit, memories and things that inhabit this place.
People always ask me, "so why is this place called Happy Holler?"
Well that my friends is because while here in North Knoxville there are some fine, upstanding citizens... they have been known to conduct in a bit of revelry. And contrary to popular belief, sometimes that revelry was legal.
Happy Holler has seen many changes. But one thing has remained a constant over the years, the good people of North Knoxville remain true to who they are and add a character that is unlike any other place on Earth. And that's why I like it here and work to preserve the experience, entertainment and excitement of this unique and special place.
Thanks for sharing it with me!
Sincerely, Mr. Relix Variety
- What do you want to do when you grow up?
Be a kid.