Two of Knoxville’s most distinctive stores are found on Gay Street. Yee Haw Industries (413 S. Gay St., 865/522-1812) is an upstart letterpress with sass. Its block-lettered posters advertise concerts, shows, and political rallies, and its retail products range from ironic Knoxville-themed calendars to some of the most irresistible notebooks around. Yee Haw’s services have been purchased by low-brow and high-brow alike (the New York Times once hired them to design their Book Review), but you, too, can get in on the action. The Yee Haw store sits at the entrance to their storefront operation, and they sell posters, T-shirts, calendars, note cards, and more. This is a great place to find a gift you won’t see anywhere else.
If Yee Haw Industries is at one end of the Appalachian-country-chic movement, then Mast General Store (402 S. Gay St., 865/546-1336) is the other. The first Mast General Store opened in Valle Crucis, North Carolina, in 1883, and it sold everything that folks needed, “from cradles to caskets,” as it is said. Mast is now a chain with locations in several Southern mountain cities, including Asheville, North Carolina, and Greenville, South Carolina. Like the others, Knoxville’s Mast General Store sells a satisfying variety of sturdy clothing and footwear, classic cookware like cast-iron skillets, old-fashioned candy, and games.
Also on Gay Street, the East Tennessee Historical Society Gift Shop (601 S. Gay St., 865/215-8824) has a good collection of books about Tennessee, local arts and crafts, and T-shirts from the 1982 World’s Fair.
On Market Square there are two funky fashion stores. Vagabondia (27 Market Sq., 865/525-4842) sells sassy trend-setting women’s fashions, including lots of dresses and hats. Re-runs (2 Market Sq., 865/525-9525) is an upmarket thrift store and a downtown institution.
© Susanna Henighan Potter from Moon Tennessee, 5th Edition