1. The Disc Exchange plaza
One of my friends says he considers this nameless plaza the southern limit of downtown, which makes a certain kind of sense. It’s just a bit south of the bridge, and the combination of the Disc Exchange and the mighty Book Eddy give it a sort of urban intellectual character. It’s a hipster strip plaza. (A stripster plaza?) There’s a title-loan place to add the kind of street cred that hipsters respect, plus two Latino businesses: the Copa Cabana Sports Bar and Nightclub, and a taqueria/carniceria called La Huasteca. Hipsters like saying “taqueria.”
2. The Uncle Easy’s plaza
Maybe my favorite oddball Chapman strip, this is a set of cinder-block buildings painted beige and white, housing still more Spanish-language eateries (Del Potosi Bakery and Restaurante El Quetzal), plus the nerdtastic Comics Exchange, a House of Brakes, a tax-prep service and a hair salon. And right in the middle, of course, is Uncle Easy’s Pawn and Loan. If you need to hock something, wouldn’t you want it to be with a guy named Uncle Easy?
3. Chapman Square
The big daddy of Chapman Highway strip plazas, with an admirable 20:3 ratio of occupied to vacant storefronts, home to South Knoxville’s central Kroger and a range of financial services (H&R Block, Check Into Cash, Jackson Hewitt, Sunbelt Credit, Edward Jones), eat-in or take-out joints (Cancun, Napoli Pizza, Papa Murphy’s Take ‘n’ Bake Pizza), plus a Dollar Tree, a laundromat and Mr. Tobacco. Out in front, there’s a Buddy’s BBQ, a Baskin-Robbins and a gas station. Almost all your needs served in one parking lot. There used to be a jewelry store here where I once bought an engagement ring, but it appears to be gone.
4. Colonial Village Plaza
Now, here you can buy an engagement ring, probably, at Vincent Jewelry. This is one of those small, aging, low-roofed plazas that tend to fill up with eclectic local merchants. There’s a lot of pre-owned merchandise—women’s clothes at Gina’s Consignment, kids’ stuff at Rugrats—plus Oaks Unlimited furniture, a hair salon, and the inevitable payday lender.
5. The Colonial Hardware plaza
This clump of two buildings—one running roughly east-west, the other north-south—doesn’t have a formal name as far as I can tell, but it has some great stores. The Horse Emporium, Colonial Hardware (a peek through the window shows a group of gray-haired men sitting around yapping), The Village Bakery, and most especially Kay’s Ice Cream. The root beer floats are still good, I checked. This is also that rarest of things, a mixed-use strip plaza. There are apartments for rent upstairs.
6. Chapman Ford Crossing
One of those increasingly common features of the plaza landscape, a shopping center that lost its anchor when Walmart relocated (to the snazzy new Carson Pointe development a few miles south). Part of the Walmart building is now occupied by one of those mysterious, signless businesses that announce their presence only through cars in the parking lot. A call center? A training center? Who knows? The building still presents a soulless blank facade. The other end of the huge plaza is held down by an outpost of The Rush fitness center, but in between there are only a handful of lonely businesses interspersed among more than a half-dozen empty storefronts, big and small. There’s a dentist, a “Martial Arts Afterschool Program,” the Gilded Gown dress shop, something called Church on Fire (evidently only active on Wednesdays and Sundays), I (Heart) NY Pizza, and Cheersport, “Home of the Sevier County Storm.”
7. Highland View Center
Far out on Chapman, almost to Seymour, is this red-roofed patchwork of a place with a finely graded assortment of services. The ends are held down by two establishments flashing booze signs—Daniel’s Bar & Grill and Niks Naks and Snacks (Drive-Thru Cold Beer)—and in between you have an antiques place (Living Vintage), two haircut joints (one for men, one for women), Craig’s Firearm Supply Inc., and something under construction called The Summit Church, which has a banner advertising live webcasts of its services. There used to be an Asian massage parlor right next door, but maybe the church vans in the parking lot were discouraging massage business. In any case, a sign on the door indicates the parlor has renamed and relocated north to somewhere off Callahan Drive.