Fourth And Gill's Scrappin' In The City Brings Together A Community Of Hobbyists

When Fountain City craft boutique Scrappin' in the City decided to relocate to Fourth and Gill, some customers and friends of its three female owners were concerned. Says co-owner Yvette Morris, "When we first said that we were going to be moving here people were like ‘Oh no, Fifth Avenue, you're going to get mugged!'"

"We haven't had any problems at all," Morris is happy to report. "A lot of people now downtown say, ‘Oh, we can come here on our lunch break or we can come on the way home, and it's been really good.'"

Morris shares ownership of the store with best friends Jennifer Henderson and Sara Preston. The trio refer to themselves as "The City Chicks" and keep their store well stocked with all kinds of treats for memory book makers. Ribbon, glitter, high quality papers and stamping inks: all can be found on the color-coordinated shelves at Scrappin' in the City.

Preston and Henderson came up with the idea for a scrapbooking-specific craft store and insisted that Morris join in. Preston admits that they didn't exactly notice a need for such a business. "I would love to say that we really researched the market and studied the trends before opening the store, but we actually just had the hunch and jumped without thinking twice."

The concept of Scrappin' in the City came out of its owners' close friendship. Preston explains, "Jenn and I met at church when I started attending with my fiancée, now husband. I was a Longaberger [Basket Company] sales rep and soon Jenn got involved too. A few months later, Yvette found me as a sales rep online and joined my sales team. We began taking road trips together, scrapbooking together, and the rest is history."

The store moved into its new Fourth and Gill location, a stately red brick mansion on Hall of Fame Drive, last April, having been in Fountain City since November of 2007.

Preston is the only City Chick native to Knoxville, while Henderson is from Memphis. She came to Knoxville to attend UT and decided to stay here after graduating. All are married with children, and have other careers outside of the store. Henderson works as a hairdresser, and Preston has done accounting work periodically for about nine years, mainly helping out with her husband's electrical business.

Morris is an accountant as well. Originally from Australia, she says, "I came on vacation to visit a friend in Washington state, and the short version is I met my husband [who now works as a corporate lawyer for an environmental firm in Oak Ridge] and he got transferred to Knoxville. And he said, ‘Do you want to go to Knoxville, Tenn.?' And I was like ‘…okay' and I had no idea where Knoxville, Tenn. was. I'm from just outside of Sydney."

The store features a hand-picked design team of six people that changes every six months. These designers are responsible for turning out three new ideas monthly, using materials sold in the store. Their sample projects help scrappers find their inspiration and demonstrate how products are used, and also dictate what items will sell out most quickly.

"Some of our paper lines sell out in two days, so they'll go and make a sample and we have to take it down because the paper's gone," Morris says. "People come in and they go, ‘I like that page, I want all of the stuff on that page,' so we learned very quickly if that stuff's not in the store we need to take [the sample] down."

The store hosts frequent "crops" in their upstairs workroom, where those with works in progress meet up on a Friday night. In addition to allowing scrappers to get some work done, it fills a certain entertainment niche. Morris says of her customers, "Most of them are moms—there are a few grandmothers but most are just moms, whether they have 20-year-old kids or baby kids, working on an album."

Giving women a chance to socialize away from family obligations has been a constant goal at Scrappin' in the City. Preston says, "When we began scrapbooking together years ago, that's exactly what we craved: the girl time. We wanted our store to feel like your best friend's home, where you're always welcome."

In addition to crops and workshops, the store offers popular seasonal retreats, for which a group of about 20 women heads to a cabin in Pigeon Forge for a weekend of socializing and scrapbooking. There's always a full wait-list of customers vying for an open spot.

About the business' future, Morris says, "We'll figure it out as we go along." However, the City Chicks know that 2010 will bring a community outreach project with Knox Area Rescue Ministries. "KARM has asked us to do some crops with the women in the shelters and we're going to start doing that," Morris says.