Last minute shoppers pass the mall for revitalized downtown

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Knoxville (WVLT) – On Sunday there was only one day left for Christmas.

Most of the remaining holiday shoppers could have been called procrastinators, but they might prefer to be called last minuet shoppers.

With time ticking down, many people packed the parking lots of West Town Mall, Knoxville Center Mall and Turkey Creek.

But one wild card shopping destination is gaining more popularity each holiday season.

That place is Downtown Knoxville’s Gay Street, where the shopping mecca is Mast General Store.

“This time last year, I didn't see people on the sidewalk like I do now," said David Schultz, one of Mast’s managers.

It’s part of downtown revitalization, standing on a street that is in the middle of reinventing itself.

"We've been to Knoxville and it's really looks like everything is picking up,” said Julia Wood, and out of town shopper. “Everybody is working really hard to make it look nice."

Just a few years ago, Gay Street was a dead zone for business.

Now it’s a thing of the past thanks to businesses like Mast General, who are now seeing Christmas cash receipts for a second season.

And the influx of green is turning the numbers to black.

"I think as you look around it's obvious that there's a lot of people here,” said Schultz. “They're happy, they're spending time with us and spending some money."

And spending the money this late in the season means one thing.

“We are last minute stocking stuffers,” said Matt and LeAnne Garrett. “We're really finished and we keep going and that's kind of scary."

Other late shoppers were hoping to knock out all their shopping with one downtown blow.

"Well I hadn't done any till I got here, so I’m trying to cover a lot of bases with one stop," said Buddy Mock, an out of town shopper.

And while parking places are at a premium at the malls, downtown's renaissance offers equally as good competition on shopping bargains and what some shoppers call better parking alternatives.

"They’ve got a parking garage just down the block and it's free on Sundays,” said Mock. “We looped in and just walked on over."

Mast General and several smaller downtown shops are going for a niche they hope Turkey Creek and the malls can't service, a little more of a folksy approach to dollar game.

According to Schultz, the spirited attempt seems to be working.

"The other night as I was leaving the store, it was 10:00 PM and we even stayed open a little bit late and there was tons of people on the sidewalks,” he said, “it was really neat to see."

Schultz said he didn’t have stats to back him up just yet, but he was confident that this holiday shopping season has been a good one.

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