Nestled behind Kingston Pike on Homberg Drive, Southern Market first opened its doors 23 years ago in 1996. Owner Susan Worthington and her mother Frances Sexton had a vision that a variety of boutiques would all be under one roof. Thus came Southern Market––an unique interior shop that was inspired by boutiques that lined the streets of a village. Since its opening, local merchants have flocked to Southern Market and truly given it a “shop local” feel.
With more than 40 boutiques all in one place, shoppers can find just about anything they are looking for. The Southern Market houses everything from home decor to fashion items to handmade artwork. They also work with over 50 local Etsy artists.
Southern Market was voted Best Gift Shop 2018 and Best Interior Design 2017 in the Knoxville News Sentinel readers poll. According to Worthington, it is one of Knoxville’s best kept secrets when it comes to shopping locally.
“We wanted to provide a shopping experience like no other,” Sexton says on their website. “And, in each of our 20 years in business, we have developed and provided exciting and creative retail experiences for our savvy customers. Our focus is on creating a truly warm, friendly ambiance where it’s decidedly fun to shop.”
Worthington and Sexton wanted to curate an enticing atmosphere for shoppers. From the moment one walks in the front doors, they are met with alluring sights and smells. Each boutique is uniquely designed by their merchants to give shoppers the best experience.
“Our focus is on creating a truly warm, friendly ambiance where it’s decidedly fun to shop,” Worthington says. “Southern Market is at its core a place to uplift the soul and regenerate the mind…a place that stimulates the senses and invigorates one’s inner creative being.”
As a start-up business itself, Southern Market welcomes all local entrepreneurs who want to start their own small business. They employ sales associates who handle the daily work and processes so that the entrepreneurs can focus on their products and business as a whole. Worthington knows that starting a business is costly due to all of the overhead expenses and this is why she implemented that all merchants of Southern Market split the costs to make it more affordable for those wanting to start up their businesses.
“Our merchants are free to concentrate on new products, merchandising, spend more time with family and friends, or to pursue hobbies such as travel or professional careers,” Worthington says. “We offer a variety of affordable space options, from a single shelf to an entire shop, to fit the needs of each entrepreneur looking to succeed in today’s competitive retail environment.
Southern Market’s main goal is to help these small merchants flourish into successful businesses. They have had various merchants leave and open their own brick and mortar stores because of their success at Southern Market.
“At Southern Market, you are in business for yourself but not by yourself,” Worthington says.
While Southern Market aims to give Knoxvillian entrepreneurs the help needed to jumpstart their businesses, they also aim to give shoppers a place to go for all of their wants and needs. Southern Market’s inviting atmosphere will draw shoppers in and keep them coming back for more. There is something for everyone at Southern Market.
Southern Market holds a multitude of events each year for both merchants and shoppers. Details of these events are often posted on their various social media accounts: @southernmarketshops on Instagram or their Facebook page. Their events are meant to engage with the community and share what’s behind their walls.
“Beyond the creative storefront, Southern Market merchants gear up for festivals at Southern Market three times each year,” according to their website. “From a festive outdoor Spring Fling the first of April reminiscent of a trendy Parisian flea market to an orange & white Tailgate Party in August, where merchants sell their wares from the tailgates of their vehicles, Southern Market gives shoppers the unique shopping experiences they crave. Holiday ideas will be endless with interior design presentations, artist workshops, trunk shows, and feature events at the festive Annual Holiday Open House that is scheduled for each November. The holiday event is guaranteed to be full of ideas for the homeowner with an insatiable thirst for decorating.”
Southern Market is one of Knoxville’s hidden gems and gives back to the community in more ways than just giving business owners an avenue. They support local charities all throughout the year as well such as Alex’s Lemonade Stand, the Pat Summitt Clinic (fighting Alzheimer’s), Children’s Hospital, Knoxville Executive Women, and so many more.
“All of us at Southern Market would like to thank you for voting Southern Market as Knoxville’s Best Gift Shop in the Knoxville News-Sentinel,” Worthington says. “We are more than delighted to offer [an] unique shopping experience for Knoxville and to support local small business merchants and Etsy artists.”
Southern Market is open Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and is located at 5400 Homberg Dr, Knoxville.