Inside a 21/2-story brick building on Chattanooga's North Shore, the word "recession" causes little anxiety.
For the past three years, business at Knitting Mill Antiques, an antique mall that houses nearly 100 dealers, has been better than ever, said owners Scott and Lynn Short.
"We've practically been recession proof," said Scott Short, a Realtor who opened the antique mall with his wife in 2003. "People who like to collect antiques, they've got to have their fix. It doesn't matter what the economy is like; there's always demand."
He attributes the mall's success to several factors. Achieving full occupancy was a start, he said, and the many businesses that have popped up around the North Shore have helped increase foot traffic and reaffirmed the couple's choice of the Manufacturers Road site.
J.Ed. Marston, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's vice president of marketing, said the North Shore is "a bright spot" in the Scenic City's retail industry. Development along Frazier Avenue and Manufacturers Road has made the area an "extremely dynamic local retail center," he said.
And the Shorts are trying to make the area even more dynamic. Earlier this year, they took on an "80/20 approach" for their merchandise, where 80 percent is antique or vintage and the remaining 20 percent is made up of new, handmade, one-of-a-kind items.
A few months ago, the couple incorporated artwork into their offerings, sparking the idea to transform the former knitting mill's bare second floor into a studio and showcasing space for about 25 local artists to sell their artwork.
"We think there's a real need for an artist studio locally," Lynn Short said. "It's not going to be a gallery. We think this will be more attractive for the general public, so they can appreciate the work without the formality of a gallery. We wanted to be able to create a space for the artists as well."
The Shorts are gauging interest among local artists before they begin actual construction on the area, but they think they can have everything in place by late winter if all goes well.
During a time when many businesses are struggling to stay out of the red, the couple said they are thankful they've been able to thrive.
"It's a blessing," Scott Short said. "We're in one of the very few businesses that is not just sustainable, but expandable in these dreadful economic times."