New business owners in Chattanooga's Southside say they can feel the "electricity" as more shops invigorate the transforming neighborhood.
"We get to be part of making Main Street Main Street again," said Angie Pilkington, co-owner of The Hair Lounge, a salon that opened last week on the corner of Main and Market streets.
Now painted a bright white, the 3,500-square-foot building that once was a Western Union with just one window, is a salon that gives customers the impression of being in an old-time powder room. Its owners, Pilkington and Jennifer Miller, say they chose the location because they could feel the excitement in the neighborhood amid its revitalization.
"Being on the corner, it's kind of a hinge," Miller said, adding that she and Pilkington have been able to breathe life into a space that has sat empty for years. "There's a lot of movement here, and it's such a community."
That's a characteristic Southside resident Ken Hays said is attracting many businesses to the area.
Aside from its close proximity to the waterfront and downtown, the Southside's tenants come together to help out those who move in, he said.
"It's becoming a neighborhood where the three main things of live, work and play all happen," said Hays, who moved to the area three years ago. "Every year we've seen a real growth of people and businesses moving in."
Further down East Main, another addition to the neighborhood recently opened.
Mainly Antiques, an antique furniture and art shop specializing in pieces from Eastern Europe, made a debut a month ago. The 1,200-square-foot space is set up more like a gallery than an antique shop, allowing customers to "focus on the style and usability of each piece," said owner Stephen Harper.
Having operated two other antique shops for about 14 years, with a hiatus for the last several, Harper said it was time to "get re-engaged with what's happening on Main Street."
A couple months ago, he bought the stretch of shops on the corner of East Main Street and Central Avenue, with hopes to make the area "a center for home furnishings," he said.
Right now, the development has several tenants -- including his antique shop and Griffin's Hot Dogs -- and he said he hopes to soon fill the roughly half-dozen other spaces.
Hays said the addition of the new shops, as well as others that have moved into the Southside within the past year, are a testament to the area's strength even in a tough economic time.
"You're starting to see some now that aren't retail, but into technology and related stuff that are moving in," he said. "It only gets better and better, and because of the economy, the business growth hasn't been as steady, but I bet you there are not many places in Chattanooga where there has actually been growth versus shrinking."