The owner of Nashville’s Downtown Antique Mall knew this day was coming.
The century-old warehouse full of quirky antiques is closing Friday after operating for three decades. The mall’s vendors say the reasons for the closure are indicative of the threat to small businesses downtown.
“Antiquing or junking has always been a lot of people’s pastimes,” says Paul Troy, a seller of antique furniture and pictures. Nearby, customers walk through the mall’s booths, tinkering with old rotary phones, vintage snow globes and rusty metal trinkets.
Like many vendors, Troy has turned selling and collecting antiques into a livelihood. He's been doing it for 40 years, he says. But now that the mall is closing its doors on Eighth Avenue South, he feels the push to get out of town.
“Like Huntsville or Chattanooga or Marietta,” Troy explains. “Places that aren’t tearing everything down and throwing their culture away, which unfortunately Nashville’s doing.”
The mall has dozens of vendors, and Troy says some have already found different places to set up shop. Others will start selling on their own.
“These people aren’t going to go out of business. I’m not going out of business. I just won’t be here,” Troy says.
Changes Amid Construction Boom
The Downtown Antique Mall opened in 1988. A year later, Pat Morris started working there as a vendor, and she took over as owner in June 1990.
She says they’ve dodged having to close the mall for years, despite what she calls the "urban sprawl disease" in downtown and SoBro, which are seeing huge amounts of development. She says she felt a shift after a New York-based developer, Harmolio LLC, bought the property and several adjacent lots five years ago.
Morris says she’s gone back and forth with the company for several years trying to extend the lease. It was finally terminated this year.
And although she's accepted the inevitable, she didn’t want it to end like this. “I didn’t choose it," she said. "They chose to do it. I’m not leaving here because I chose to.”
Representatives for Harmolio LLC did not respond to WPLN's request for comment, and it's unclear what will happen to the property.
But Morris says the changes make small business owners like her feel like they don't have a place in downtown Nashville anymore.
“So many old buildings are gone now. There’s holes in the ground all over downtown," she says.
"It’s just another step forward as far as progress is concerned, I guess.”