Emery's 5 & 10 is believed to be oldest family-owned five-and-dime store in the U.S. But the store is struggling, the victim — like its neighboring businesses — of the economy and a bridge construction project that has diverted traffic away and turned the stretch of Chapman Road in Knoxville, Tenn., into what the mayor himself acknowledges is a "ghost area."
Then came last Friday.
Beginning at 10 a.m., nearly 800 people streamed through the doors at Emery's 5 & 10, ringing up 526 sales — many multiples of the store's usual take. The checkout line wrapped through the store, leaving barely enough room to move, said owner Ron Emery, the third generation of Emerys to tend shop there since the business opened in 1927.
"It's beyond our imagination," Emery said.
It was Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett's doing. Recently, Burchett was watching late-night TV and saw a report on "cash mobs" — flash mobs that organize to drive customers to struggling locally owned businesses — and the light bulb went off.
"Somebody was doing something at a hardware store in the Northeast, and I just thought: 'Dadgum. We ought to do that right here in Knoxville,'" Burchett said in an interview with NBC station WBIR.