Here are some fun facts about downtown Knoxville
Angela Gosnell/News Sentinel


What’s new in your community? Find out here at the Shopper News blog. We’ll have updates on people, places, businesses, schools and sports in your community. Check back throughout the week.


Just call him The Amazing Mr. Partin

Mike Blackerby, Shopper News correspondent 

At age 94, World War II veteran John Partin is quite the celebrity at the Community Center for seniors in Powell.

“Mr. Partin usually comes in two days a week,” said Janice White, director and board chairman for the center, which hosts a myriad of free events and activities for about 300 area seniors each month.

Partin, who still drives, is hardly your average nonagenarian. He usually works out at Tennova a couple of days a week before heading over to the Community Center.

“We just love him,” said White. “He comes in at least two days a week and plays bingo and cards with us. We’re always hugging and kissing on him.”

White said the mission statement of the Community Center is to help and assist seniors like Partin, whose wife of 70 years, Retha, died on Feb. 14, 2016.

The Partins even have a website,, that chronicles John and Retha’s life together.

There are also vivid remembrances on the website by Partin of his service during World War II.

“Mr. Partin really needed that connectivity after his wife passed away,” said White.

“We find that there are a lot of people in that situation. They quit socializing, and this gives them a reason to get up and get going.”

Partin said the Community Center has been a blessing.

“I try to stay busy,” he said. “I go here at least two days a week and go to the senior exercise center three times a week where I do water aerobics and some exercises on machines. I try not to get too strong,” he said with a laugh.

In the Navy    

Partin joined the Navy in 1942 and served in the Pacific Theater during World War II aboard the USS Hovey, a mine sweeper, and the USS Carmita, a supply vessel.

Like most World War II veterans, Partin is reluctant to talk about his experiences during the war.

“I’ve seen ships get hit with kamikaze attacks, seen ships shoot down planes and seen several ships get sunk. It seems kind of like a dream now.”

However, Partin was quick to recall one instance that has vividly stuck with him all these years.

“I was a signalman on our boat and I heard all of these people hollering. Fireworks started going off all over these ships, and I found out the war was over. We found out that Japan had surrendered.”

A final mail call   

Partin was one of several area veterans who took part in HonorAir Knoxville’s most recent trip to Washington, D.C.

The program has flown more than 3,000 veterans, at no cost, to see the memorials built in their honor in the nation’s capital.

“It was real interesting and good,” said Partin. “They treated us like royalty.”

The veterans were surprised with a symbolic mail call on their return flight from Washington.

Long before the days of email, cellphones and texting, mail call was a much-anticipated way for enlisted men to get letters from back home.

“I got a letter from my daughter, Linda Gail Garrett. It said, ‘Daddy, I’m so proud of you for being in the Navy and I’m still proud of you.’”

More: Rule High still rules in memories of former students



Communities of faith gather for response on climate

Carol Z. Shane, Shopper News correspondent 

Several communities of faith gathered recently at Clinton Chapel AME Zion Church to express their concern for global climate change.

Presented by Tennessee Interfaith Power & Light (TIPL), the event was titled “Caring for All Creation,” and three choirs presented music relevant to the topic.

Performing were the Agape Choir of Clinton Chapel under the direction of Marla Fox, the Church of the Savior Choir under the direction of Alexandra Engle and the Knoxville AME Zion District Church Choir under the direction of Doris Talley. The event was hosted by the Rev. John Butler and the Rev. Donna Butler of Clinton Chapel.

“Reverend Donna,” as she is known to her congregation, says, “My husband and I joined TIPL because we see the need of being good stewards over the earth as God has instructed his people to do. Our desire is to get more community involvement and reach out to others who desire to live in a better environment.”

According to its website, “the mission of the Tennessee Interfaith Power & Light is to spiritually respond to the challenges of the climate crisis through upholding the sacredness of all life, protecting vulnerable communities, and caring for the Earth.”

Louise Gorenflo, executive director of TIPL, says the nonprofit’s stance on environmental responsibility is “a moral issue” and that the choral event “was designed to build bridges in the community. Talking about climate change can be challenging for many reasons.” A “carbon tithe” was taken at the event’s conclusion. Funds from such a tithe go to support efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, offset environmental burdens placed on lower income and/or vulnerable communities, and finance other initiatives to reduce carbon footprints.

Other than funds, how does a choral concert help? 

“Celebrating creation/Earth through music is a positive way to message the importance of caring for our planet,” says Gorenflo. “Through music people can feel connected to one another, and some of the issues/divisions surrounding politics, economics, and faith beliefs tend to evaporate. My hope for TIPL, and this event in particular, is to continue connecting with people where they are, enabling us to work together toward climate change action.

“We are called to protect the wholeness of life and to bring to life our love for the Creator. Caring for creation recognizes the utter sacredness and wholeness of life and the mystery of creation of which we are part, and that when we care for creation we worship the Divine.”

“Reverend Donna” agrees. “Prayerfully, others will take environmental concerns seriously, and progress will be made as we strive to live in a better place. Not only for us, but for the future generation and those who have yet to be born. Caring for the environment is a joint effort, and we need people to join in!”



Show Thumbnails

Show Captions




Kids’ hair salon cuts the boredom, poufs up the fun

John Shearer, Shopper News correspondent 

When Dustin and Kendra Garrels had their first son, they did not like the hair-cutting place they went to after he finally received his first cut.

“It was awful and we never went back, and since then I started cutting his hair,” said Kendra Garrels.

But they kept hearing on the Nextdoor social website and elsewhere about great kids’ hair-cutting places in other cities where the people making posts used to live.

So by the time their second son came along, rather than keep looking, they decided to open their own shop like some of the people referenced.

The result is the first Sharkey’s Cuts for Kids franchised hair-cutting salon in Knoxville or Tennessee. Located in the commercial area near the Starbucks just across Montvue Road from West Town Mall, the store held its formal opening on April 21 after a soft opening several days earlier.

Balloon animals, face paining and spray tattoos were part of the festivities, and the youngsters received some free Dippin’ Dots ice cream with a haircut.

For Kendra Garrels, the opening itself has been a sweet reward. After deciding to open a franchise, the couple actually had trouble finding an ideal location that was conveniently located near Interstate 40 and not too far from their Hardin Valley home.

“We looked for a spot for four months,” she said. “Finding space that’s the right size was way harder than we ever imagined.”

The location they found at 7834 Montvue Center Way had been the site of the Laniakea Flotation Tanks health spa, so a construction equivalent of a buzz haircut was required to redo it almost completely into the hair salon.

A look inside this store now that the work has been finished might make a visitor with children think he or she has come to a play area rather than a place to get a haircut. Three toy vehicles – including a fire truck with a water hose – sit at the front and are used as barber chairs for younger children. Nearby are chairs where the older youngsters – and maybe even their fathers – can sit and play Xbox games while getting their hair cut, and even after they get finished.

In the back is a girls lounge area where young girls can feel like they are being treated like a young princess, complete with a little pampering. That area also has a blue and pink toy car chair.

The whole concept is that while having their hair cut, the youngsters can also cut out the feeling of having to sit formally and patiently in a chair.

“It’s great for distracting the kids,” Garrels said of some of the features. “Anything it takes to get the job done.”

The store also has a stuffed shark mascot by the front door. The name of the business came from store and franchise founder Scott Sharkey.

Besides the unique offerings, the wide range of children’s ages that can be served was what was also appealing to Garrels.

“It’s not just a baby salon,” she said. “If I have two or three kids, I don’t want to go to different places. I only want to go to one place.”

While the Garrels family was getting the inside of the salon ready to open and draw customers, they did some informal sales pitch work outside the facility as well. That included being at the recent Duck Duck Goose consignment sale and attending various PTA events in the local schools.

They also hired three licensed stylists, one of whom will serve as manager because both Garrels work regular jobs at Alcoa Corporation in Blount County.

“The stylists are awesome,” said Garrels, who, like her husband, is formerly from the Great Plains area and attended college in Kansas. “They have a passion for working with kids.”

While she will not be involved in cutting hair after being forced to cut her son’s by necessity, Garrels said she hopes to watch others cut hair at Sharkey’s for a long time.

“We hope to grow it,” she said of the business, which is open every day but Monday.



Show Thumbnails

Show Captions



Forever His Day Camp welcomes special needs families

Nancy Anderson, Shopper News correspondent 

Karns Church of Christ seemed to be a place of happiness for 26 special needs kids who attended the Forever His Bible Camp at the church Saturday, April 14.

Started three years ago, the camp offers a day of respite for parents of mild, moderate, and severe special needs kids. The kids spend the day with two buddies each doing a multitude of highly sensory activities such as a black light game room, bounce house, puppets, a scavenger hunt, and of course lunch.

This event’s theme was “Down on the Farm” so the kids were treated to a petting zoo as well.

The church sponsors either a day camp, similar to vacation Bible school, or a party twice a year.

The camp gives the parents a chance to have a little time to themselves knowing their kids are safe with people who care and can deal with their special needs, whatever they may be.

Coordinator Kim Higginbotham said this event was pared down from past events due to construction at the church.

“Normally we have attendees from preschool to adult, but this spring we had to limit it to preschool to middle school. We have a 2½-year-old and a 14-year-old. We’re having construction here at the church so we have limited space, but we weren’t going to cancel under any circumstances. It’s an important day for the kids and their parents.”

Higginbotham said she started the camp because as a former special needs teacher she’s aware that most activities for kids are geared toward typically developing kids.

It’s important for the parents, too, as they get a breather from childcare for a few hours.

“Families don’t get respite care. They rarely get a few hours to themselves to get things done or just go and enjoy themselves for a little while.

“Similar camps cost a fortune, but this one is free. We want it to be accessible to every child, even those with moderate to severe needs. We have kids with severe medical issues including cerebral palsy, seizure disorders, spina bifida, feeding tubes. Each child has two volunteers, we call them ‘buddies’, many of whom are doctors and nurses.”

The end game is to make Karns Church of Christ a place where all kids and families are welcome regardless of their special circumstances.

“We want to be inclusive, a place where parents can come and belong. We’ll do whatever it takes to make the child successful here. We have buddies or if I need to start a special class, whatever it takes because we want the parents to have a church home and community. We want them to know they’re not excluded or invisible, they’re very welcome here.”




When you remodel, all the walls come down

Leslie Snow, Shopper News columnist

The walls of a house are there for a reason. They do more than protect us from the wind and the rain. They do more than keep the wilderness at bay. Walls allow us to hide ourselves from the rest of the world, to keep our private lives private.

But when you remodel your home, the walls come down, both literally and figuratively. When workers arrive at 7:30 in the morning and don’t pack up to leave until you’re putting dinner on the table, they learn a lot about you. Sometimes more than you want them to know.

They know, for instance, that I’m not dressed and ready to take on the day first thing in the morning. They know I don’t function well without my coffee, and unfortunately, they know about my special relationship with my yoga pants.

I try to convince myself that no one is paying attention to what I’m wearing, but sometimes I feel the need to explain. I find myself saying things like “When you work at home, you want to be comfortable.” Or “You know, I have three pairs of these leggings. I don’t really wear the same thing every day. It just looks like I do.”

It’s embarrassing to be an over-discloser, but right around the time I decide I don’t need to explain my daily hoodie rotation, one of the workers will say, “I see you’ve got your walking clothes on.” And I think, let’s not pretend, we all know they’re my walking clothes, and my working clothes, and my relaxing clothes. Come to think about it, there are at least 20 men in Knoxville who know I’m an outfit repeater and only one of them is my husband.

But that’s not all they know.

They know what I look like without makeup.

They know I don’t shower until midafternoon.

They know I’ve gotten to the point where I shower even when there are strange men in the house.

They know I like to drink white wine in the evening. (Note to self, buy more red solo cups).

They know I stress-eat chips and reward myself with chocolate.

They know I sometimes forget to throw my wrappers away.

They know I let my laundry pile up.

They know I talk to myself.

They know I talk to my dog. In a baby voice.

They’ve seen what’s behind my refrigerator and what’s under my bed.

They know I’m not a great housekeeper.

They know I spend too much time talking on the phone.

They know I’m a procrastinator.

They know I swear too much.

They know I laugh at my own jokes.

After three months of construction, my facade has faded. I can’t hide myself from the folks who’ve worked so hard to transform my outdated house. I’ve been exposed.

Most people see only what you choose to reveal to them. They see you at meetings, at the grocery store, or at social gatherings. They see you clean and tidy and ready to take on the day. But when you see people every day, in your home, for an extended period of time, they get to know the real you. Whether you want them to or not.

And now that I’ve been seen, I think it’s time to wrap up our remodeling project. I’ve had my walls taken down and I’m ready for them to go back up again.

Leslie Snow may be reached at

More: Shopper News blog: Catch up on last week’s stories!




Show Thumbnails

Show Captions


Read or Share this story: