For the last four years, barbershop owner Antwann Hollis has relied on foot traffic from the Tennessee State University Homecoming parade to help increase business and visibility for his Jefferson St. shop. But now that the parade route has changed, he’s looking for other ways to help spike his business.
“They’ve been coming down here for about 100 years. Now on the 100 year anniversary, that’s when they want to change it. That’s not good for our businesses down here,” said Hollis, owner of Unbelievable Barber Shop.
The route, slated only for the 2012 parade, is said to offer wider streets to better accommodate the large floats and the influx in the crowd. Last year, an estimated 50,000 people attended the parade. University officials anticipate nearly double that for the 100 year celebration.
According to a TSU press release, the route will start at Walter S. Davis Boulevard near the Gentry Complex, turn right onto Ed Temple Boulevard, make another right onto John Merritt Boulevard, turn left onto 33rd Avenue and then end on Albion Street. The parade will start at 9 a.m., Sept. 29.
“Homecoming is a special community event and I am very pleased a solution was found that will help ensure safety for parade participants and parade-goers,” said Dr. Portia Shields, interim TSU President in a statement released by the university.
“This is our Centennial Homecoming, a celebration of 100 years of faithful service, first to the community, the state and now the world. We believe the new route will be just as lively and fun as the old route for spectators, only safer.”
The parade route will loop through campus, essentially eliminating the inclusion of businesses and parts of the city. Yusef Harris, owner of Akebu-lan book store at the corner of Jefferson St. and 28th Ave, says, containing the parade to campus and cutting out the businesses means a cut in profit for businesses along Jefferson St.
Yusef Harris, owner of Akebu-lan Book Store on Jefferson Street, rings up customer Janelle Ballard. Harris says the parade route change will hurt his business.
“People follow the parade route. We see a significant financial difference. No question. There are like 100 vendors who set up. It’s less revenue for me. Fortunately, I’m able to rent space on my plot and seek additional revenue from vendors who want to sell on my lot. I recoup some of my losses from retail over the year with renting the space during Homecoming,” said Harris.
The route change isn’t winning over some TSU alumni either.
“You just get used to following that parade route from Fisk all the way to TSU. It’s very symbolic and it brings a sense of pride when you think about all of the local Black owned businesses right there,” said Fred Matthews, 1998 TSU graduate and long-time customer of Unbelievable Barber Shop.
“People are walking through seeing these things. The churches are involved. Just the history and the tradition that comes along with that is what I love and appreciate.”
According to TSU, the committee of community members, the university and city officials made the recommendation to change the route as early as 2009. The parade will return to its original route next year.