CONNECTING THE DOTS

Drink, shop or crop: The new face of business on Gallatin (Avenue, Road) Pike

  • Even though officially there is no “Gallatin Road,” (technically it’s “Avenue” or “Pike,” depending on the street sign) this primary artery has long supplied the lifeblood of commerce to the East Side. Suburban flight, interstate highways and the mallamazation of America that began in the late 1960s transformed former neighborhood retail corridors like Gallatin Road into an often sad collection of fast food and retail chains, embarrassing eyesores and empty lots. Yet as new residents pour into the neighborhoods on both sides of Gallatin Road, unusual and, most importantly, locally owned business, are establishing beachheads. The revitalization of an entire block often starts with one or two pioneers setting down roots and establishing a new cultural climate. Eventually, the dots connect. It’s a pattern that’s worked for such East Side nexuses as 5 Points and Riverside Village and is now coming into play for stretches of Gallatin Road.
         Starting at the Nashville Public Library East Branch and running north to the intersection at Cleveland Street is a great example of new businesses combining with beloved veterans to connect the dots. The Fuselage (608 Gallatin Ave) is the newest end point on the line from 5 Points to Stratton Avenue. Owner Cal Ecker sees the space as far more than the stereotypical “antique and art mall” concept. Opening in August, the space was initially filled with items from Ecker’s own collection of antiques and furnishings, along with contributions from industrial design guru Rob Hartman and designer/artist Anna Cox. Cox’s unique creations, crafted from airplane bodies and parts, served as an inspiration for the shop’s name. Since opening, several other dealers have come on board with a variety of large and small collectables. The small, open-mike stage in the shop has also played host to many Nashville musicians.
         “Half the people that come in here are musicians,” Ecker says, “and I ask them if they’d like to play a song. We’ve probably had over a hundred performances just by random people coming in.”
          Across the street another recent addition, Smokers Abbey, is the new anchor for the south end of the retail complex at 604 Gallatin Ave. Although Gallatin Road has long been home to discount cigarette stores, Chris Hayzlett and Joshua Stump are looking to change the game with a large selection of fine cigars and pipe tobaccos.
         “We really want to be a tobacconist rather than a tobacco store,” Hayzlett says, “a place to educate people about fine tobaccos and provide them. If you’re a new cigar smoker, it’s really hard going into the average shop, and you usually don’t get a lot of help or information. We’re the place where people can learn how the tobacco is grown, how the different wrappers affect it and more. We make a point to go into the (walk-in) humidor with every customer and help them select the right cigar that fits their palate.”
         With stately leather upholstered easy chairs and dignified décor, the shop’s back room lounge area invokes the feel of an old-fashioned “gentlemen’s club” from the days when that term meant enjoying conversation by the fireplace with good friends, a snifter of whiskey and a fine cigar. To that end, the shop is open until 11:00 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends. Customers are encouraged to stop by for an after-dinner smoke and conversation. “We’ve been getting a crowd of regulars who often stop by around 7:30 or 8:00 and stay until we close,” Hayzlett says. “We want people to think of the shop as someplace comfortable to hang out and relax.”
         Traveling north, The Dog Spot, which opened in 2011, was a welcome addition to the stretch of Gallatin Road between Eastland and Douglas Avenue. Chad Baker, the owner of the popular doggie hotel and grooming business is now poised to leap into the retail pet supplies trade with the opening of Spot’s Pet Supply & Dogwash at 1013 Gallatin Ave.
         “I got sick of looking out the front of The Dog Spot and seeing that dilapidated building across the street,” Baker says. After he purchased the building and began extensive renovations, he offered to lease the space to a local pet supply company but got no response. “So I decided we already know 30 percent of the dog owners in the neighborhood, and they’ve been very loyal to us. So why don’t we offer them something that we can’t at The Dog Spot?”
         The shop will carry a variety of items for dogs, cats and even some backyard chicken supplies. “It’s hard to believe,” Baker says, “but we really can compete with PetSmart on most items. If we do have to charge more, you’re still saving 30 minutes of time and at least $2 in gas compared to going to Rivergate or 100 Oaks.”
         Spot’s will also feature do-it-yourself, stateof- the-art dog wash facilities, with all proceeds from the wash going to various charities. On weekends, Baker plans to make the wash facilities available to local dog rescue groups. He recently leased the other half of the building to a local confectioner, making for another new “dot” on the Gallatin Road map.
         Two clucks, a hop up the street and a skip back on the west side of Gallatin Road, Hey Rooster General Store opened in April and has set a unique and homey vibe at 1106 Gallatin Ave. Nashville native and former architect, Courtney Webb spent eight years living in Brooklyn before she returned home with the idea of opening a gift store specializing in U.S.-made, hand-crafted products. When she found the solitary, two-story block building available on Gallatin Road, her ideas, products and a unique location all came together.
         “The building makes the brand of my store.” Webb says. “It’s becoming a destination. I’m really glad that I ended up on this weird stretch of Gallatin Road. I love the history of general stores. They were a place where the community came together. A place to stop, get a soda and just chat.”
          Hey Rooster carries small-batch foods from across the United States, home goods, personal accessories, apothecary items and jewelry. The second floor has also played host to several special events including a local small-batch foods showcase, a diddley bow workshop and a stop-motion animation class. A pop-up shop for local furniture makers will be featured upstairs through the holidays.
         Moving up Gallatin Road, the west side of the short block between Litton Avenue and Trinity Lane has undergone a dramatic transformation during the last two years. Dubbed “Wrong Side Village” by Logue’s Black Raven Emporium co-owner Robert Logue, this stretch of personality-laden businesses — Logue’s, Lone Wolf Tattoo, B-Side Salon, and Carlisa’s Hair and Nail Salon — will soon be joined by the growler/tap room The Hop Stop and recently welcomed Mickey’s Tavern at 2907 Gallatin Pike.
         Owned by Andy and Becky Gaines, Mickey’s Tavern is dedicated to the old-fashioned concept of a bar: a place for drinks and conversation. “I don’t know how to describe it,” Andy Gaines says, “but I know what it’s not. It’s not bands, DJs, karaoke or trivia nights. It’s just an ordinary bar.” His wife, Becky, cuts in with a more precise description. “It’s a place to go and have a conversation, and you don’t have to shout. You can have some social time without having to yell over something else. It’s somewhere people that live in East Nashville can go when all the other bars are saturated with people — a place to relax, not party.”
         The location has long been home to a succession of rough-and-rowdy dive bars under a variety of names — Smitty’s Beer Belly, Ma & Pa’s, Pop’s Place. The Gaines’ chose a renovation “lite” course, leaving much of the original décor in place in order to preserve the atmosphere, while improving the hygiene and reducing the police calls.
         “The realtor said the building has been a bar since it was built in 1950,” Andy Gaines says. “I’ve had some old-timers come in and say that this was indeed East Nashville’s oldest bar. As for the name, I just picked one. All the bars in the 1950s were named after people, like Dino’s, Fran’s or Betty’s. I just went with Mickey’s because it seemed to be a good working-class name.”
         Just open a few weeks, Mickey’s has already attracted several regulars who have fallen in love with the bar’s lack of pretense. “We’re very excited,” Becky Gaines says. “I think we’re going to be a good balance with The Hop Stop. They’re the craft beer guys but they don’t have the liquor, and Logue’s theatre and lounge is a totally different experience that we also love. It’s really great that we lucked into this spot where not only did we get to buy the building, but three bars will be right here together.”
         Continuing to the north past Hart Lane and into the heart of Inglewood, one arrives at a new and developing center for antique collectors, offbeat designers and unusual décor. But like many Eastside treasures, they’re located off the well-beaten path.
          Tucked in behind Jordan’s Barber Shop and across thae parking lot from the Piggly Wiggly is an Edwardian-era two-story farmhouse at 3621 Gallatin Pike that has piqued the curiosity of eagle-eyed Eastside residents for many years. Last fall, the bottom floor of the house became home to Farmhouse Art and Junktiques. Open on Thursdays through Saturdays during the holiday season and on Fridays and Saturdays the rest of the year, the shop has had a low profile, one that its owners are now looking to raise.
         Owned by Robert and Anita Knowles, who also own and operate the nearby American Tuxedo, the Farmhouse is a collaboration with their son, Robert Jr., their daughter, Angela, and her husband, Joey Murray. “We haven’t had the money to advertise,” Anita Knowles says, “so we’ve been relying solely on word of mouth and various neighborhood listservs. We’ve had a very good response, and we’re just now beginning to advertise in a few places.”
         What’s even more exciting to Eastside pickers (of the antique variety) are the plans to convert the second story of the American Tuxedo building into an antique mall. “We have 5,000 square feet in that space,” Anita Knowles says. “People will be able to park here in the back; there are stairs up to the new space, and then stairs down to right around the corner from OMG’s entrance. We think it will be a really good walk for customers.” The front yard of the Farmhouse has already played host to some local pickers of the musical variety on select weekends, and they plan to continue the live music.
         As the businesses on Gallatin Road/ Avenue/Pike continue to grow and change, more of the dots connect. Old favorites will hopefully continue to mix with chains and the offbeat, making the East Nashville skyline far more than just discount cigarettes, liquor and wine — but with room for those, too.