It was an eventful year in East Nashville, as they’ve tended to be more recently. Rolling Stone said we were more hot than hip, hundreds of people on the East Nashville Facebook group complained that we were too hipster to be so much as lukewarm (in between lamenting torn-down cottages). Dogs were lost and found, expensive lattes were sipped, neighborhood-marketing YouTube vids sparked rage, 336 cans of mystery celery soup intrigued and delighted. It was the best of times, it was the rest of times.
As we’re digging into 2016, there are quite a few things sticking strong in our minds from the past year, both good and bad. So, as a capture of the year that was in East Nashville — and a chance to reminisce and “Cheers!” with our friends and neighbors — here are 15 East Nashville things from 2015 that we won’t soon forget, mostly for good (a little for ill).
15 East Nashville things we won't forget from 2015
The Basement East opens its doors
Way back before the hipsters annexed East Nashville en masse, a few urban pioneers saw some storefronts that needed a little love in a neighborhood that was experiencing its share of blight, and they rolled the dice. One of those folks: Mike Grimes, d.b.a. Grimey, whose now long-shuttered Slow Bar remains a thing of East Nashville legend. Another: Dave Brown, who brought lots of great music to the stage at the storied (and also long-shuttered) Radio Cafe. In 2015, a new East Side legend emerged, as the doors opened at the spacious, thrillingly well-equipped Basement East in April. A world-class music room that’s hosted a broad mix of up-and-comers and bold names (Mute Math, Cage the Elephant) in its first year, The BEAST handily lives up to its nickname.
The Turnip Truck goes big
Raise your hand if you’d ever walked into The Gulch’s Turnip Truck and felt a seething jealousy as you spooned delicious foods from the hot bar and picked through the offerings along their wide aisles, all while thinking about the cozy and beloved (but, let’s face it, not nearly as awesome) East Side OG TT? Well, suck it, Gulch, ‘cuz now we’ve got the fancy one! The new East Nashville Turnip Truck market opened in November at Woodland and 7th, with more than 12,000 feet of space and a rollout of all the stuff we’ve asked for: cold bar, meat and seafood department, bakery, juice bar and more, plus a continued embrace of and focus on local products. The new market also came along with the unveiling of a new line of affordable food staples, called Field Day. Sorry, Kroger — we’ll call!
Family Wash uproots and expands
You could’ve called The Family Wash on Greenwood and Porter a lot of things: welcoming, eclectic, artful, fun. You probably wouldn’t have called it spacious. And with as much love as the restaurant/bar/club got around here, stretching out definitely seemed beneficial, if not all-around necessary. It was bittersweet when the original Wash closed its doors, but totally sweet when the new The Family Wash/Garage Coffee grand-opened in September at 626 Main Street. With more space onstage and off, an expanded (and exceptional) menu led by chef John Stephenson and a smart embrace of tradition (pint and pie night’s still what’s up), the the new Family Wash leaves us permanently impressed.
Sarah Potenza makes big showing on one of TV’s biggest competition shows
An unassuming Family Wash waitress with the pipes to get her on TV in front of 20 million people: Sarah Potenza had a big, big year when the folks from hit singing show The Voice came calling, and she knocked viewers’ hair back as she unleashed that soulful, gritty wail. So, maybe — SPOILER ALERT — she didn’t win on the show, but she came home a conquering titan anyhow, hitting stages here (like, say, the Opry’s) and on the road again with the knowledge that she’s more than got the stuff to survive (and thrive) on pop culture’s biggest stages.
A craft beer bonanza hits East Nashville
We found out in June that East Nashville’s flagship craft brewery, Fat Bottom, was on its way out (heading to The Nations), but does that leave the East Side with a local beer vacuum? Hail naw. Smith & Lentz Brewing opened in October at at 903 Main, in the old Worm’s Way space, and Southern Grist Brewing Co. and East Nashville Beer Works are on the way (coming to the former Boone & Sons building on Porter and 320 E. Trinity Lane, respectively). So drink up, neighbors.
Shelby Park Picture Show launches
Some smart folks (ahem) were eyeballing the 14-by-24-foot, high-resolution LED screen at the Old Timers Baseball Complex in Shelby Park, and had a lightbulb moment: This’d make a heck of an outdoor movie setting. And lo, Shelby Park Picture Show was born. During this first season, hundreds of us trekked out to the field to watch classic family films under the stars — Big, Toy Story, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and Ghostbusters — as well as enjoy beer garden beers and food truck snacks and other fun. It was a joy, and we’re glad it’s returning in 2016 — keep your eye on the Shelby Park Picture Show website for updates about the even bigger, better season kicking off August 26.
The community comes out for ailing neighbor musicians
The year that was was not a great one, health-wise, for too many of our favorite East Side music-scene players. Writer/musician Tommy Womack cracked his pelvis in a terrible car wreck; singer-songwriter Allen Thompson shattered a vertebrae during a cliff-jumping accident; and famed Road Mangler Phil Kaufman (above) was critically injured in a motorcycle accident. The silver lining, if you were to seek one: East Nashville responded to need by showing its East Nashville-ness, friends setting up benefits and crowdfunding pages and all manner of other outpourings of love. (Let’s just try not to need all that so much this year, huh?)
Cornelia Fort Pickin’ Parties take flight
The Cornelia Fort Airpark is a really cool and woefully underappreciated part of our neighborhood, but it got a lot of love in 2015, as the Cornelia Fort Pickin’ Party series — modeled after Warner Parks’ long-loved Full Moon Pickin’ Parties — brought lots of live music and lots of neighbors out to admire and celebrate. The monthly events were a huge hit, with hundreds of folks heading into the Airpark to pick acoustic instruments, listen and/or both. And maybe the best part: The events were a benefit for the venue itself, with proceeds going toward preserving and revitalizing the historic Airpark.
Jeni’s’ Listeria scare brings (temporarily) closed shops, including ours
While Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams isn’t an East Nashville business, per se, the first non-Ohio outpost was here in our neighborhood, so there’s some attachment. And when the company opted to recall all of their frozen products due to a Listeria scare — and close doors at scoop shops — in April, it felt, to many of us, very personal. A very personal bummer. The company acted responsibly and cautiously, and no outbreak was ever linked to their ice cream, but word spread like a… well, you know, and Jeni’s took some serious lumps. They responded like champs, though, offering constant, honest communication up until the scare was squashed, and upon reopening, making huge changes to their production process — including hiring a new Quality Leader — to ensure that things churned smoothly going forward. It was a lesson in how to handle a crisis with class. Now pass the Salty Caramel.
Silly Goose abruptly closes its doors
Many local businesses closed in 2015 — this’d be a long column if we listed all of them. One that really hit hard for a lot of us, in part because it was so abrupt: The Silly Goose’s shuttering in September. One day The New York Times was praising the cozy neighborhood eatery and chef/owner Roderick Bailey was competing on the Food Network’s Chopped, the next — despite the Goose remaining a very popular place — the doors were shut. “Life is messy and so is the restaurant business,” Bailey wrote the week after the closure. “The Silly Goose took everything I had every day. It was hard, rewarding, beautiful in all its imperfections.” Sigh.
Neighbors make our bookshelves more delicious
Our neighborhood is chock full of good food and vibrant creativity — even when people are complaining about the hipster hordes, they give us that much. This year, good food and creativity combined on the page a whole lot, too. Among the fantastic, food-focused books produced by neighbors this year: Homemade Sausage – Recipes to Grind, Stuff, and Twist Artisanal Sausage at Home, from Porter Road Butcher’s James Peisker and Chris Carter; Nashville Eats: Hot Chicken, Buttermilk Biscuits, and 100 More Southern Recipes from Music City, by Jennifer Justus; Timothy Charles Davis’ Hot Chicken Cookbook: The Fiery History and Red-Hot Recipes of Nashville's Beloved Bird; and Lockeland Table, Community Kitchen and Bar, by chef Hal Holden-Bache and GM Cara Graham. Them’s good readin’.
East Side Art Stumble puts the spotlight on East Side art
Around here, most of our crawls are the bar kind, so it was a nice change of pace when monthly East Side art crawl the East Side Art Stumble launched in April, with exhibits, shows and events happening at various neighborhood spots. From photography to letterpress printing, East Side art was in the spotlight one Saturday a month, and that helped beam the wealth of talent here to folks inside and outside the neighborhood.
Broken Record Comedy Show lives up to its name
Did you know there was a Guinness World Record for the longest comedy show? Did you know a bunch of our neighbors totally obliterated it? Co-produced by East Side comedian Chad Riden and The East Room’s Ben Jones (and dreamed up by local comic DJ Buckley), the Broken Record Comedy Show took over the East Room stage for 184 hours and 16 minutes in mid-April, with hometown heroes and national names alike keeping the place filled with funny morning through night until the Guinness guy was all yup, you win. It was a huge, slightly insane undertaking. So of course they’re doing it again in May.
The Station gets tuned up
Locals who enjoy a historic building have long driven past the fire-ravaged, boarded-up, circa-1938 fire hall No. 18 on Gallatin and despaired. But good news came in the summer, when residential interior design company Karen Goodlow Designs unveiled plans to restore and revamp the building into The Station, a “place for creativity, community, and coffee” (with art studios and offices, a retail showroom and more). Goodlow’s team is still hard at work (in November, neighbors were invited to get a peek and help contribute toward the work going forward), but here’s guessing that its opening will end up being one of the 16 things we won’t forget about 2016.
3 Crow Bar gets a drive-thru
A car crash, especially when a DUI charge is involved, isn’t something to joke about. Buuuuut, when that SUV ran through 3 Crow Bar in November, there were, of course, some glimmers of East Nashville lightheartedness — namely, the flood of truly funny memes that followed (see above), and the fact that trivia night went on that night as planned, SUV-sized hole in the wall be damned.
People we won’t forget, either
We’d be remiss if, along with this list, we didn’t point toward some people we lost in 2015, and that we certainly won’t forget any time soon.
Tammy Derr, longtime owner of independent children's bookstore Fairytales, passed away in November after battling cancer. She opened the shop in 2008, and it remains open at 114B S 11th Street, giving young scholars access to inspiration and fun.
Pied Piper Eatery owner Becky Piper (right) passed in April, away after battling an aggressive form of cancer. Her family-friendly and music-loving restaurant also remains open, at 1601 Riverside Drive.
Lifelong East Nashvillian "Big Jim" Dotson, once director of security for the World Wrestling Federation, passed away in December after struggling for years with serious health issues, including an incurable eye disease that left him unable to work. Despite his own illness, he spent his last years caring for his elderly mother.
Those folks, and others, will be missed here in East Nashville and well beyond. Here’s to them, and to a new year.