Word got out this week that East Nashville’s cozy Turnip Truck Natural Market — long a favorite of neighborhood local/natural food lovers — is getting ready to graduate to a much bigger home, with more than 12,000 feet of grocery space and a planned three floors of eats and offerings. This’ll make Turnip Truck East more than four times the size of the existing space at 970 Woodland, open since 2001, and quite a bit larger than the much-praised Gulch location too.
The goal, according to owner John Dyke, is to get the new Turnip Truck at Woodland and 7th, overlooking East Park, open next summer.
In a neighborhood full of folk who’ve long clamored for expanded grocery options — and an expanded Turnip Truck, specifically — the news was pretty well-received. Among the sentiments shared on our own social media outposts: “Fabulous!” and “Yes!” and “Yippee” and “OMFG,” among others.
Since so many of us are eagerly awaiting our first look at this grown-up neighborhood natural foods stop, we sat down with Dyke to get some nitty-gritty details about what’s in the works.
What’s In Store at the New Turnip Truck
architectural rendering: Manuel Zeitlin Architects
You’ll recognize it as The Turnip Truck when you walk in
“We’re gonna lead out in the store exactly like the East store: produce,” Dyke says. “As much local organic produce as possible, in season. [But] the produce department is gonna be much larger — a place where you can shop now instead of, if I’m trying to find something, everything is so tight, or if one customer is shopping you have to lose six feet to go around them to find the next product. It’s what that store started with and that’s what I like.”
A larger juice bar
“We opened that small juice bar, which we had very little room to do it this year. So there’s gonna be an expanded juice bar with smoothies and some raw food stuff, fresh cut fruit.”
An expanded bulk foods section
“It’s gonna be roughly around three, four times the size [of the one in the existing East store]. And we really want that to be a primary focus, just to keep the world green a little bit with the packaging.”
“Bread, muffins, pastries and some desserts, like cakes and pies. So if you wanna have a birthday cake or something, there may be a vegan cake that you can come and get, for people who are vegan, or a gluten-free cake.”
A full meat and seafood department
“In the East store, we sell tons of meat out of that little area, but now it’s gonna be also a full-service meat department. And I really wanna do a great emphasis on seafood over here, because there really isn’t a place for any seafood offerings.”
Yes, the Gulch-beloved hot bar/salad bar is coming too
“I think a lot of people really enjoy that. [They can] come in get lunch and just go to the park on a beautiful day. That park’s really amazing because you can see downtown, and it’s a great green space. … It’s real exciting.”
A continued focus on local offerings
“We have about 80 local vendors now, and we’re very proud of that. We love our local vendors. It’s a good focus of ours on really trying to grow that, and keeping the money in our community as well.”
A cafe and learning space
Dyke says the build-out will be in stages — the first stage being getting the first-floor grocery open. But when it’s completed, a multi-purpose second floor will have lots to offer too, including a cafe space. “The second floor to me is like a bridge across,” he says. “You go up — we have stair access and an elevator — and in the dead center of the store, it’s 15 to 18 feet wide and it’s a bridge that goes from the front to the back of the store… We’re gonna have some great windows so if you’re up there, you see out to the park. … We’re also designing at the end where we can do cooking classes and community classes and health classes. That’d be at the end of the bridge. We hope to be able to bring the community there to learn more and to celebrate food, and celebrate flavor and taste and living in East Nashville and Nashville.”
Another likely addition for another stage: an outdoor cafe on the third floor
“I think it’ll be a great place to just go hang out, and these are just some ideas, but maybe have a grill up there so we can do veggie burgers, portobello burgers, beefalo or grass-fed… And you’re sitting up on the deck, and you can also bring your food up, maybe there’ll be beer and wine. Just a great place to look over at the park and enjoy the outdoors but also get a healthy meal.”
A continued embrace of the past while pushing toward the future
“I always remember saying when I opened the store in 2001, I remember going into that building — it was an auto body shop, but before that it was an old H.G. Hill’s store,” Dyke says. “I really loved the process of cleaning that building up and going back. If you think about the model H.G. Hill had in the early 1900s, that’s all we’re trying to do. It was a community market. They developed their stores on the right hand from where the trolley stopped, so people got off from downtown or work and walked straight into the store before they went to their house. At that time they really focused on local and seasonality. … There was a lot of local farmers and their eggs, they always had a butcher in the back, they always had dried bulk goods… It’s kinda what we’re striving for now. I was always so excited, like, ‘We’re taking it back to what this store was, just in a different format.’ And we’re working so hard to take it back where it’s supposed to be.”