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Hit the Road With Renee: Nashville Businesses Focus on Community

After a completing Day 1 of the Great American Red, White and Q Road Trip, the Independent We Stand team and I settled in our hotel in Asheville, North Carolina, for one more night before journeying on to Nashville, Tennessee. We took off early Tuesday morning for a nearly five-hour drive before arriving in Music City.

Day 2: Nashville, Tennessee

Once we made it to town, we were eager to eat before a full afternoon of interviews with independent business owners. As we’re on a barbecue-themed trip, we went to Jack’s Bar-B-Que, a staple since 1976. According to the company, it was the first casual restaurant on Broadway to open after many years of decline in the area. Since introducing an oversized neon sign of three pigs flying over the shop’s entrance, the business has gained fame as a recognizable Nashville landmark.

After savoring the Texas-style brisket with a variety of sauces, our group got back in the car and made our way to NashCo Furniture, where we met store owner Anthony Moore. Moore opened his business in Nashville in 2011 and customer service is one of the biggest differentiators from his store to others.

“We really focus on providing a customer experience as opposed to just a shopping experience,” Moore says. “Someone who walks in our store has a furniture problem, and NashCo Furniture is the problem-solver. We’re your neighbor trying to help you out, and we reach back out to make sure we gave our customer the best service.”

The next independent business we ventured to was Parnassus Books, an independent bookstore in the community since 2011. While touring the store, we had the opportunity to talk to Karen Hayes, who co-owns the business with best-selling author Ann Patchett. Hayes was a publishing industry veteran who was eager to bring an independent bookstore back to Nashville when the last one closed.

When Hayes started looking into how to open her own store, she talked with Patchett, and the two decided to go into business together in 2011. The business has since grown tremendously and even has a thriving online component.

“Parnassus Books is different from Amazon and other online retailers in that we have really smart booksellers here,” Hayes says. “We go beyond the algorithms. Our employees help our customers find the book that is tailored to their taste. In addition, we do a lot of business online and have a great social media presence. Our website reflects the personality you see in our physical store.”

The next location we visited was Jackalope Brewing Co., where we got to check out The Ranch Taproom and Brewery. Bailey Spaulding, the CEO and founder of the company, talked to us about how she switched directions after law school and decided to pursue her passion of opening a brewery.

“The company name comes from my childhood and ongoing belief in jackalopes, a mythical creature that is a mix of a jackrabbit and an antelope,” Spaulding says. “A friend of mine gave me a T-shirt of a jackalope on it that said, ‘Believe in Yourself’ as a joke. I went to law school before opening the brewery, but my motto of believing in myself led to this business. I love brewing beer and it seemed like a great opportunity.”

According to Spaulding, running her own brewery gives her the opportunity to follow her dreams and give back to the community she calls home.

“Jackalope Brewing Co. partners with a different nonprofit every month, and 20 percent of the proceeds in our taproom go to that nonprofit,” she says. “We’ve worked with over 40 different nonprofits in Nashville and raised over $50,000 just through that program, and you really learn a lot about what others are doing by forming these partnerships.”

To wrap up our Nashville stops, we went to Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant where we met Claire Crowell, chief operating officer of her parents’ business, A. Marshall Hospitality. Crowell talked about her family’s chain of restaurants and her passion for hospitality and serving others.

The last interview of the day was with Nancy Williams, the director of the Tennessee Main Street Program. She talked about the importance of Americas Main Streets.

After a long day of traveling and interviewing business owners in Nashville, we made our way to Hayes Street Hotel, an independent hotel. We enjoyed a drink at the bar and made our way back downtown to Pucketts Grocery & Restaurant to enjoy a delicious dinner and live music. After exploring Broadway a little more, we headed back to the hotel to get some sleep before taking off for Memphis in the morning.

About Renee Changnon

Renee Changnon is the retail outreach coordinator for NRHA. She meets with retailers in their stores and at industry events and introduces them to the services NRHA provides. Renee previously worked as a member of the NRHA communications team. She earned a degree in visual journalism from Illinois State University, where she served as the features editor for the school newspaper. After college, she implemented marketing and promotions initiatives at Jimmy John’s franchise locations across the country. She enjoys exploring books with her book club, Netflix marathons and hosting goat yoga at her apartment complex. Renee Changnon 317-275-9442 rchangnon@nrha.org

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