What: One of Many is a monthly series of photo essays about twelve American cities and their creative communities.
Who: Designers, woodworkers, chefs, engineers, illustrators, writers and anyone else making something that moves people.
Why: To inspire and be inspired by the independent creative movement that is reshaping our economy and culture. To encourage others to make the leap. To empower those already there, and let them know they’re not alone.
Why Now: The growing creative independent movement, along with renewed interest in life outside the big cities, is rapidly reshaping our economy and culture. Read much more at oneofmany.co and find below the third of twelve One of Many essays.
Many thanks to the good folks at Squarespace for helping make this project possible. I highly recommend using Squarespace to build your own website. Use the code “oneofmany” to get a 10% discount, and you’ll be supporting One of Many in a small way.
Phila Hach is an 88 year-old living legend of Southern food and hospitality. In the 1940s, as one of the first commercial flight attendants for American Airlines, she developed their first catering menu. In the 1950’s, while continuing to fly on weekends, she hosted Kitchen Kollege, which aired live five times a week and was the first female-hosted cooking show. In the 1960s, she started writing the first of her 19 cook books. These include the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store series, the official 1982 World‘s Fair Cookbook, and a United Nations cook book based on recipes gathered from catering meals for the 1,800 delegates that visited Nashville in 1976. She’s fed three Presidents, Albert Einstein, Henry Kissinger, Oprah, June Carter Cash, and her friend Julia Childs. These days, Phila and her son Joe run five businesses together. A vineyard, an inn, a wedding chapel, a catering service and a conference center that can serve up to 1,500 guests.
All of these numbers and names are impressive, but not the first thing I think about when reminiscing about our time with Phila. I think about how she made me feel. How she inspired me with her words, her smile and her outlook on life. Her kindness was immediately apparent as she greeted us at the door. The dulcet Tennessee tones of her voice transported us into a special place where wisdom was plentiful and joy expected. Phila seamlessly wove together the sense of wonder you might expect from a child, and a tender conviction that can only come from a woman for whom no one is a stranger.
I have included some of the nuggets of wisdom that Phila so generously shared below. A second section appears at the very end of this essay.
On inner strength: “When you learn to empower the inner strength within yourself, nothing else matters. There’s nobody on this very earth today, that’s exactly the same. And when you realize that, and you want to be a part of this flow of energy that we all have, then you walk freely, unencumbered, and unafraid. I think my parents taught us that. It opens every single door.”
On positivity: “I still don’t know who I want to be. I’m 88 years old and I still learn something every day. The more I know, the more I know I don’t know. I had two children. My first son was born very prematurely, back in the 1950’s. They didn’t know what to do with him. He weighed a pound and a half. He lived, but was severely retarded and handicapped. A gorgeous little boy. He could’ve been stillborn, but he breathed. Now why is this? We don’t know. So, what happens to you in your life, you either become sour or you make lemonade out of it, and see all the sugar and all the wonderful things. Each day is given to us, to impact our lives either positively or negatively. I’m not a negative person. I’m not going to go that route, and I’m not going to let other people take me that route. You don’t need to do that.”
On simplicity: “I don’t like buttons. I love ruffles. I don’t have anything that has a button on it. Why? Because I get up at daylight, when it’s still dark, and I never can get my buttons to match.”
On habits: “I drink half a glass of red wine about once a month. I’m not a habitual person. I do nothing by habit. I don’t wear a watch. I don’t wear jewelry.”
On wants and needs: “When we’re young, we want everything. And we deserve everything that we can earn. What matters is knowing that your needs and wants are two different things.”
Josh Ulmer is a photographer. He listens, watches, and takes it all in. He loves to slow down, but acts quickly when it’s called for. Josh met and then wed his wife Amber within nine months. Now, they run a creative business together, while raising two beautiful children. Josh and Amber care about love and relationships, so they photograph weddings. Observing, capturing, and taking it all in.
Stephanie and Daniel Allen are farmers and high school sweethearts. After losing touch for ten years, they reconnected right around the time when both were making significant changes in their lives. Daniel left behind a successful modeling career in NYC, and Stephanie had just moved back to Tennessee from Atlanta after completing school. After a chance run-in with Daniel’s sisters, Stephanie passed on her phone number. Daniel resisted calling, because he wasn’t yet ready for marriage and knew that making the call would result in just that. It took about six weeks before he gave in, and another three before they decided to elope and get married under a tree across from Daniel’s grandfather’s farm.
Today, there is an unlikely and beautiful son named Keaton. The couple has taken over Daniel’s grandfather’s farm, and turned it into the beautiful organic and naturally grown Allenbrooke Farms, from where they feed about 250 local families.
There’s a lot more to Ruthie’s story, and while tragedy has shaped her path, you’d be hard-pressed to find another person as positive, grateful and delighted with what life has brought her. It’s as if Kahlil Gibran wrote about Ruthie when he said that “…the deeper the sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”
In 2011, Philip and Dana Nappi founded a footwear company named after Philip’s grandfather Peter Nappi. Peter was an Italian immigrant who landed in NYC in 1903 as a 17 year old, and noted down “shoe maker“ as his profession. Philip never met Peter, but is able to continue the family legacy through leather footwear and goods, designed in Nashville and made in Tuscany.
Before embarking on this family business journey, Peter put in many years of work as a successful sales person, earning enough to purchase a small construction service business which he then grew over the course of nine years and sold for 200 times the amount he purchased it for. Peter earned his way into continuing his grandfather’s legacy, and he’s taken the opportunity and ran with it.
The amount of attention paid to detail is immediately apparent when stepping into the gorgeous and massive showroom, formerly an industrial boiler room, in a quiet part of Nashville. The shopping experience is relaxed, quiet and casual. There is an espresso bar, a stage for performances and food events, and a quietly confident salesman that knows there is no need to push product. If you stepped in the door, you know what you’re there for, and holding an oxford or a leather boot even for just a minute pretty much seals the deal.
You’d think that a town like Nashville would be well populated with bars that can make a fine cocktail, but really there’s only a few that measured up. I enjoyed Patterson House where they made me a fine Boulevardier, had a great time at Holland House over negronis, but it was No. 308 where it felt like home.
Owner and bartender Ben Clemons seems to operate on a level that fluctuates somewhere between pleasantly insane, and disarmingly charming. In his image, No. 308 is an opinionated bar, not shy about making the statement that a waxed moustache really isn’t a necessary element for a bar that makes a great cocktail. But it’s not screaming from the rooftops about it. It’s a quiet confidence. There are no mixologists here, just bartenders. Pages from Charles Bukowski books line the bar, and patrons are encouraged to get a custom drink made to their taste. I’ve never seen proper cocktails made as fast and with a little regard for pretense as at No. 308, and I liked it that way.
The following three people run businesses that interact and work in symbioses to provide guests at Husk Nashville with a well-rounded and wonderful dining experience.
Bill Cherry is a farmer and the owner of Bear Creek Farms. Cattle are born and raised on 1,400 acres of land, just outside of Nashville. The Cherry family has been raising cattle in the area for over 30 years. Bill and his wife Leeann run a sustainable, grass-fed cattle farm in a responsible, humane and natural way. This means no antibiotics, no cattle prods, no branding. Local restaurants like Rolf and Daughters, and Husk are steady customers, and even legendary California restaurant French Laundry has joined the family.
Caroline Cercone is a functional ceramics artist. While teaching dance and German in Japan, Caroline stumbled upon her passion for pottery. She studied the traditions of Hamada Shoji and Bernard Leach, developing her own style influenced by both. After a period in Charleston (SC), Caroline moved to Nashville, husband and daughter in town. She started making work for local restaurants, and Sean Brock contracted her to create an entire line of custom plateware for his then newly-opened Husk Nashville. Caroline also teaches workshops out of her work space at the Clay Lady’s Studios and Co-op.
Kenny Lyon is the GM at Husk Nashville and in that role responsible for the daily goings on and making sure guests have the best possible all-around experience. He maintains relationships with guests, staff, distributors, suppliers and other stakeholders in what is a tangled web of passionate foodies and makers. Kenny is currently studying with the Court of Master Sommeliers, and if you’re curious about that particular nook of the food world I highly recommend watching the documentary Somm.
Adam Gatchel was a touring drummer for seven years until he switched his attention to lighting. Now he is the proprietor of Southern Lights Electric, where he makes custom light fixtures and commercial light designs. His work is stunning, original, and can be seen all over Nashville at restaurants, hotels, and residences. Adam loves partnering with architects, designers and developers to integrate lighting into their plans from the start.
Southern Lights Electitric operates out of a craft co-working space called Fort Houston, which is filled with woodworkers, furniture makers, bike mechanics and more.
Jonathan Malphrus is a furniture designer and the proprietor of Steric Design, where he specializes in tables, beds, and other highly functional and beautiful pieces for your home. Jonathan was kind enough to show me around Fort Houston and introduce me to the various inhabitants. Fort Houston is a place for entrepreneurs of the craft making kind to facilitate, grow, learn and work. Their spacious 10,000 square foot space includes a full-scale wood shop, a print shop, bike shop, photography studio, desk space and various dedicated spaces. Classes are taught, works are made, friends are gained.
Luke Stockdale and his wife Jas co-founded Sideshow Sign Company, a print and signage design company. After being raised in Australia and working in design for the last ten years, Luke moved to Nashville and turned his sights on making street views distinctive again. His work can be seen all over town, slowly replacing cold-lit aluminum and plastic wrapped signage, with gorgeous handmade signs using wood, lighting and a creative mind to add character to the streets.
Adam Gaskill, AKA “The Coonman”, joined Sideshow in 2013 after years of working as a bicycle and car mechanic. He developed his very own metal aging techniques and that made for a pretty convincing resume with Sideshow.
Deavor is a creative co-working space with a similar ethos to Fort Houston, but for those more digitally inclined. A community focused on creating synergy, productivity and inspiration amongst it’s members that work side by side on their individual, and often unrelated, projects.
Connor Carroll is one of the folks behind Deavor, as well as a talented composer, filmmaker and co-founder of Small Batch Presents, a video series that brings together musicians and crafts people to support each other in a video about both. Highly recommended.
Barista Parlor is one of those hip places that everyone has written about already. For good reason. It’s total catnip for fancy coffee lover, Americana lovers, and anyone that loves a gorgeously designed space that serves phenomenal breakfast biscuits. I was there nearly every day for a week, and I don’t think there was ever a moment where there wasn’t at least one other person shooting with a DSLR. It’s gorgeous and spacious, it’s extremely well done, and all in a way that makes it impossible to feel it’s too much. I’d be there every day if I lived in Nashville.
Thomas Williams runs Cornbread, a culinary and hospitality consulting firm with a passion for Southern and locally-grown food. He knows all the ins and outs of the local food community, from farmers to writers, and chefs. Thomas is one of the people in the background that makes everything work. You won’t find him on the cover of a magazine, but he probably introduced whoever is to the editor and told them all about what makes them special. Thomas is a kind soul, and a hard working one at that. The town of Nashville would run a lot less smoothly without him, and I think they know it too.
Lindsay Clason works for Red Earth Trading Co, an ethical lifestyle brand that sells accessories made by hand from all over the world, mostly from upcycled materials. In addition to buying products from the artisans they have relationships with, Red Earth also assists them in getting better organized, and help them set up for growth by extending small loans that can be paid off through purchase orders.
Judson Collier is a designer who specializes in typography, art direction and graphic design for musicians. It’s easy to tell Judson didn’t chose this niche just because it was “good business” in a musician-filled town like Nashville. His love for music and presenting it in the best way possible seeped from between every line of our conversation. Music, and working with fellow creatives, seems to be exactly what drives him, and the work he does is great.
Hey, Rooster is a charming general store in East Nashville that sports an inspired mix of artisan foods, hand-crafted goods and paper products, mostly sourced from Brooklyn and Nashville. Owner Courtney Webb was born in Nashville, trained as an architect in New Orleans, and later active in Brooklyn as an entrepreneur and successful jewelry maker before moving back to Nashville.
In setting up a well-curated general store, Courtney aimed to be a gathering place for her city, as well as a place for a nationwide community of craftsmen. There are classes, special events, and information about all the makers that are showcased. It’s easy to tell the products come from people that have a personal relationship with Courtney, and one that she likely has cultivated over time and with effort, to enable her to best represent them to her customers. It’s like she’s selling only her closest friends’ work, with great care. And that’s what makes it special.
Philip Krajeck is the chef and owner of the fantastic Rolf and Daughters. He grew up in Brussels, and settled down in Nashville with his wife and daughters after stints across the United States. Only a few years after opening inside of a 100-year old factory building, Rolf and Daughters is considered one of the best restaurants in the country. We had a great conversation about what might happen to the New York City food community, as cities like Charleston and Nashville are able to draw in top culinary talent. Cost of living and quality of life will continue to determine where talents are willing to settle down, and an increasing number of people will pick a city like Nashville over San Francisco and New York as prices rise beyond what is sustainable.
Jennifer Justus writes about food culture. The cook book pages that most well-worn and stained are her favorite, so she decided to write a book about just those. She’s working with photographer Andrea Behrends, and the book will be accompanied by an exhibit about cooks and their favorite recipes, on the most well-worn pages.
Rachel Lehman is the co-owner of Crema, a roaster and coffee shop with two locations in Nashville. Rachel put in a lot of time, fifteen years to be exact, working for various roasting companies and coffee shops to learn her craft. At Crema all relationships with farmers, mills and partners are long term, small, and equitable. Beans are bought from small farms in various countries, even ones that have never been available stateside before. The Crema blog shows visits to farms, showcasing the families and their land, going into detail about microclimate characteristics, varietals, and distinct planting, harvesting and processing practices. It’s art and science all at once. And it shows. Team Crema has placed top 3 for various national competitions and every roasting company I go to across the country during my One of Many trips mentions Crema as the esteemed and most well respected competition.
On job interviews: “The first thing that a corporations asks you is what your grade point average is. They don’t ask you about the things that make you successful, like your perseverance. They ask you about your degree. They don’t ask you if you take care of your body.”
On reading and innovation: “I read constantly. I read a book a week. Not fiction. Life is much more interesting than fiction. I’m interested in the world. And that includes right here. The very wind that blows here this morning, the very clouds that are here, have been all over the world. The ocean was sucked up to make clouds, and the westerly winds come in and blow across China, and Europe. So nothing is new. The only thing that is new is what the brain of man can develop, from what is old.”
On earth: “We don’t own the planet. We’re merely a little passenger on this space ship. And what we can do is absorb as much of the beauty and the quality of life that we all have. The little birds are passengers, the little bee that makes our honey is a passenger. The little fox in the forest is a passenger. And I love being a part of it, being that little minute molecule of this great earth. I’m here today, gone tomorrow. Will I be missed? No!”
On integrity: “I didn’t marry until I was 31. I’ve done a lot. I’ve flown all over the world. I’ve done the first women’s television show. That’s because I knew who I was, even if I didn’t know who I was going to be yet. You have to prove yourself in this life. When someone doesn’t believe in you, it’s hard. But always remember that people believe and trust in integrity. Keep your integrity. I’ve seen incredible new things come into this world and lived in the most unbelievable time. And you do too. Take advantage of it, and keep learning, with an open heart. Be humble. Be kind.”
|| More To Read and See ||
|| Visit oneofmany.co for the story behind this project, and information on upcoming cities and essays.
|| Find more photos on Instagram and by searching the hashtag #oneofmanyNashville
|| Find outtakes on Tumblr, published on a regular basis.
|| A list of my favorite restaurants and shops in Nashville (TN) is available on Foursquare.
I am profiling additional members of the Nashville creative communities in various publications in the next few weeks, including Daniel Ellsworth, and others.
PREVIOUS ESSAY: Denver, CO - Published September 22nd, 2014
NEXT ESSAY: Portland, OR - To be published November 20th, 2014.
NEXT TRIPS: Portland ME - January 2015 || Salt Lake City - February 2015 || Please drop me a line if you have recommendations for creatives I should meet up with!
Follow along in real time via Instagram. Many thanks to the good folks at Squarespace for helping make this project possible. I highly recommend using Squarespace to build your own website. Use the code “oneofmany” to get a 10% discount, and you’ll be supporting One of Many in a small way.