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VOL. 36 | NO. 39 | Friday, September 28, 2012

Thinking big, starting small at Five Points Collaborative

By Stepnen Hines

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Five Points Collaborative (An Idea Hatchery) is a collection of small businesses in the Five Points area of East Nashville. Chuck Beard’s East Side Story, for example, is just 258 square feet.

-- Photo: Lyle Graves | Nashville Ledger

In the 1989 fantasy movie Field of Dreams, Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella starts an enterprise by building a baseball field with the belief that if he builds his field, Shoeless Joe Jackson – a man banned from major league baseball for helping to throw the 1919 World Series – will return from the dead to play on his field and find redemption.

Author and arts promoter Chuck Beard hopes his dream enterprise, East Side Story – located at 1108 Woodland Street, right in the middle of Five Points Collaborative – will bring in local authors and their fans. He believes he has found just the right space in a low-rent, high-traffic area to do just that: promote local authors and their books, including his own book. East Side Story will also sell visual art related to literature.

“I married a visual artist and started looking around town for a place from which I could write about the arts: visual, performance, and literary,” Beard says. “My wife, Emily, created the design for the space (258 square feet) to make it welcoming, and some of her artwork is on the walls, all related to literature. Otherwise she does batik work as e. f. harper.”

East Side Story is definitely not about size, but it is about space, ambiance and creativity. Beard, like a lot of other creative individuals, needed a place where he could try out his ideas while reducing his monetary risks.

“The Five Points Collaborative offers a business venture the opportunity to try some business ideas out on a small scale,” he says. “We have a high-traffic area with a group of small businesses clustered together. There is risk, but it is not like we are going to be ruined if we fail.”

One of the founders of Five Points Collaborative (An Idea Hatchery) is Meg MacFayden, who, with her husband Bret, owns Art & Invention Gallery located there.

“We’ve already had two of our original start-up businesses grow to need bigger spaces, and we’re only about to celebrate our second anniversary,” she says. “Five Points Digital Imaging has moved, to be replaced by John Cannon Studios, and the Oktipus Printing Company has also moved, to be replaced by Hello Boys, selling vintage men’s clothes.”

Beard’s own store, which focuses on the angle that there is a demand and a way to encourage local authors in a time of turmoil in the publishing industry, benefits from the high browsing traffic generated by the mix of goods being offered at Five Points.

All related in some way to literature, Beard’s store has handmade journals, jewelry, bookmarks, T-shirts and books.

Five Points Collaborative (An Idea Hatchery)

-- Photo: Lyle Graves | Nashville Ledger

Alice Randall, who is writer-in-residence at Vanderbilt University and has had a major bestseller in Wind Done Gone, is represented by Pushkin and the Queen of Spades, published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Joe Johnston, who invented the “Happy Meal” for MacDonald’s, is represented by Jesus Would Recycle. He also produced How People Lived in the Bible for local publisher Thomas Nelson.

Johnston also composes songs here in Nashville, as does Alice Randall, who is the first African-American woman to co-write a No. 1 country hit (Trisha Yearwood’s XXX’s and OOO’s).

America through the Eyes of a Patriot by William Hemrick is clearly self-published, as there is no publisher listed on the spine or title page of his book, while Pat Ballard’s book, Dangerous Love, published by Pearlsong Press, is part of a line of “Rubenesque Romances” from the publisher.

The reasons for publishing are many and varied, as Beard admits when talking of his own book, Adventures Inside a Bright-Eyed Sky, a coming-of-age novel that he started in Scotland while he was taking writing courses from the University of Edinburgh.

Beard says he used the names of sites familiar to him for the setting of the book, but it is not autobiographical. Rather, he says, any work of fiction is a “hodgepodge” from the author’s background, in his case taking him several years to get his story into its final form.

“I had trained for a marathon near Edinburgh, and after that marathon, I used the time I would have been spending training to begin the book,” he says. “I came back to America and found out about Lifeguard Press in Bowling Green. I spent weekends designing the book and I had two editors go through it before it came out.”

Beard was back in America by 2005, but his book, thoroughly written and rewritten, didn’t come out until 2009 with an initial self-financed print run of 3,000, some 1500 of which have sold.

“A friend did the artwork and instead of deciding how I was going to pay her, I took the step of forming a 501 (C) 3 nonprofit called Adventures inside a Campus for a Cure. Her mother had had brain cancer and one of my characters in the book had cancer and so we took proceeds from the book to help start the foundation,” he says.

Beard is now also active in Gilda’s Club – an organization funding cancer research. Revenue from Bright-Eyed Sky from East Side Story will now go to that charity.

If Beard seems to have his irons in quite a few fires, that’s the way he likes it. To him, business is all about making connections in a community and supporting what you believe in.

Grand opening was Sept. 15, which coincides with the one-year anniversary of the Idea Hatchery and the opening of Hello Boys.

“We hope to get people who will drop by to see what’s happening, as well as the attendance of people we have connected with through my writing for Nashville Arts magazine and Native magazine and through my wife’s art,” he says.

Jeremy Ryan of the Hello Boys store adds: “From my perspective, the great thing about this is that it is all local. Chuck’s store is devoted to local authors, and much of what we have is also local, from T-shirts to boots to locally-made handbags.”

“The wonderful thing about Chuck,” Art & Invention Gallery owner Meg MacFadyen says, “is that he is full of fresh ideas and he has the ability and desire to follow through with them. He’s not just about himself.”

Beard’s business philosophy might best be summed up by his wife’s depiction of the words of Star Wars’ Yoda. One of her pieces of art hanging in the store quotes the Jedi Master: “Do or/Do not/There/is no try.”

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