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VOL. 37 | NO. 31 | Friday, August 02, 2013

With tradition below, construction above 8th Avenue finds its footing

‘Hipsters, regular folks’ fuel change

By Brad Schmitt

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My, what a difference a decade makes. A little more than 10 years ago, Metro police vice officers were shutting down massage parlors up and down 8th Avenue South.

Those alleged fronts for prostitution had flourished around cool, hipster places like Grimey’s record store, Zanies’ comedy club and a few antique stores, years before anyone used the word “hipster.”

These days, those hipster seeds are flourishing. The fast-growing, 8th Avenue South/Melrose area is becoming trendy 12th South’s blue-collar, quirky step-brother, small business owners, real estate agents and politicians agree.

“It’s a combination of hipsters and regular folks,” says Laron Pendergrass, an agent with Benchmark Realty who specializes in the area.

“A lot of energy in 8th comes out of the fact that there is a lack of inventory on 12th South,” Pendergrass says. “You can see all these areas [on 8th] have caught fire.”

In the last 10 years on 8th Avenue South:

l Grimey’s New and PreLoved Music has expanded, adding more vinyl inventory, a bookstore and a satellite version of trendy 12th South coffee shop, Frothy Monkey.

l Two major residential complexes have been launched, 23Hundred at Berry Hill and a mixed-use residential complex near the old Melrose bowling lanes. The developments will add more than 400 units.

The Melrose, once home to a movie theater, bowling alley and The Sutler, is being transformed into condos and retail, reflecting changes that are taking place all along 8th Avenue. Some of those changes are being driven by nearby 12South, where trendy restaurants and shops are driving up property values and rent.

-- Lyle Graves | Nashville Ledger

l The famous Gruhn Guitars store left its longtime downtown location to move to 8th Avenue.

l Hip new restaurants Urban Juicer, Craft Brewed crafted beer pub/store, Koi Sushi & Thai and M.L. Rose Craft Beer and Burgers have opened.

Vinyl fans rummage through the racks at Grimey’s, one of several businesses that continue to grow and evolve along 8th Avenue. Grimey’s has added a bookstore and a branch of the Frothy Monkey coffee shop, which also has locations in 12South and downtown Franklin.

-- Lyle Graves | Nashville Ledger

l East Nashville hot chicken landmark Bolton’s opened a new location.

l Star Physical Therapy, Little Tree landscapers and a GetFit Anytime gym are among the new service providers.

But hip doesn’t have a hold on all the new happenings on 8th Avenue South. There’s also a sparkling new Little Caesar’s on the corridor, and its appearance has drawn mixed reactions.

Gruhn Guitar has found a new home at 8th and Prentice.

-- Lyle Graves | Nashville Ledger

“When you have decades, even generations of decline, it can be a little bit bumpy on the way back up,” says Austin Ray, owner of M.L. Rose. “But I think in a lot of people’s minds, Melrose wouldn’t be Melrose if it wasn’t a little bit funky.”

Chip DeVier, owner of Craft Brewed, bristles a little at the mention of Little Caesar’s.

“It seems like the area is cooler than that, but I’m not complaining,” he explains.

“I eat there because it’s convenient. And I like it as opposed to pawn shops and used car dealerships.”

Metro Councilwoman Sandra Moore, who represents the area, likes seeing the Little Caesar’s pop up so that long-time blue-collar residents don’t get priced out of their own neighborhood.

“You’ve still got your McDonald’s and your Sonic and Bolton’s and Captain D’s,” Moore says. “You’ve got a variety and that’s what I like to see. I don’t think it’ll be too expensive.”

But that affordability may be short-lived as the Melrose area continues to expand.

Real estate rates have climbed near $200 to $250 a square foot, very similar to the rates in the more upscale 12th South area.

Glenn Henderson, co-owner of Fleet Street Pub in Printer’s Alley, has been looking to jump into the beer wars on 8th Avenue South.

“It’s a really nice neighborhood and a really nice neighborhood to do business in,” Henderson says.

“It was sketchy at one point in the past, but not anymore.”

In fact, Henderson may have waited too late: He concedes rising prices in the area are making him think twice.

But while 8th Avenue South may be priced like 12th South, the Melrose area still lacks the sidewalks and neighborhood feel that its upscale neighbor to the west has cultivated.

There are long term plans for sidewalks and other changes that would make the area more pedestrian friendly.

For now, four lanes of traffic and a good deal of separation between the pockets of stores keep many folks from strolling up and down 8th Avenue South.

“It would be nice if you didn’t have to get in your car,” says Grimey’s co-owner Doyle Davis.

Adds DeVier: “12th South, very pedestrian friendly; 8th South, not so much, not right now. There are plans for sidewalks. We’ll see.”

Whatever its drawbacks, most folks agree the area is on the upswing, if for no other reason than it’s close to downtown with room to grow.

“It’s considered greater than 12th South in a way. Being inside 440 to downtown, the feel is very similar,” real estate agent Pendergrass says.

Adds Councilwoman Moore: “Universities are growing, and people want to live closer to where they work.”

And business owners say they support each other.

“The Craft Brewed place, we’ve all been patronizing that place,” says Davis. “We send people down to Bolton’s for the hot chicken.

“We ask touring musicians who shop with us, ‘Do you like Thai?’ We send them to the Smiling Elephant,” he said.

“Everybody comes back, thanks for the recommendation.”

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