February is Black History Month, which makes it an excellent time to shine a spotlight on Black-owned Businesses (BOBs), and Nashville is blessed with a multitude of opportunities to support local enterprises owned and operated by African-American entrepreneurs. While it’s almost impossible to create an exhaustive list, here are some fine spots to patronize this month and every month if you want to keep your spending dollars in the local economy and support family-owned businesses.
While many of us have worn out our Fed EX/UPS/Amazon delivery people ordering online, it’s really easy to actually shop for food and drink items from local purveyors in person. If you’re looking for a gift or a snack for yourself, check out places like Kernels Nashville Popcorn, a BOB operated by three sisters who grew up in Nashville and came together to open a popcorn shop where they create innovative flavors that range from traditional like butter, cheddar and caramel to more exotic offerings such as “Nashville Hot” and vanilla/cinnamon. They also put together tins of combination flavors that really pop!
HiFi Cookies is another family-owned business run by a couple that shares their lovin’ from the oven. In addition to their quaint East Nashville bakery, they offer online ordering for their decadent cookies and cookie cakes that are the sweet treats to top off any festive occasion. Or you could go for some smaller cakes from The Cupcake Collection in Germantown, where local hero Mignon Francois has expanded her cupcake empire to a second location in New Orleans. While the entire menu is worth sampling, if you start with her famous sweet potato cupcake first, you may never progress past it to try anything else. We promise we won’t judge!
For healthier food, look no further than Radical Rabbit, where Mariah Ragland creates vegan soul food that she sells at various pop-ups around town. Her plant-based dishes have all the flavors of good old Southern cooking without the guilt, and she offers pre-ordering from a rotating menu with daily pick-up options downtown and in East Nashville plus delivery.
Jason Ridgel is the spirits spirit behind Guidance Whiskey, only the second Black-owned whiskey brand in the state. Instead of obsessing over how old his bourbon is, Ridgel instead concentrates on making it delicious while it’s still young, and the reception to his whiskey has been overwhelmingly positive. You can find Guidance Whiskey in liquor stores and bars across Middle Tennessee, and it’s now available online in 44 states.
No matter what sort of food you’re in the mood for, there’s probably a Black-owned restaurant that can take care of your hunger. Slim & Husky’s Pizza Beeria offers local craft beers to accompany their creative pies, and the owners have been so successful that they’ve already expanded to more than a half dozen locations in just their first few years of business. For Caribbean cuisine, check out Nashville stalwart Jamaicaway or upstart Riddim n’ Spice. Starting out as a food truck before laying down roots with a brick-and-mortar location in Bellevue, IT’Z A Philly Thing serves up some of the most legit cheesesteak sandwiches in town.
If you’re hunting some down-home Southern food, The Southern V serve up classic meat-and-three fare with the surprising benefit that everything they cook is vegan. For more traditional soul food and Southern fare, Silver Sands, Swett’s, Dandgure’s Cafeteria and Big Al’s Deli are excellent choices for breakfast and lunch. A former Vanderbilt football player stayed in town after graduation to create Coneheads, a novel concept with a menu that revolves around your choice of chicken tenders or fried cauliflower served in a waffle cone capped with options like mac n’ cheese, grits or pineapple coleslaw. It’s the ultimate ambulatory treat!
Most of the iconic Nashville Hot Chicken joints in town are BOBs, so make sure to try out the OGs at Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, Bolton’s Spicy Chicken and Fish, 400 Degrees, Big Shake’s, Helen’s and Slow Burn for a taste of Music City’s most important culinary contribution. (But don’t touch your eyes afterwards.)
The local bar and lounge scene also features several successful Black-owned establishments. WKND Hang Suite and Minerva Avenue are upscale establishments where patrons dress to impress while enjoying craft cocktails, while more casual options include Germantown Pub and Willie B’s Kitchen & Lounge that focus more on their food during the day before transforming to watering holes after the sun goes down. But really, the Southern fare at Germantown and the New Orleans-inspired cuisine at Willie B’s are worth a visit at any time of day.
Whether you’re shopping for stylish clothing, fashion accessories, art or gifts, some of Nashville’s best boutiques and retail stores also happen to be Black-owned businesses. N.B. Goods does a lot of business online, selling fun and fashionable apparel, embroidered beanies, bandanas, pennants, banners, flags and totes, but they also have a small retail shop in East Nashville where you can see their wares with your own eyes before you buy. The owner’s sense of humor shines through in the quirky designs and slightly edgy inscriptions that she embroiders on the items she sells.
If you’re looking to decorate your walls, shop at spots like Woodcuts Gallery and Framing or This Little Light Glass Art Gallery & Shop. Both galleries feature a lot of art inspired by Black history and culture, but the themes running through the artwork are universal and quite attractive.
You really can’t ever have too many candles, can you? That’s the hope of the owners of Downtown Candle Company, where they sell a wide variety of 100% pure artisan soybean wax candles made with novel cedar wood wicks that guarantee a smooth, soot-free burn. Their candles are scented with essential oils that contribute subtle calming aromas to create the ideal environment for sheltering in place of just chilling at home. Order their candles, bath bars and room sprays online or shop at their cozy little shop in the Market Shed at the Nashville Farmers’ Market downtown.
TNT Goods is an online store started by two friends who create gorgeous custom jewelry and sell other fun fashion accessories and home decor items like art prints, glassware and soap dishes. Their customized apparel items project positive messages of empowerment and support for Black cultural causes. Styles Boutique also promotes empowerment through the apparel on their webstore, offering fashionable clothing options for women of many sizes. Peruse their variety of clothing collections and swimwear for that perfect addition to your wardrobe.
Remember, you don’t only have to shop at Black-owned businesses during February. These important local entrepreneurs are an important part of Nashville all year round!