For those of you who don't know me, here's a little backstory.
In 2002, it was clear that there was a growing demand for simple, healthy,
thoughtfully prepared breakfast and lunch food in East Nashville. I already had proven success as the exclusive provider of grab-and-go food for the neighborhood natural food store-selling out of sandwiches
nearly every day-and as the hostess of a weekly pop-up brunch at Bongo Java East. With the support of a burgeoning
community of people who appreciated creative food made with fresh
ingredients, Red Wagon Café was born. But then, so too, was dear, sweet Henry,
our son. At the outset of restaurant ownership, I knew I might
eventually choose motherhood instead. And at the end of my 5-year lease,
I did just that. I did so knowing that there could always be another
restaurant, but that I only had one chance to spend that time with
In that five years, Red Wagon garnered a great deal of critical acclaim, with appearances in Southern Living, Cooking Light, Food and Wine, Travel+Leisure, and USA Today. We also had the distinction of being voted “Best Brunch” and “Best Caterer” several times in the Nashville Scene Best of Nashville Awards. I am proud to say I was a pioneer in East Nashville and in the “farm to table” movement, buying produce, eggs and cheese from local, organic CSA farmers well before the word “locavore” became part of the vernacular. We had very loyal fans, many of whom waited in line for hours every weekend just to eat my biscuits. Nearly every day someone tells me that they miss Red Wagon. I'm a lucky girl.
An unbelievable opportunity
Now, I have always said there would be another chance for me to own a restaurant, right?
A little more than a month ago, a friend asked if I was ready to open another restaurant. This friend happens to work for the Nashville Symphony. She thought I might be interested to know about an opportunity, one that seemed tailor-made for me. I was all ears.
The Schermerhorn Symphony Center, in a recent effort to reduce their budget, closed its food service operations, leaving vacant the beautiful Symphony Café, but they wanted to continue serving food to their patrons. We had a meeting. We had a tasting. I crunched some numbers. We had a deal.
They offered me the opportunity to take over the café, to run it as an independent restaurant. One reason they chose me over other candidates is because I could act quickly, and by quickly I mean get it open in a week, in time for the opening of the symphony season.
And I did it.
Cherry Street is open for coffee, pastries, and lunch
Monday-Friday, from 8am-2pm, and for every event on the
Schermerhorn concert schedule.
Because this opportunity came about so quickly, I was able to open the door on September 5th, but I am under-capitalized. I will need a boost from friends, old and new, to ensure that I can sustain the business through the critical first six months. By donating, you would play a crucial role in that support system.
The good news is that it won't take much. The amount I hope to raise, $8500, will cover licenses, fees, insurance, the purchase of some small equipment, and stocking the pantry and staffing the café. There is no build-out, no contractors, no major equipment or furnishings to buy.
The Plan (and it is simple)
My plan is to build on my previous success to create something which is at once new and familiar. The menu is the same kind of healthy, scratch-made soups, sandwiches and baked goods that made Red Wagon popular, only now I am serving the downtown business community, Schermerhorn concert goers, and the many visitors who make Nashville their destination. I use local and sustainable ingredients when possible, showcasing local farms and makers like Drew's Brews, Wolfe Gourmet Cakes, Kenny's Farmhouse Cheeses, and Dozen Bakery.
Cherry Street Eatery & Sweetery is situated in the epicenter of the SoBro development explosion. With the new Nashville City Center, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum expansion, plans for an amphitheater, and all the highrises and hotels newly built or under construction, it will not be difficult to drive business into Cherry Street. I have a built-in customer base with the staff, musicians, and patrons of the symphony. We have received great press, and I have already seen a steady increase in walk-in customers, including many old Red Wagon fans.
I am also working with symphony staff to develop more daytime
programming that will promote Cherry Street and the symphony; lunchtime concerts, and a monthly Sunday brunch featuring live music are just a couple of ideas.
A chance to do good
It is important to me that Cherry Street not only serves food, but that it also serves the community in a meaningful way. I am partnering with Magdalene House/Thistle Farms to offer employment to graduates of their program.
Risks and challenges
Of course, any restaurant project holds its risks. I can confidently say that in my career, I have experienced most of them. That means I have the troubleshooting skills to handle just about anything. This project is uniquely low-risk, very little overhead, no build-out, practically a turn-key operation. Even my accountant thinks it's a great opportunity.
Complete your evening of cultural entertainment with dessert for two at Cherry Street Eatery & Sweetery at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Selections will change daily, but you can expect to find an array of tempting treats from chocolate pot de creme to raw vegan carrot cake.
Lunch for two at Cherry Street Eatery & Sweetery. How about a midday break for a thoughtfully prepared, healthy, locally sourced lunch? Quinoa salad with roasted vegetables from Delvin Farms? House-made pimento cheese made with Kenny's Farmhouse Cheddar? These are just a couple of choices on our seasonal lunch menu of soups, salads, and sandwiches. There is something yummy for everyone. Happy eating.
Yes, I once owned Red Wagon Cafe, much beloved (and critically acclaimed) home of healthy, creative lunches and ridiculously delicious cat-head biscuits. Did you know that I also: develop recipes for published cookbook authors, consult with state agencies and non-profit organizations on child nutrition reform, and style food for a celebrity cooking show?
I would like to share some of my experience and knowledge in the form of a folio of 10 of my favorite recipes. I will even include the secret biscuit recipe.
Biscuits for a month of Sundays. One dozen warm, buttery cat-head biscuits, delivered to your doorstep every Sunday for a month. Realistically, this is only an option for my Nashville supporters. Or you could gift it to someone you know in Nashville. Mmmm, biscuits.
A platter of delightful holiday confections. Cookies, meringues, sugarplums. Throwing a holiday party? You won't have to worry about sweets. It would also make a lovely hostess gift if you are attending a seasonal soiree.
Need lunch for the office? How about a sandwich platter for 12? Roast beef with house-made onion marmalade, bleu cheese and arugula, sesame chicken salad, B.L.T with avocado, local cheddar and sriracha mayo, spicy pimento cheese with capers, kalamata olives and roasted red peppers. And these are just at few of your choices. Sound good? You will be the most popular person at work.
You will receive an elegant Sunday brunch for 8 of your favorite people, prepared by me in your home. Imagine Martha Stewart, but a little more punk rock. You can look forward to a seasonal,locally sourced southern menu, both sweet and savory, made and served with love and gratitude. You don't even have to get out of your jammies.