If your teen is looking for cowboy boots and western wear, you’ve come to the right city. That said, the tastes of many teens are more cosmopolitan and globally influenced — whether searching for clothing or accessories, musical instruments, vintage records or even a cool coffee place to chill and see what people their age are into.
In fact, young people just a few years older are a driving force behind up-and-coming neighborhoods such as The Nations, Belmont and Hillsboro Village, each with shops and restaurants infusing a global sensibility into Nashville’s all-American milieu. Some businesses double as museums, while others are as interested in community enrichment while setting fashion and lifestyle trends.
Able, located in The Nations district on the city’s west side, was conceived by Barrett Ward, whose life and career aspirations were transformed by a trip to Ethiopia. After witnessing how extreme poverty forced young women to support themselves, she created a business plan to provide women, overseas and in Nashville, a means to engage in creative, meaningful work to thrive. What started with a line of hand-woven scarves sold online gave way to full lines of fair-trade shoes, bags, jeans, clothing and jewelry, devised to make both the wearer and the team of women creators make a powerful statement on making the world a safer place for women. Able’s flagship not only showcases these ethically crafted, chic items in one place, but also allows the ability to meet some of the designers and see them in action. Project615, a few minutes away, also supports philanthropic causes through sales of its apparel.
While Thistle Farms’ body and home products are sold nationwide at retailers like Whole Foods and dozens of boutiques, its headquarters in The Nations inspires, similarly to Able. The storefront not only appeals with a lively café and stylish assortment of candles, body products and decorative items from other local artisans (whose wares can also be found at Able), but also a team of down-to-earth saleswomen who benefited from the nonprofit social enterprise behind the scenes. The sales staff along with the women who created the candles, lotions, soaps and other personal care and home products also survived life on the streets and not only received shelter, but training and the wherewithal to move into middle-class lives.
There are numerous guitar shops around town, as one would expect, but nothing like Carter Vintage Guitars in The Gulch, known for its antique shops and Arnold’s Country Kitchen, a humble cafeteria with down-home food that just happened to win recognition from the James Beard Foundation. While serious musicians come here when they want something more than a guitar to practice on (including a 12-year-old from London during my visit), others come to appreciate some of the rarest guitars and stringed instruments in the world, as well as their role in the lives of legendary musicians and songs.
With so many Vanderbilt University students in the vicinity, it’s no surprise Hillsboro Village is a style hub. Shops in the area run the gamut from Posh, stocking contemporary fashion for young men and women at a variety of price points, to a branch of New Orleans-based UAL (a.k.a. United Apparel Liquidators) choc-a-bloc with many steals and deals. The brick-and-mortar location of The Grilled Cheesery, an outgrowth of a food truck empire started by former husband-and-wife Los Angeles residents, is an essential place to rest and refuel after a morning of power shopping.