The Rich History
Most of the history of this building you already know. Countless features have decried how the 5th & Main complex, though epic in scope, was too much too soon. Before, the restaurants attempted to fit the proverbial square peg in a round hole. The ideas and intent were well meaning, but the area was not ready for high-end fare marked with a “$$$$” on your Google app. The neighborhood while still under development now, has begun to take form and more people are calling it home. 5th & Main is now joined by its neighbors Stacks and Eastside Heights – with more residential developments underway.
The 5th & Main complex is a residential-retail project right at the base of East Nashville right across the river from Downtown. You see it right as you exit Briley heading towards Downtown. Seriously you can’t miss it. Eddie Lattimer, of Nashville’s Affordable Housing Resources, spearheaded a project to bring this modern condo development to the area. The building broke ground in 2007 with an eye to the future of what was then still the emerging Lower Gallatin Corridor. The site is built from your future all-in-one neighborhood dreams. It includes a 6-story, 113 condo mid-rise and 11 townhomes. There are scenic courtyards for walking and reading (or Instagramming and Tweeting). Approximately 20,000 square feet of retail space and 10,000 square feet of office space gives us plenty of room to expand and stretch our toes. If we want to. Because the pursuit of convenience is human nature, no?
So where are we in all this? The Mainstay occupies 4,000 square feet of the most prominent space right on the corner of the ground floor area. With massive glass surroundings, the restaurant features a clear view of Nissan Stadium, the Cumberland River and Downtown Nashville. If you are looking for the best views of the sunset in The 615, then this is your destination. Unless you own a blimp…
Chef Falon Smith
“My last meal?,” she responds questioningly. There is a bit of a pause, obviously considering the wealth of options that her mind has to shuffle through, but Chef Falon Smith answers confidently and with a generous smile. “Seared duck breast. And for dessert, chocolate & syrup peanut toast”. While she trusts her mom to take care of the syrup Chef Falon is fully in charge of a Sports Bar-eclectic menu that’s best described as “farm-to-sports bar, elevated bar food.” “I’m so excited to put my own menu together in my own kitchen”.read more
The Farmhouse at the Fontanel was a first foray into professional kitchen work as a line cook. Afterwards she split a year working first at Demo’s Steak and Spaghetti House in Hendersonville and then Cafe Fontanella. She is grateful for the experiences from those early jobs, but her passion to learn continued to push her. “I wanted to do more than just make pasta,” she laughs. Her drive, ideas and undeniable skill earned her a dream spot. She spent two years at Café Fundamental under the tutelage of the famed Chef Jamie Watson as Executive Sous Chef. In fact, you can still find a photo of the two together at the Chef Jamie Watson website.
After a short break, Chef Falon wanted to find a restaurant that fit her passion and expertise. Her search earned her a spot under Chef Luke Belsito at the Vine restaurant. She was brought in as a Sous Chef in 2014 and then named Executive Chef in 2015. She stayed with the restaurant until it closed in May 2016.
Her travels and restarts makes landing here at The Mainstay even sweeter. A place where a fresh start has everyone so excited seems right to her. “This is a second chance to make the space my own.” She believes Vine in particular came too soon to the section of East Nashville that The Mainstay now calls home. “It was fine dining,” she explains. “Too upscale and not East Nashville”. Bringing an authentic and approachable menu to the Lower Gallatin Corridor is key for Chef Falon. She enthusiastically runs through some of her menu highlights on the spot. ‘Build-your-own flatbreads’, a muffaletta crossed with a club sandwich and house-made dressings are among the first appetizing entree ideas she names. She is particularly keen securing a win in a specific category as well. She has a top secret idea for the a category in the Nashville Scene’s Best Of Nashville Food & Drink Awards. “The Best Non-Southern Use of Okra,” she announces with a huge smile. And of course there will be plenty of fresh baked bread.
Jessica Benson has a great view of Nashville. It’s a view enhanced by her current aerial perspective and the significance is not lost on The Mainstay’s General Manager. Looking out over the expansion and revitalization of the Lower Gallatin Corridor, Benson speaks about attending one of the churches within throwing distance of restaurant. “None of this was here back then,” she remarks.read more
Jessica has more than 10 years of experience in the restaurant industry. She started serving and bartending at Coconut Bay Cafe’ in Murfreesboro, TN for almost a year before getting her start in management with the company. She continued that work ethic at Toot’s, also in Murfreesboro and was offered a management position within two weeks of starting.
(I would love for this to say something to the effect of Coconut Bay helping teach me the ins and outs of service, and how I wouldn’t be who I am today if I had started the industry anywhere else.)
After over a year there, Jessica left Toot’s for an opportunity at Whiskey Dix Saloon where “free domestic bottled beer until 10 PM” lead to insanely busy nights. “In some restaurants,” she begins, “a server was excited to have sold $1500, but in a bar of that size and popularity, an easy night was $2500 in sales on a single register”. Though thankful for the experience, working in a college bar was not where Jessica wanted her career to stagnate. She left with a better idea of how she wanted to navigate the restaurant world.
Just by chance, Jessica applied for a position at the Vine restaurant and once again impressed with her resume and passion for people and the business. After just a couple of months, she was promoted from bar manager to general manager. She loved the people she worked with at Vine and was truly saddened when it was forced to close. However, her business connection with Manny Hatz led to a position at one of his marina bars and ultimately an invitation to be a part of The Mainstay team.
Jessica finds herself in a familiar place but with a mission to make The Mainstay a better fit for the people who call the Lower Gallatin Corridor home. She admits that the former restaurants were too formal and did not mesh with the vibe of the neighborhood. That’s not likely to happen with this new team. Jessica describes her role in the team as someone who “has a thumb in every pie”. She is excited to make sure everything runs smoothly for her colleagues and the patrons. She is keeping an eye of every detail from the televisions and stereo to the copper bar and the wine selection. Above all, creating a sense of community with this team and in this neighborhood excites her the most.
“There are memories from every place I have worked, both good and bad. I loved my Karaoke singers and crazy Bike Nights at Coconut Bay. Toot’s is where I met Lisa, I’m the Maid of Honor in her wedding in August. I loved the crazy country saloon and how fast the time flew when we were so busy it was hard to think. I loved my gaggle of amazing creative minds that I got to work with at the Vine, most of which I still talk to and would come work for and with me again. There isn’t an experience that doesn’t speak to me or stands out more than another. I’ve enjoyed learning and teaching, and I can not wait to do it again”.
Josiah Johnson loves East Nashville. Like many long-time residents of the neighborhood, he remembers days before the rush to claim renovated homes. He remembers the stigma attached to this community, the way people pronounced “East Nashville” with wrinkled noses, and when most people completely avoided this “side of the river”. He also knows firsthand how his former place of employment, Rosepepper Cantina, played a role in turning that around.read more
Josiah credits his mentor, the late Ernie Chaires, East Nashville pioneer and visionary behind the Rosepepper Cantina, for being the spark that started the firestorm of the sense of community in that area. It is a feat he wants to replicate with The Mainstay and the part of East Nashville becoming known as “The Lower Gallatin Corridor”. He acknowledges it will take work, but sees this venture as the next logical step after parting ways with the place he called home for 14 years.
“The time I spent there behind the bar, connecting with people, becoming part of the community, watching East Nashville become what it is today… I am forever grateful to Ernie and the loyal customers”.
Josiah had always planned to carry the torch for Ernie when the time came, but the circumstances of Ernie’s rapid health deterioration made it … complicated. The Mainstay is the fresh start he feels he needs. A place he can call his own as well.
“I like being in charge,” Josiah states with a smile. “I like being the one guy who you can count on to fix your problem. For better or worse, people know they can call me and I’m going to help them figure it out.” For now, he is figuring things out for himself. Considering the timing, this feels like the right place at the right time.
The excitement Josiah has for bringing The Mainstay to this neighborhood is palpable. He penned a letter to the 5th & Main community, again, emphasizing the term “community’. Two sections in particular stand out:
“Ernie understood (and I agree) that there is more to a successful restaurant than numbers on a ledger. I believe that a successful restaurant should be the mainstay of your community – it should be an extension of your living space. In a time where we are becoming increasingly isolated from our neighbors, and detached from our communities, a successful restaurant should be a gathering place where you can sit, eat, drink and unwind with your neighbors.”
He goes on to say:
“I’m going to create an anchor of sorts all the way down here at the bottom of the “Lower Gallatin Corridor” and I hope to improve and participate in the continued growth and prosperity of our wonderful and unique little slice of the city.
I’m looking forward to serving and getting to know all of you. I want to do at 5th & Main what I’ve always done – create a comfortable, successful restaurant and contribute to the greater East Nashville community.”
There is a passion and drive in Josiah for this restaurant to be successful. The Mainstay is not a money grab or spur of the moment decision; it is part of a vision for this to be the corner pub that everyone in the Lower Gallatin Corridor feels comfortable claiming as their own.
He says to expect to see him “in the kitchen, bussing tables, repairing furniture or plumbing, hosting parties, meeting vendors, bartending, dressed up, dressed down, or just chatting with regulars and enjoying being involved with guests”. That doesn’t sound like someone interested in a quick buck.
“Lots of people wanted to know what was next for me,” he explains. “Well this is it. I’m all in on this. There’s no ‘what’s next’ if this doesn’t work. This is what’s next and I’m pouring my heart and energy into it”.
Who would bet against that?
“Come take a look at this,” Manny suggests, gesturing to his standing desk. Just moments before, Hatz received a call about a specific addition to the bar that has him excited. After a quick search, Manny reveals the source of his elation and slight frustration. The Mainstay is planning on a warm custom copper bar for the drinks area. It’s an idea that fits perfectly with the restaurant’s ethos and style and Manny wants it. However, that means delivering perfect specifications and making sure it can be delivered by the proposed “open” date. The decision is dependent on a few other cogs nestling into place as well and Manny has to juggle them all expertly. Hatz briefly goes back to his phone before adding cheerily, “it’s going to be beautiful but this is a tight deadline!”.read more
Though he has years of experience as a restaurateur, Manny never set out to be in the food business. Hatz studied to be an electrical engineer at the University of Michigan and worked in that industry for almost 20 years. He also give law school a go, but “hated it”. Sales and marketing were his life until he “got tired of working for the man” and decided he needed a change. Exit Detroit and enter Nashville.
Manny, like so many transplants before him, loved Nashville when he arrived. He started to work on a way to make his stay permanent. After surveying the land, Manny came to the conclusion that there was “nothing like Jet’s Pizza in Nashville”. So in 2008, Hatz threw everything he owned into his first Jets Pizza franchise – with no previous experience! But Manny was determined to make it work despite the obvious difficulty of managing a restaurant for the first time. Through hard work, Manny succeeded and opened several Jet’s Pizza franchises in the Middle Tennessee area. “Restaurants are fun,” he exclaims. The bug officially bit Manny and he wanted to try more. Shipwreck Cove was an early venture, but being a marina style restaurant meant business ebbed and flowed with the season. Manny was given an opportunity to purchase Germantown East and then Feast.
Much has been made of the restaurants that have been in the space The Mainstay currently occupies. However, Manny believes this fresh start and the opportunity to finally work with Josiah Johnson feels different. “This concept, in this location, at this time, works,” explains Manny. If you’ve driven down Main Street towards East Nashville, you see the future of the area already. A population boom is scheduled to hit the Lower Gallatin Corridor and developments are growing on every corner. Manny wants to make sure everyone already in the area and those coming, feel at home at The Mainstay.
He also reveals a phrase he and Josiah decided would help guide their work together.
“Whatever we do has to be fun and has to make money,” Manny says laughing.
The odds are good on both of those accounts!
The bar manager is a crucial element to any self-respecting sports bar. You need someone you can count on for the big moments in life, and Lane Kohl is that guy at The Mainstay. Whether you down your liquid like a fish or or you’re a one-shot-wonder, Lane knows the drink for the occasion. For example, when John Robinson and the Tennessee Titans pull off an NFL Draft Music City Miracle – there’s actually a draft beer for that occasion. Say the Nashville Predators win Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals with an unbelievable slapshot – he knows the perfect shot of tequila to celebrate. Maybe it’s the night your wildest musical dreams come true and the band pulls you on stage to showcase that 5-octave vocal range and Prince-like guitar chops that got you into Belmont. We don’t know what kind of drink could cap that, but Lane can make it happen.read more
Lane is a musician with a fondness for A Song of Ice and Fire and Breaking Bad, and in our opinion, it doesn’t get much better than that. He has over seven years experience in the industry and has worked his way up from barback after leaving Western Kentucky University. He made the trip to Music City with his band and landed a job at The Rosepepper Cantina where he met owner Josiah Johnson. His hard work and joy at making people happy earned him a spot on the team at The Mainstay where he plans keep the locals liquored and smiling.
So scoot up a stool to the beautiful copper bar and let Lane and his crew take care of you.