Marathon Village Transforms into Nashville’s Hip New District
The Marathon automobile manufactured in Nashville from 1910-1914 may be a forgotten memory for most, but when urban visionary Barry Walker discovered the shuttered derelict Marathon Factory on Clinton Street in 1986, a transformation began.
Starting with $300 and a vision, he has gradually turned the crumbling conclave of red brick buildings into a thriving community of creative businesses and artistic talent, all within sight of the State Capitol. Colorful residents range from Antique Archaeology’s museum-like store to Moonshine Nettie’s Vintage Store and the Corsair Artisan Distillery.
Marathon Village, visible from I-40 and close to the Charlotte exit, is now the new venue in town, filled with creative activity, music, art and an eclectic mix of fascinating businesses. Snapping up these highly prized studio spaces are fashion designers, film producers, photographers, graphic designers, musicians, digital media specialists, architects and creators of everything from custom ties to Belgian chocolate-covered marshmallows.
Walker has worked passionately to preserve the history of the Marathon Motor Works, and searched the world to acquire four of the remaining eight Marathon cars left in existence. If you call his office, you can arrange a special tour of his small showroom where these automobiles are on display.
While many businesses operate in privacy in the renovated buildings, the ground floor is buzzing with activity and a popular stop for several tour buses and the Music City Trolley. Let’s visit a sampling to whet your appetite!
Antique Archaeology is the home base of Mike Wolfe, the History Channel’s American Picker, and is jammed with many antique treasures you’ll recognize from the show. The lines on a weekend often wrap around the building, fans coming to find their own piece of nostalgia. Live music Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays make it a great spot to hang out and enjoy the old fashioned ambience.
In the brick-walled gallery opposite the factory, Olga Alexeeva’s paintings fill the airy space in floor-to-ceiling vibrant color. Her realistic and abstract art reflects her journey from Russia to Nashville as actor and single mother. She opened her first “O” Gallery in the downtown Arcade in 2009 and her second one in Marathon Village in 2011.
Passionate about art and life, Alexeeva loves to host private parties, cocktail affairs, books signings, album releases, and weddings at her “O” Gallery at Marathon, sharing the creative energy that seeps from the historic bricks and vivid paintings. Gather some friends and sign up for one of her art classes. For just $40 each you can bring your own wine to a 2-hour themed painting class. “O” Gallery was voted Best Art Gallery by Nashville Scene’s Best of Nashville 2012. You’ll leave the gallery inspired!
The Old Time Pickin’ Parlor, one of the two oldest performance venues in Nashville, has come back to life at Marathon Village after closing down on 2nd Avenue many years ago. Owner Richie Owens leans on the counter, his wispy beard twisted into three intriguing plaits. He remembers as a boy in the 70’s hanging out with legends like Roy Acuff, Neil Young, Eric Clapton and others who brought their instruments and gathered in the old Pickin’ Parlor for Blues and Bluegrass jam sessions. Early mentors ensured Owens’ personal track as a successful solo artist, performing with the likes of Dolly Parton, and with music running blue in his veins.
He has recreated the historic and vintage music store vibe. Rows of guitars, dobros, and mandolins hang on the walls, a pocket of vintage clothes and other memorabilia for sale occupy another corner, and a cozy circle of chairs and old leather sofas take up center stage. Every Wednesday night you can reconnect with the roots of Americana music at his weekly Pickin’ at the Parlor, 7-10 p.m. Seating is limited to 50, with standing room for 75, so you’ll need to reserve your spot online.
Irish-born Sarah Souther discovered a passion for marshmallows after dining with friends in a local tapas restaurant and began experimenting at home, at first adding rosewater and ground cardamom for taste. With the encouragement of friends, she was soon running a gourmet marshmallow business from a tiny cabin on a trailer. Since moving The Bang Candy Company into Marathon Village, she hasn’t looked back.
On a Saturday morning we found quite a line of customers, eager to sample the tempting flavors of her famous gourmet Belgian chocolate-dipped marshmallows. Pick up a bottle of natural syrup while you’re there, choosing from flavors like ginger rosemary or pineapple jalapeno cilantro. The shop is also a café, serving homemade baked goods, salads and paninis.
Looking for the perfect bold, smooth, rich cup of coffee? Owner of the Garage Coffee Company, Robert Camardo began roasting coffee in New Jersey, and has found the ideal outlet for his private blends in Nashville’s Marathon Village. You can now enjoy his “Road Rage” blend, or the decaf alternative “Anger Management,” along with locally made sweets, baked goods and healthy sandwiches.
Manager Jake Todhunter, a man who appreciates the finest nuances of good coffee, persuaded me to try the Slingshot, their signature drink. Cold vanilla cream on the bottom is layered with a shot of hot espresso, microfoam, and topped with a caramel drizzle and smoked Bourbon salt. You should drink this straight so the cold cream comes up through the hot coffee. It will kickstart your day and is guaranteed to bring you back to the Garage for frequent voluntary maintenance!
Share in the comments below your favorite discovery in Marathon Village!