The retail and event space that we now know as The Station started life in 1930 as the home of Engine Co. 18. Located at 1220 Gallatin Ave, it served East Nashville for nearly sixty years before the expanding city relocated the company to a new facility. The building sat vacant. For decades. The Metro Historical Commission designated the building a historic structure in 2006 but it remained vacant and unused, falling into disrepair. In 2011, a devastating fire struck a serious blow to the building. Deemed unsafe and structurally unsound, the City of Nashville placed a demolition order on the building. Things looked bleak for this fixture of the community.
Enter Karen Goodlow.
A musician and interior designer with a passion for architectural salvage and for benefiting the community, Karen has always had her fingers in a variety of different business pies. She also developed a love for the old building that she passed often travelling to and from her East Nashville home. As a interior designer and student of architecture she knew that the building was beautiful. As a member of the community she knew that it had a deep meaning for many of the people who still lived in the neighborhoods that it had served. As an entrepreneur she knew that it had incredible potential if only someone would do something with it. And she knew that she had to be that someone.
It doesn’t take any prodding to get Karen to tell the story of how that structurally unsound building became hers. I won’t even try to tell that story here. You need to hear it from Karen. She will tell you about the history. She will tell you about the fire. She will tell you about the struggles to resurrect the building. She will tell you about the floors and the bricks and the fixtures. She will tell you about the people who came to her, who still come to her, to tell her stories about the place. She loves that building and loves sharing it with people. She shares it by telling those stories and she shares it by sharing her vision of what it can be and she shares it by finding the right mix of business ventures to call the space home.
The current mix of businesses is eclectic. Karen runs her interior design business out what used to be the engine bay. And she and her husband Gary sell locally roasted coffee under the name Grounds 2 Give out of that same bay — using the proceeds to support a local non-profit that benefits the homeless and low income residents of Nashville. Architectural salvage fills that same space along with works of art, and local products — all for sale. Their leasing agent, Southern Athena Real Estate, has an office in the building as well.
And then there’s Black Shag Vintage, a unique vintage clothing and accessories store owned and curated by former musician and Tommy Daley. Filling half of the front of the building, Tommy’s flagship location is bursting with all manner of vintage concert tees, belt buckles, leather jackets, boots, cassettes, patches, buttons, bandanas and more. Lovers of music and lovers of vintage will find plenty to browse and definitely something to buy in the small but well-stocked shop.
The Station is a business and a space for other businesses to use and in which to collaborate. It is also, and more importantly, a vision in the mind of Karen Goodlow. That vision isn’t necessarily about what kind of business she wants to operate there or the kinds of businesses that she would like to use that space. The vision is about the space itself, restored and given a new life as a place for the community — the people of the community and the businesses that are part of the community. Karen told me, as we talked about what is next for The Station, that the building is telling her what it wants to be.
So what does the building tell her it wants to be now? Events are a big part of that. She has had a number of people approach her about using the space in that capacity. As event spaces go it isn’t particularly large. The engine bay is just under 1,000 square feet with some additional space in the old bunk room behind for staff and caterers. But it is a unique space; an intimate space; filled with the history of the building. If you are planning a small event and want to find a unique venue that is steeped in the history of Nashville, you should definitely be looking at The Station.
The building also tells her that there needs to be music. There is music there now — free music nights ever third Thursday that always bring a crowd to settle into the space for an intimate performance. Karen is looking to bring more performers into the space and to begin to pay performers by charging admission. Do you know of a singer-songwriter or a spoken word artist or a small ensemble that wants to perform in an intimate setting different from the cafes and bars of Music City? Call Karen.
Music isn’t the only art that the building tells Karen that it needs. Some of the photographs hanging on the walls are the work of a local artist. Karen is looking for more opportunities to use The Station as a gallery. She feels strongly that art and community belong there as much if not more so than commerce. Art of any kind. Photographs or paintings on the walls? Definitely! There are even discussions underway about a fashion show.
If you want to learn more about The Station, you can do so at http://thestationnashville.com. There you will find more about their history, plenty of photographs, information on their retail partners, event rentals, and a calendar. Keep your eye on that calendar for new events. Oh, and sign up for their mailing list. Karen has a lot of things in mind for The Station and you want to know about them first.
But the best way to learn about The Station is to visit The Station. Check out the new arrivals at Black Shag Vintage. Wander the equipment bay. Browse Karen’s architectural salvage and the art that hangs on the walls. Peruse the local products on the shelves. Stop in on one of their Third Thursday Music Nights. If you’re lucky Karen will be there. She'll share the history of the building, the story of it’s transformation, and her undying passion for what it is and what it can be.
Originally written by James Szuch and published on 09/24/17