- This time on "Tennessee Crossroads," we take you to a 35-year-old food favorite in Nashville. Then, explore some big surprises in the little town of Kingston Springs. We'll meet a couple of ladies who take the cake, so to speak, in Franklin County, and discover the story behind the work of this Fayetteville craftsman. Hi, everybody, I'm Joe Elmore, new haircut. Big welcome to this week's "Tennessee Crossroads." We love bringing you stories about dining destinations we find around the state. But you know, we sometimes almost overlook what's in our own backyard. For instance, The Picnic Cafe in Nashville. It's been a breakfast and lunch tradition for more than 35 years. In fact, it's got a reputation for fresh food and hospitality whether you dine in or carry out. Our destination is tucked away behind a BP station on Harding Pike in Nashville. If you wanna find a good place to eat, have lunch, maybe, just look for Henry, the mascot, outside. Once you get inside, well, you'll learn the story of a remarkable lady who went from selling sandwiches on the street to being the proud owner of The Picnic Cafe. - What's going on? Look at my man! - Hi, how are ya? - Hi, Michael! - Hi, nice to meet you. - What are you doing, hangin' around these bums? - What would you like today? - You want tea punch? - You have some punch? - I had 'em! - You want a corn muffin today, Virginia? - I love you. - Love you. - [Joe] It's been a Belle Meade lunch and breakfast tradition since 1983, with a loyal legion of regulars from several generations. - She's pretty tall, yeah, you are. - [Joe] Customers swear by the flavor of their famed tarragon chicken salad. - [Woman] It's the best chicken salad in town! - [Woman] Mm-hm. - [Joe] And their sandwiches, from turkey to BLTs. There are a variety of homemade soups, and much more. It's all prepared from scratch in this clean, modern, very productive kitchen. And it takes a big staff to keep up with the constant stream of orders for in-house dining, carry-out, and catering. It all started a few decades ago, when owner Kathy Bonnet needed some money to supplement her teaching salary. - I thought, "I'm gonna start making sandwiches "out of my apartment, chicken salad, "and I'm gonna take 'em around in a basket, "and I'm gonna try to sell 'em and see what happens." And that is exactly how I started The Picnic Cafe. - [Joe] For many years, she rented space in the old Belle Meade Drug Store. When it closed, H.G. Hill's Jimmy Granbery came to the rescue. He offered her this building in what used to be a laundromat. - [Kathy] I was so excited. Problem was, we only had three months to gut it and build it, and we met our deadline with Johnny Folks. - [Joe] As you enter The Picnic, one of the first things you notice is Kathy has this thing for blue and white. - [Kathy] It is an addiction to blue and white. I've always just loved the plates. Started out with one. I bought it at a flea market. A lot of people have died and left us some plates. People have brought old plates in that they don't know what to do with. We have, of course, purchased most of 'em. - [Joe] You'll also discover Kathy seems to know just about everyone who walks through the door. - Miss Mary! Miss Mary Williams. - I do, I love them. They're wonderful people. This is like a big, free country club. It is. It's a big, free country club, and everybody generally knows everybody that comes in. - [Joe] Chicken salad sort of started it all, I guess, and now it's one of the main attractions here. - [Kathy] It is the main attraction to us. We sell more chicken salad than anything. We sell close to 250 pounds a day. - [Joe] A day? - [Kathy] That's making sandwiches with it as well. - [Joe] What's the secret to making it so good that people love it? - [Kathy] Steaming that chicken. Steaming the chicken. It's made with love. This chicken salad is made with love. If you made it, you would have to say it was made with love, too, because it's always the same, it's consistent. Lainey's always the one that makes it. - [Joe] Whatever you order, you'll wanna wash it down with a Picnic Cafe special. - [Kathy] Our Picnic Punch. We're really well-known for it. People come in and buy it by the gallon. Gallons. It's made with real tea, sugar, cinnamon oil, orange juice, and lemonade. And our cheese wafers are very popular, that's another thing that's very popular. We sell 'em like bubble gum in a convenience store. They're in front of the counter. Almost every customer picks up a bag of cheese wafers. It's like bubble gum to them. - [Joe] Kathy credits her staff for keeping the food and service consistently first-rate. And speaking of employees, that's her sister Celia behind daughter and number one fan Emma. - Hi, Bonnie! She is the greatest inspiration in my life, and I have watched her work so incredibly hard since I was little, and The Picnic's all I've ever known. I've never had another job, so I wouldn't know what to do otherwise. - [Joe] Don't count on Kathy hanging up her blue apron any time soon. But when she does, she knows she's got Emma there to take over the Picnic Cafe tradition. - [Kathy] She doesn't have a choice. She would be a fool not to take this beautiful creation. It's part of me, you know? - [Emma] I will take over whenever she's ready to go home, but she'll always be popping in, I can assure that. - As you travel down an interstate, the exits often seem just like signs in the passing landscape. But if you slow down and take a closer look, well, you might be surprised at what you find. Jessica Turk did this recently just outside Nashville when she took the exit to Kingston Springs. - [Jessica] As you travel Interstate 40, many of the exits along the way are simply signs passing in the landscape, and possibly future places to fill up the tank. But if you slow down and take a closer look, you might find something special. You might find Kingston Springs. - [Woman] It really is a special place. - [Theresa] It's great people, great town. It's a lot of fun. - [Woman] It's an experience. - [Jessica] This stretch of road is Main Street, or downtown, as the locals call it. It may be short, but this historic street has a lot to offer. It's more than an assortment of shops. Main Street is a meeting place for a rural community to come together, and the heart of this downtown may surprise you. - Behind every great community is a great library. - [Jessica] That couldn't be more true for Kingston Springs, as Janet Walker, library director, will tell you. - It's kinda the heart of our community. And tell me, how is Ginger? - [Jessica] The South Cheatham Public Library started humbly, operating out of a small corner in City Hall. In 1986, with a goal of promoting community interest, towns were encouraged to create a homecoming project for Tennessee's 150-year celebration. - A lot of communities did parks, and our community decided they wanted to do a library. - [Jessica] One of only two log-cabin libraries in the state, it has served as Main Street's core for almost 30 years. From craft nights and storytimes to hosting the town Christmas tree lighting, the library is an essential part of this quaint community. - You think of a mall with an anchor store, and I think of that as being the anchor library here in town. That one looks like it's going to take off for flight. - Yes. - [Jessica] But over the years, others have joined the library on Main Street, dropping anchors of their own and developing into staples of the community. 15 years ago, Patrick Weickenand opened The Fillin' Station. - [Patrick] In the beginning, it was scary. I was the only one down here. - [Jessica] It started small, with a George Foreman grill and four bar stools. Now, The Fillin' Station is a popular restaurant and live music venue that doesn't just bring in the locals. Respected musicians from all over visit Kingston Springs just to play here. ♪ Woman, why you wanna wear me down ♪ - Then the businesses started growing, which I love to see because there was company. - [Jessica] And over the years, the company continued moving in. His neighbors now include a yarn shop, yoga studio, and even an antique boutique. - [Woman] Look at these cute shirts! - [Jessica] Cindy Sullivan, owner of Vintage Loved, opened her shop on Main Street after leaving her career as a social worker. - With my son having early signs of autism, I felt like it was more my calling and passion to work directly with him, but I opened the shop so I could have a social outlet as well. - [Jessica] And according to Kingston Springs Mayor Tony Gross, that's exactly what Main Street provides. - The community really centers on this area. It almost feels like extended family. You walk out, people wanna give you a hug and talk, and it's just a really special place to be. We've had a couple natural disasters here, and in both situations, this town just came together. Everybody helped each other out. - [Jessica] In March of 2012, a tornado struck Main Street, damaging many buildings, even ripping part of the roof off of the library. The next day, 75 volunteers showed up to help. And during the flood of 2010, having not lost power or Internet access, a coffee shop on Main Street owned by Amy and Cole Bruce served as a makeshift command center for local volunteers. - There were all these volunteers that said, "I wanna help clean out homes," and we did over 350 homes-- - Yeah, that's close to 400. - With volunteers, local volunteers, through the coffee shop. And so, that really built a lot of community through something bad. - [Jessica] And if it wasn't for that bad experience, the coffee shop, now the popular Skyking Pizza, wouldn't be part of this bustling Main Street. But how exactly did they go from coffee to pizza? - [Cole] That's a long story. - [Jessica] After starting the coffee shop, they realized they needed to offer more than coffee to sustain their business in a small community. So while talking with their chef friends and doing a little research-- - [Amy] We decided to do pizza. - Everyone loves pizza. Show me somebody that doesn't love pizza. At that point, it was, "All right, we wanna make "the best product we can absolutely make." The wood-fired oven is the secret to everything. On the floor, it'll be around 900 degrees. In the dome, it'll be around 1,500 degrees. So it continually brings in room-temperature moist air over your pizza-- - Unlike convection. - Unlike, say, a convection oven, where it's circulating air-- - And dry. - And dries it out. You can just about put anything in that wood-fired oven and it comes out just tasting better. - Skillet! - [Cole] Here's the honest truth. It's a big adventure, no matter if you open it out here or in Nashville or wherever, but we really wanted to open up this place for the community. - From pizza to pints, and antiques to art, Main Street in Kingston Springs has something for everyone. For me, it's the gelato. - They asked me, "What's Sweet T's?" I said, "Well, my husband's sweet and I'm T." - [Jessica] Theresa Chandler, or T, opened the newest addition to Main Street this summer, Sweet T's Ice Cream and Food. - [Theresa] We always loved the gelato in Sicily, so we decided that we would take that gelato and bring it to our community. - I want red! - You want the red? - I love seeing their face when they taste our gelato for the first time. The children come to the case, and they're all have their faces pressed up against the window. - [Boy] Thank you! - [Woman] Thank you. - [Theresa] I love the community. When you're Italian, your kinda background is welcoming and having friends and inviting them over, and this is a perfect spot. It's great people, great town. It's a lot of fun. It's a lot of life here, so we wanted to be part of it. - [Jessica] Part of a community with a lot more to offer than just a fill-up. - Thanks, Jessica. Many of us try to say no to desserts in the name of calorie-counting and weight-watching, but Ken Wilshire met a couple of business ladies in Cowan, Tennessee, who make sure you won't say no to their sweet treats. And here's why. - [Ken] Here in the shadows of Monteagle Mountain, the small town of Cowan, Tennessee, has always been known as a railroad town. But spirits are running extremely high in more ways than one amongst townsfolk. They're hoping these two local entrepreneurs will give a little kick to downtown development, like they do with the products they bake. - It will be double the next layer, the top will be a double, but it will be-- - Are we gonna do it three-layer? - Yes. - Okay. - [Ken] Krista Gerber and Paige Jones were part of the Nashville scene for years, with some very popular confection creations. Their Southern sweets have been the highlight of many celebrations, and have decorated dessert plates with decadent delights. - I've always loved to cook. Food, I feel, makes people happy. There's nothing that gives us both joy as to watch people eat our cakes or whoopie pies and smile, or the sounds they make by their eating. - I started doing tipsy cakes with a friend about eight years ago, and we were just selling 'em in Lynchburg at my little shop, and it just kinda grew from there. I found this bakery in Nashville, it had been family-owned for 14 years, and we purchased it and kinda combined the two together, and we've done pretty good with that. They already had a lot of customers, and we had customers, and we were able to offer a lot of variety of desserts. With spirits. - [Ken] But they moved from Nashville to the old bakery building in Cowan. It's been the perfect location for them to set up shop. I mean, every town needs a bakery, and Sweet Southern Spirit Cake and Candy Company is an uplifting addition with a twist on traditional baking. - [Paige] Most everything we bake has spirits in it. We try to use local product. We use a lot of Jack Daniel. We use the Moon Pie MoonShine. They're out of Chattanooga, so we've used a lot of their products. We try to use local wineries when possible and local moonshine companies to put in our product, just because we wanna keep it Tennessee. - [Ken] Krista and Paige take the freshest Tennessee homegrown and distilled ingredients and incorporate their secret family recipes. With the help of some talented and creative bakers, they're hoping it's okay to be under the influence of these intoxicatingly delicious desserts. - [Paige] We make cakes, we have about 35 different flavors. Most of them do have spirits in them, 99% of them do. We can always do cakes without 'em. We do whoopie pies. That is kind of a new thing around here, a lot of people hadn't heard of them. They're like an upside-down cupcake, I guess, but much easier to eat and don't get all over your nose when you're trying to eat them. We do all kind of fudges and handmade candies, and then, again, the tipsy cakes. We can do pies. We specialize in cakes and candies, but we also do pies. - [Krista] Whiskey balls, toffee. One of our biggest things right now is chocolate-covered bacon. It's amazing. People love it, we can't keep up on it. - [Ken] They say it's the sweet, salty combination in both milk chocolate and dark chocolate that makes this creation quite addictive. - [Paige] Everything we do here is handmade. We have the bakers and the decorators that stay in here, and we do everything homemade, everything from scratch. We don't use any machines to decorate, put anything together. We do everything by hand, the old-fashioned way. - And whether it's an old-fashioned whoopie pie or a straight-up whiskey cake, you'll find everything sweet you can imagine, in a rainbow of colors, with or without a kick. So, like a kid in the candy store, it was about time to belly up to the dessert bar. You know, when I was a kid and had a nickel in my pocket, it only lasted to the nearest candy store or bakery. And if I had a bakery like this one, I'd need a whole lotta nickels. Actually, it's priceless. Especially when you experience the family feeling here at Sweet Southern Spirit. Even Krista and Paige were surprised when they found out about their special relationship. - Paige and I had been together, and we got to talking about our maiden names, and we both were Bankses. And as we talked more and more, we got to looking into our genealogy, and we were, we were related seven generations back. - [Ken] Like the aroma of these freshly baked libations, the family spirit permeates the bakery, as well as its staff who make Sweet Southern Spirit the sweet success it's become. - I think if you have a really good product, it can make you, but if you don't have the customer service to go with it, you don't really have anything, because I think people want both. They want the customer service. We try to go that extra mile. We do special things for special events, whether it be weddings or a convention in Nashville. We try to offer something that you can't just get in a boxed business, and so I think that that's what's really made us successful. - We do not wanna take away from that homemade that we do, and I think that makes us stand out just a little, because, the love, I'm going to say this, put into our cakes and whoopie pies. - [Ken] Whether it's an aperitif or a nightcap or a toast for a special occasion, these sweet, spirited desserts are more popular than ever. So here's a toast to you, Paige, Krista, and everyone at Sweet Southern Spirit. Cheers to success and self-indulgence. - Indulgence, indeed. You know, it's been said that all of us have a talent waiting inside, we just don't know how or when it's gonna reveal itself. Rob Wilds takes us to meet a Fayetteville man who discovered his talent as a carver at a very difficult time in his life. - I've been called the chainsaw guy, the man on the highway, or the guy that carves the bears, the bear guy. - [Rob] He's known by all those things, but he goes by the name his folks gave him, Roark Phillips, an artist not with a brush, but a chainsaw. - Flippin' through a magazine, saw a picture of a chainsaw-carved bear, and I thought, "Wow, I'd like to try that," and that's what I did. Took me six weeks to carve my first bear. - [Rob] Before you know it, he was an artist with a following. - Started my first bear, completed it, got a couple of other logs, carved a few more of 'em up, tried some different looks. Still love carvin' bears. And my wife encouraged me to do a craft show, and I said, "Well, nobody's gonna buy one of these." And we went, sold out. I bought another chainsaw. I love doing it, and you can't keep 'em off. - Roark's got a really nice shop along the main road to Fayetteville, and he does some carving here from time to time, mainly to get the attention of the people passing by on the road. But his main carving, he does at his shop at home. Which is appropriate, because it was at home the inspiration to become a carver came to him. It was a good idea that came at a really hard time. - It's hard to talk about sometimes. One of the reasons why I flipped through that magazine and saw the picture of the bear, we lost our son 10 years ago. It saved my life, that's just all there is to it. I just immersed myself in it. - [Rob] That immersion helped him make it through the pain and anger of losing his 17-year-old son Daniel to an unseen heart ailment, and began to uncover his talent for carving, which came-- - [Roark] Just slowly, slowly hittin' at it with a chainsaw, side grinders, and it really boils down to how much you can manipulate the tip of that saw to make it look like it's supposed to look. You do a lot of plunge cutting, a lot of tip cutting. - [Rob] Plunge cutting? That sounds dangerous. - You know, just, foom, stick it straight through the middle of the log. They're called commitment cuts in carving. - [Rob] I bet they are. - Yeah, it's kinda hard to put the wood back together. But Gorilla Glue does work wonders, so. - [Rob] Well, have you had many times when you've committed and when you're in there, you thought, "Oh, I shouldn't have "made that decision"? - Oh, yeah, that's called a design enhancement from there, so. Yep. - [Rob] As time has passed, Roark has honed the skills he had, and uncovered some he never knew about. - [Roark] Well, I could draw a stick man when I first started. Now, I can actually do some drawing, with shades and depths. Just with a pencil, though. And I'm true sketching. Most of it's on a napkin. When an idea hits me, I'll, whatever I have, I'm sketching it out, and from that point, I try to picture that going into the log. In the beginning, the wood manipulated me, and it still does. But now, I'm set in a direction and know what I want out of it, and I will try to coax it out of it. It's a cat-and-mouse game a lot, and that's the fun of it. - [Rob] The fun comes in creating something someone has requested, but also by letting his mind just go where it wants to. - [Roark] The time comes to just get away from everything, which is what it originally was, anyway, it was step back, just fire up the saw and have a good time. I carved some of my best pieces. - [Rob] Pieces that are appreciated by fans here at home, and a growing group of fans across the country, many of whom commission specific works. Maybe not things Roark would have thought of carving, but even so, each piece is still a pleasurable challenge for him. - When you complete a piece that you have your heart in, that's a great feeling, and try to make the next one better than the last. - [Rob] That's the goal. Every time he stands in front of a blank wooden canvas, what is the man along the highway, the bear man, Roark Phillips, what is he gonna find waiting for him in there? - Well, guess what, we're out of time. But I do wanna remind you to take a peek at our website, TennesseeCrossroads.org, follow us on Facebook, of course, and join me here at my house next week. See ya then.
June 11, 2020
Season 33 | Episode 40
This week on Tennessee Crossroads, experience a dining tradition at the Picnic Cafe in Nashville. Visit Kingston Springs, a charming community in Middle Tennessee. Meet two Franklin County women who are serving up some spirited confections. And hear from a talented woodcarver who discovered his talent during a very hard time in life. Brought to you by Nashville Public Television!