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- [Narrator] The Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network offers no-cost training, referrals and resources to help people in need. If you or someone you know have thoughts of suicide, there is help. Resources at TSPN.org. - [Joe] This time on "Tennessee Crossroads" we meet a glass blowing, beer brewing artist in Knoxville, we'll travel to a Bon Aqua home of heavenly home cooking, then meet a Nashville guy who's discovered a creative use for crayons, and explore a Victorian mansion, now turned into a B and B over in Memphis. Hi everyone, I'm Joe Elmore. Welcome to this edition of "Tennessee Crossroads." Our first story's about a Knoxville artist with two passions which compliment each other. One starts out hot, glass blowing, the other ends up cold, brewing beer. Gretchen Bates has the story of this guy with a pretentious business. - So you start with the furnace and that's about 2100 degrees. So you gather that up. Now it looks bright orange but that's just because the intense heat, that's crystal clear glass. - [Gretchen] Glass has been an important part of Matthew Cummings life for more than a decade, but not the most important. - Glass blowing brings me lots of joy but not as much joy as my beautiful wife. She literally was getting onto me this morning about never mention her. - [Gretchen] Matthew is a study in contrasts. He owns Pretentious Glass and Beer Company, even though he's about as unpretentious as you can get and while he spends his days turning molten sand into art- - [Matthew] I went to school to become an architect, trying to do something more respectable and then had to take an elective and it was either ceramics or glass and so I begrudgingly enrolled in glass and that's what I've been doing ever since. It's like a very active form of meditation. Like you go in and you start blowing glass and you don't think about Facebook, you don't think think about all the problems. Like you're in the moment and you're just syncing up with that material. It's really old world. There's that apprenticeship system is still there. Like you can't read about it or watch videos about to learn how to do it. You have to get in, you have to put the time in, you have to sweat, and with glass blowing, it's an honest material. You put the time in with your hands and you become good. - [Gretchen] Good doesn't begin to describe Matthew's talent. It goes far beyond glasses. - My background is actually sculpture so when you come into Pretentious Glass down in Old City, we have everything you can possibly imagine made outta glass. We have vases, we have pendant lights, we have sculptures and then of course, all of the beer glasses that we're known for and the wine glasses and all the glassware. - [Gretchen] Those beer glasses were actually the inspiration for the Pretentious name, not that the name is pretentious. I mean, it is Pretentious. I'll let Matthew explain. - My friends, we imbibed a little too heavily and then that's when like either all the really good ideas start or the really bad ideas start. I think we can say this was a pretty good one in hindsight. So one of my buddies was like, "Matthew, you should make us some beer glasses." I was like, "No! "I make sculpture. "I don't make glassware," but I was like, "well will you buy it?" And they were like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah." So I made them the tailored hoppy glass. It's the very first Pretentious Beer glass and you come in and you could actually get your hand print engraved into a glass. Like, it fits like a glove. And they just start giggling. All these grown men just giggling and they're like, "This is so pretentious! "We have our own tailored beer glasses "for our bottle share club." And so whenever I decided to like give that a try and see if craft beer glasses would stick, I kept going back to that moment to come up with the name. - [Gretchen] That magic moment, which lead to to Pretentious Glass, could lead to magic for you as well. - [Matthew] We offer make-your-own workshops every Friday and Saturday night. Those typically go from 7 to 9. I would definitely recommend getting reservations. You get to design your own glass, beer, wine, water glass, or we do ornaments and flowers and pumpkins. You design it and then you get to come in to the hot shop, learn about glass and then also help us make it and do as much as you can possibly do in that time period so that we can still get something nice for you. - After your creative fires have cooled, pop in next door to wet your whistle with a work of art. - [Matthew] Craft beer, it's a piece of art purchased a pint at a time so that like let's us be able to share our passions with even more and more people. - [Gretchen] We've established Matthew's passion for beer and glass. They bring him joy. - But not as much joy as my beautiful wife. - [Gretchen] Right, but Matthew surmised that combining his passion for glass and beer would increase said joy, thus Pretentious Beer Company was born, which lead to a pourtenious number of beers. - We've made almost, hey, Will, how many beers have we made? Alex? - [Man] Probably 250 or something. - Two, like 250 different beers. - [Gretchen] Which leads us to the story of a man named Brady. - Will Brady, brewer and maintenance supervisor. That's high. That's a good first run in there, yeah. It's probably gonna be like 17 and a half. I think we're always trying to one up ourselves. Not anybody else with me, but always one up ourselves. They say that repetition may be the enemy of invention but I don't believe that because we do a lot of repetition and just do minute tweaks so a beer that's really good, we mighta brewed that nine times to get it there. So from day one, it's always been very easy to just fall into this role where we can just sit around and have fun all day and then work kinda gets done. - [Gretchen] But the work will never be done, not as long as there's inspiration for a new beer or a custom glass to enhance its flavor. - We definitely use the craft beer as like a gateway to get people into and exposed to craft and exposed to the art in Knoxville, where they come in for the beer and they're like, "Oh, and you can go next door and watch glass blowing" and so many people have never seen glass blowing before and it's like . We wanna be the only place in the world where you can come in, drink beer made in house outta glasses made in house and watch everything being produced. The tap room is the brew house and the glass blowing studio is all open concept so on Friday and Saturday nights, you can come in, try some beers, walk next door, sit down, hang out, watch some glass blowing, and literally watch them making beer glasses right in front of you. It's pretty magical. It's fun. - Thanks, Gretchen. To many of us, the term tea room conjures up images of little finger sandwiches and scones and little dainty cups of tea. Well, you can get tea at the Beacon Light Tea Room as long as it's iced tea. What attracts people there is the sumptuous Southern cooking, fried chicken, country ham, red eye gravy and biscuits. Well, here's what I mean. Before Interstate 40, Highway 100 was a main route from Memphis to Nashville. Then, as now, the Beacon Light Tea Room has been a roadside haven for hungry travelers. - We like to make people feel comfortable and at home and give them a good meal. 20, we'll have it ready, okay? Thank you, bye bye. - [Joe] Kim Winn and her husband bought the place in 2008 and today not much has changed since it first opened near Bon Aqua in 1936, especially the signature biscuits, preserves, country ham and fried chicken. These days, the Beacon Light is a dining destination, especially for folks who wanna get away to the country for what's like a visit to Grandma's house. - And the people. It's just like family coming here. - [Joe] The restaurant's Southern fried chicken is almost legendary, specially prepared so it's crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. - You have to cook it in a cast iron skillet. That's the secret. That's just the old time way to, that we all grew up knowing how to fry chicken and that's what we do here. We have skillets going all the time. - [Joe] Oh, and just before it's served, each piece gets a short dip in the deep fryer for a little extra crunch. - [Joe] You haven't jumped on that so-called hot chicken bandwagon yet, have you? - No, no. We're trying to stay away from the hot chicken. The other chicken keeps us pretty busy. - [Joe] Now even before placing your order, you'll get a basket of Beacon Light biscuits which garner rave reviews from food critics and customers alike. You have a special recipe for that? - Oh, we do. We do have a special recipe for that. Lard and buttermilk. I think that's what makes them. - [Joe] Lard and buttermilk. - Lard, not shortening or vegetable oil, lard, yeah. - [Joe] Okay! Now the homemade biscuit toppings are not jellies, not jams. - It's preserve so it has more of a liquid consistency to it and we just put the fruit in and sugar and just let them cook and they're really good over some hot biscuits. - [Joe] And a lot of customers wanna take some home. While fried chicken rules the roost on the menu, country ham and red eye gravy run a close second. In case you've never tried to cook this Southern classic, well Kim's gonna take you through the steps. - We put a little butter with the ham and a touch of hot sauce in there, and you let that sear to the skillet and then you add a coffee water mix to this and just stir it and then you let that come to a little boil. The boiling pulls the salt outta the ham to give it that flavor. And then it'll be ready for a seat, okay? - It's not just everywhere that you can go and get country ham and red-eye gravy, but it's my favorite. If I come in the morning or in the afternoon, evening, it's usually scrambled eggs and country ham. - [Joe] It goes without saying many customers are regulars and they don't mind the extra miles required to reach this roadside gem. - [Kim] We have people from all around that come to see us. Memphis, Nashville, several that come from even outta state when they're coming to visit Tennessee. - We love the food. It's consistent, friendly, can't get it in the city, and we just love the restaurant and we love the people. - [Joe] Jim Lavine's a regular who loves the place so much, well, he recorded a song about it for charity. ♪ Built in 1936 from a lot of stones and a bunch of sticks ♪ ♪ 75 years and still is going strong ♪ ♪ So if you're hankering for Southern cooking ♪ ♪ Where every waitress is so good looking ♪ ♪ This is just the place where you belong ♪ - [Joe] When you're open six days a week, well you have to put in plenty of hours of hard work but for Kim Winn, the happy faces of satisfied customers make it all worthwhile. - I do love it and the customers that come in here, there's so many of them that are repeat customers and you just, you get to know them. I think that's just the atmosphere that we want the Beacon Light to have. ♪ Under that Beacon Light sign ♪ - Remember that new box of crayons you got when you first started to school? The vivid colors, the feel, the smell when you opened that box for the first time? Well, Nashville artist Herb Williams remembers. In fact, he uses crayons every day in some unusually creative ways. Rob Wilds takes us to meet him. - [Rob] Herb Williams spends a lot of time cutting up crayons. Lots of crayons. - I get them in cases of 3,000 to a single case in 50 pound cases directly from Crayola, and I tried making my own for a while, but I couldn't get, there's a particular scent in Crayola that I just felt like I was faking it 'cause I couldn't get them to smell right and so I just started ordering from them and I became a wholesaler and I've got millions now. - [Rob] But this isn't vandalism or even therapy. It's the beginning of creation which began for Herb when he was a kid with a fixation. - I was that strange kid you'd see who would carry around a fruitcake tin that you'd get for Christmas because I would use my crayons so much. They were like all in there and they're all nibbled down to just nubs because as soon as I would get them I would draw with everything and just wear it all down so I had to keep them all together. - [Rob] And an obsession. - We lived out in the woods and we had big red clay cliffs out there and I would take my Bowie knife and I would carve into the cliffs to try and make my own little Mount Rushmore or something but it was very satisfying even then and it wasn't anything permanent or anything. The rains would wash it away but I think it, at that age, just seeing that I needed to do something. It was something I couldn't not do. - [Rob] And now years later, as a kid masquerading as an adult, Herb decided to return to that box of crayons. - This should be plenty. I'll have to sculpt a form out of a clay or wood and then coat it with fiberglass to protect it and then paint it to look how I want it to look and then I'll cut down thousands of crayons with usually, oversized dog toenail clippers are the best, and then we'll take them and bond the crayons to the form using this archival glue I get outta Texas, man. Man, everything's bigger in Texas. They just make it how you need to be and it bonds the paper to the form like an egg shell and really protects it 'cause I have to take a chisel to make changes. And it's fun. I love what they do to the surface. Whether I use the ends of the crayons or the tips or the butts of them, will really change the whole look of it, make it more kinetic or more illustrative and that's a lot of fun to play with 'cause there's such promise in that little box of crayons that everybody gets because there's so many possibilities before you even put one to the paper. And that's a lot of what drove me to work with like the whole stick of the crayon because when you put it on the paper, it's never as saturated, as rich, and thick with pigment as it is in that stick and there's just something so primally satisfying about working with it and working with hundred of thousands of them. - [Rob] Yes, Herb loves his crayons, each one a pinpoint of color and texture and then there's that other thing that draws him. - I think it's the smell too, because you're immediately, it's hard for me to smell them anymore now that I'm, I got millions in here, but it's really satisfying, man, because it is, it takes you back to when you could do anything or you were whatever you wanted to be at that moment. You didn't have all these preconceived notions. You didn't know to much. You knew just enough to be dangerous. And I love thinking that way because crayons are a gateway drug. - When you were a kid in kindergarten and you were playing with your crayons, your teacher might've said, "Hey, don't color outside the lines." Well, this is one crayon artist who's not afraid to color outside the lines or even outside the building. - I do these graffiti animals all around town at my favorite watering holes, like at my favorite pub or restaurant, place that I like to frequent and I'll go and paint like a deer or a fox on a wall over there because being in the urban jungle, I miss, like I wanna see like a little animal walking around. It's strange but being from the, being a redneck in the woods and then living in a very urban environment with a lot of traffic, I yearn for things that are wild. - [Rob] Herb's got 20 or so of these animals painted around Nashville and although they aren't made with his beloved crayons, they share Herb's common goal. - Trying to make myself laugh and trying to have fun, 'cause that's just, I don't know. I don't think we have enough fun. We need to set things aside to have more fun and that's what I'm trying to do. - [Rob] Sure, and also trying and succeeding at creating unique works of art that make us smile and think and remember when we were kids and the world waited inside a crayon box. - Thanks, Rob. If you're planning on spending a night in Memphis soon and you wanna pamper yourself, well this next story's for you. Danielle Allen discovered a gorgeous Victorian mansion in the Bluff City that offers old world charm and modern day conveniences. Let's take a look. - [Danielle] Here's a place where you can step into the 19th century and lay down in modern luxury. The James Lee House in Midtown Memphis was built in the 1800s. Today, it's a bed and breakfast with a distinct style. - [Jose] Now we tried to, on the first floor, to bring the house back to what it would have looked like in 1872 when the house was completed. We were very blessed that some key features like these beautiful mirrors, all the fireplaces are original, so we didn't have to go shopping for those. - [Danielle] This B and B is owned by Jose Velazquez and his wife, Jennifer. They make sure the house pays homage to the past and the present. - We have one picture of the house in 1890 in this room that gave us kind of a vision of what the room at least looked like and so we tried to do that in this room and in the dining room and then we had a lot of freedom in the bedrooms and the second floor and the third floor to really bring together history, luxury, and the 21st century amenities. - [Danielle] Oh, and did we mention the bathrooms? - [Jose] The bathrooms are not only luxury bathrooms but really exude the kind of grandeur of a house like this but with everything new. - [Danielle] With the living area that holds true to the style of the 19th century and bedrooms that rival any luxury hotel, the James Lee House is more than just a place to stay, for many, it's one of the highlights of their vacation, but if you think the decor is intriguing, you should hear the history. - [Jose] Well the house was added on to, expanded, three times. The very back of the house was actually built in 1848 and it was a simple farmhouse. If you can imagine in 1848, this was farmland outside of the city of Memphis. Just a few years later, in 1852, Mr. Charles Wesley Goyer built another small farmhouse. In fact, the dining room that you see right behind me was the second house that was built here in 1852 and those houses sat next to each other for about 10 years and then they were joined together just for practical purposes so they didn't have to go outside to go to the other part of the house. - [Danielle] The expansions to the house were completed in 1872. The property would eventually be owned by three different families and later serve as the Memphis College of Art, but when the school moved to a new location, this house that was once bustling with activity grew silent. - So the house was vacant for 56 years. During that time, the folks that run the museum next door were very good caretakers and just really did everything they could to keep the house from really falling apart. Had they not intervened from time to time during those 50 years, the house probably would not be here. - [Danielle] Fortunately it was still here and in 2011, Jose and Jennifer bought the abandoned house from the city of Memphis. They spent two years planning the renovation but they only had one year to complete the project. It wasn't easy, but they got it done. - [Jose] This room was probably one of the most challenging things, dealing with the plaster, dealing with the beautiful ornate moldings. I kind of assumed that would be a little bit easier to replace, recreate the pieces that were missing, and it became really a significant challenge. We went through two plaster experts that were not able to do the project and after that I was very concerned that we would end up with those gaps in the space and that we would have to call them character. - [Danielle] As for the third floor? That's the space Jose and Jennifer call home. This allows them to be available to their guests any time of the day which is something Jose is very proud of. - One of the things that I think we have the luxury in a sense of being able to bring to the B and B experience is that this is all I do. This is my full time job and I am here 24 7 for our guests. So you really will have in the experience of staying here with us, the ability to have a Memphis experience specifically formulated for you and for what you want to be while you're here. - [Danielle] And if what you want is a gourmet breakfast, well, you're in luck. There's a passion for cooking in this house and it's evident every time you sit at the table. - We both work every morning to create something new. If you stay with us 10 days, you're gonna have a different breakfast every day, three course meal that's prepared just for you. If you have dietary restrictions, just simply don't like some things, we work with you to make sure those things are not in front of you on the table and that you have a very special breakfast every morning. - [Danielle] This family has wanted to own a bed and breakfast for years and the James Lee House is the perfect place to live out that dream. It's also the perfect spot for travelers to experience luxury and Southern hospitality. - That interaction, individual interaction, with folks and helping them have the most unique and exciting experience in Memphis possible so that when they leave here, most of the time, there's a hug, there's, "You've got my address. "When you're in London next time, come and visit us." There aren't many jobs out there that afford you that kind of opportunity to enjoy people, to make new friends, and to also really put your city that you're very proud of at the top of the list for all these folks and so, I mean, what else would you wanna do? - Well thanks, Danielle, and thank you folks for joining us the past 30 minutes. Hope you enjoyed it. Hope you'll check in on our website from time to time, TennesseeCrossroads.org, follow us on Facebook, of course, and by all means, join me right here next week. See you then. - [Narrator] The Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network offers no-cost training, referrals and resources to help people in need. If you or someone you know have thoughts of suicide, there is help. Resources at TSPN.org.
June 25, 2020
Season 33 | Episode 42
This week on Tennessee Crossroads, meet a glass artist and craft brewer in Knoxville. Visit a Southern cooking destination in Bon Aqua, in business since 1936. Discover a Nashville Artist who uses crayons in an unusual way to create equally unusual pieces. Finally, check into a Memphis mansion turned B&B. Brought to you by Nashville Public Television!