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- [Narrator] "Tennessee Crossroads" is made possible in part by discover Tennessee Trails & Byways. Discover Tennessee's adventure, cuisine, history, and more made in Tennessee experiences showcased among these 16 driving trails. More at TNTrailsAndByways.com. - [Narrator] You can't predict the future, but you can count on Tennessee Tech always putting students first. Our faculty staff and students have shown strength, compassion, patience and kindness during these trying times. For us, it's personal. That's what you can count on at Tennessee Tech. - This time on "Tennessee Crossroads," we visit a newly renovated soda shop landmark in Nashville. We'll explore the historic Falcon Rest Mansion in McMinville. Then we'll visit a shop in Pelham where you get coffee cookies, and a whole lot more. And finally explore the mysterious Crystal Shrine Grotto in Memphis. That's what we got for you this time on "Tennessee crossroads." I'm Joe Elmore, glad to have you. Our first destination has been a popular Nashville icon for more than 80 years. It's known for its sodas, malts, meat and threes and pies. Well not long ago, the Elliston Place Soda Shop was in danger of closing but as Laura Faber tells us it's back and better than ever. - [Laura] It's an iconic Nashville institution that does Southern cooking better than just about anybody. Whether it's the fried chicken, the pot roast, meatloaf or a burger and fries, you don't get much more real than the Elliston Place Soda Shop. - No pixie dust, no tweezers, just good, basic cooking Like you grew up eating. - [Laura] Jim Myers is the manager of marketing and branding for the soda shop and spent a career writing about restaurants. Elliston Pharmacy was built around 1912 and like most pharmacies back then had a soda fountain. In 1939 Lynn Chandler bought the pharmacy and turned it into a restaurant. That's why in 2019, when the soda shop was in danger of closing forever, a long time customer stepped in to save it. - I moved to Nashville in 1984, and I knew nobody. The Elliston Place Soda Shop was one of those places. And you walk, you know, the minute I walked in, it was just a comfortable place. I was welcomed. - [Laura] Developer, Tony Giarratana and his wife Lisa are the new owners of the soda shop. Securing a 25 year lease in the building next door to the original restaurant. - He had given me no warning whatsoever. I didn't even know he was having these conversations. What he says to me is, "I've got a surprise." I'm like, "What is it?" He says, "We put the soda shop under contract." I said, "You did what?" I mean we were under contract when he had the first conversation with me about it. So I said, "We don't know how to run a restaurant." - [Laura] Tony went to some of the most successful restaurant tours in Nashville for advice and guidance and went to work. - Our goal was to create a period, correct restaurant, right next door to the original pharmacy, but better than it ever was. And so the first thing that we had to address was this is a 1907 building. And it was in not good shape. We had to do all kinds of structural work. - [Laura] They lowered the floor to get ceiling height, much of the artwork, the neon, the juke boxes on the tables are the originals. The new includes the stage, for live music, the working jukebox and the walk up window. - I'm thrilled. Yes. I mean, if you look through the windows at the old soda shop, you can see that it truly is a real improvement here. - [Laura] Owners, Lisa and Tony are still regulars too. His favorite thing on the menu, the burger and fries. - [Lisa] I love the pot roast. Yeah, it's really good. Very tender. But you know, I have a weakness for the burger and fries too. - Most of the recipes in the menu are the same as they've always been here at Elliston Place Soda Shop. There's a few upgrades though. Like in the milkshake, you can get a boozy shake. This is the bourbon ball. Of course the food is still the thing at Elliston Place. Lynn Chandler claims, he created the meat and three. - He was not the first to do meat and three, but he was the first to kind of coin that phrase here locally. And, you know, he said, "I brought it from the meet and two to the meet and three." He was, you know, he was a showman. He was trying to show that you could get more value at his restaurant than other plate lunch restaurants at the time. - [Laura] The malts and shakes created at the soda fountain satisfy any sweet tooth and don't even get us started on the sky high meringues on the pies made daily. - I make a coconut meringue, which is like a coconut cream meringue. I make a chocolate meringue. I do lemon ice box. I do pecan, chess, chocolate chess. And then I'll throw in lemon and butter scotch in the mix when I have diet. And then of course you do a banana - [Laura] Banana pudding. - Yes ma'am. - [Laura] Yeah. And do you usually sell out of all that stuff? - Yes ma'am. - [Laura] Linda Melton or miss Linda to her regulars is also known as the pie lady and she knows all the secrets. Will you reveal to me how your meringue stays so tall? - [Linda] I guess years of doing it maybe. I use nothing but egg whites and sugar. I use no stabilizer in it at all. And I guess just years of doing it, I really can't explain it. - [Tony] She is as much this place as the juke boxes on the wall. - [Lisa] And not only her, but Leonard, a dishwasher who has been here for-- - [Tony] Leonard Jones has been here, I think not quite as long, but more than 25 years. - [Laura] The local history, this place holds is museum worthy. 80 decades of counterculture, sassy servers, first dates and marriage proposals. People have named their children after the soda shop. Before desegregation, the soda shop was one of the first to serve Nashville, Vice Mayor Howard Gentry, then just a young boy who wanted an ice cream cone. As an anchor on the Rock Block, the creative community was welcomed here, which wasn't always the case at other places. Celebrity sightings were and are normal. Jimmy Buffet was a customer long before he was famous. - [Tony] He loved the fried chicken and the coconut meringue pie. That was his favorite thing to eat here. - [Laura] Elliston Place Soda Shop, maybe new and improved, but it's still the people, the stories and the food that define it. A special eatery that hopes to feed Nashville for another eight decades. - [Lisa] Because there's something special about the soda shop that you can't get anywhere else. - [Tony] That this is one of the places that makes Nashville great. Nashville's a meat in three town, more than any other city in the South. We're identified with meat and threes. And we are one of the jewels in that crown. - [Jim] We love preserving things that are worthwhile and this restaurant is one of those things. And this one is different in that's a living breathing thing that people get to enjoy. I mean, look around. - Thank you, Laura. No doubt you've heard of the Biltmore Mansion in North Carolina, famous for its modern conveniences. Well modern for the time, I guess. McMinnville is home to a mansion that's been referred to as the Biltmore of Tennessee. For the same reason. Ed Jones has the story of historic Falcon Rests Mansion & Gardens. - [Ed] This is the story of a mansion built ahead of its time. And the couple that saved it from destruction. Falcon Rest has been called the Biltmore of Tennessee due to its modern conveniences that were nearly unheard of when it was built in 1896. - That's when a wealthy businessman named Clay Faulkner decided to build a home across the Creek from his textile mill. Now he made a promise to his wife. I'm gonna build the best home in the region. A promise he made good on. - [Ed] And when the promise was delivered, it was state of the art. - It had central heat and electric lights, pressurized running water, indoor bathroom had a refrigeration. And so that's what makes this place so unique to Tennessee history. - [Ed] That's the owner of the Falcon rest, George McLaughlin, who in another day and time would've made a great carnival barker. - You wanna go down there and take a picture of this middle window. And if you see a little lady with a high neck grass in her hair and a bun that is Dorothy Love Saunders, the mother-in-law, she lived here, she died here. You can't get rid of that woman. - [Ed] George's wife, Charlene, nearly got rid of him for buying the ones dilapidated mansion. - [George] I tell people, I bought this home Easter week, 1989, without my wife ever having seen it. - He came home and told me we had bought a mansion. And I said, "What does it look like?" And he said "Bad." - [George] And I brought her here on Easter Sunday. - [Charlene] And had me standing right here. So it literally looked like a bomb had hit it. And I said-- - You put a mortgage on my house for this? - I thought it would take us 30 years just to restore the mansion. - Because it looked as she said, like a bomb hit it. - Of course, we're still here 30 years later, but we've done a whole lot more than that. - [Ed] That is an understatement. When the crossroads team first visited Falcon Rest, the mansion was a bed and breakfast and George and Charlene had just reached an important milestone. - And by the way, we just celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary and we might make it what to 26? - I think so. And we're still marry here. - [Ed] Now having reached their golden anniversary, the McLaughlins are not only celebrating a successful marriage, but many improvements around the property as well. - Well we started with a mansion and then we went to the carriage house and we spent a couple of years restoring there. And then I think the next thing was we did the courtyard here and then we started with the gardens. And now a lot of these things that were put in originally are growing up and just really stunning. - [Ed] In case you haven't noticed, George is a gifted showman. - And if I look any older, please don't tell me I'd rather not know. Follow me. Let's go. - [Ed] Often entertaining visitors with theatrical productions in the carriage house. - And we also have a tea room where people can come and have lunch here every day. You don't have to have reservations. And so they can tour and they can eat and they can shop. We also have Falcon Manor. Falcon Rest is the tour mansion. And Falcon Manor is the accommodation side. The mansion is only used for tours. - [Ed] Of course, most visitors do come to tour the mansion and step back in time to America's gilded age. Like these fine folks from the senior activity center in Smyrna. - We thought we'd come because we love to visit old homes. And it's one of the most interesting houses that we visited because of all of the history and how much work they have actually put into refurbishing the house. - [Charlene] You enter into the downstairs foyer with the original staircase there, gorgeous staircase and solid as a rock because of the way the mansion is built. The parlor is graced with a beautiful spindle freeze all the way across the widths of the room. The lavender room was Daisy's room. She was a middle daughter and she was a gifted artist. She was 16 when they moved in. Across the hallway, the blue room has got a fabulous half tester bed in it. That is probably the finest we have ever seen. - [Ed] All the rooms and furnishings at Falcon Rest are exquisite, but many visitors are most impressed by a secret room with a strange name. - [George] It's called the slopy room. - There's a secret door that people think is the closet. What they find there is the slopy room. The grandchildren said they would play in this attic, when they came to visit. It was an unfinished attic then. It's a big surprise when people get here. Some people say it's their favorite place in the house. We hope that doesn't hurt Mr. Faulkner's feelings. - [Ed] I'm sure the Faulkners are just thankful that the McLaughlins returned their beloved Falcon Rest to its former glory. And now share its beauty and history. - I hope that they'll take away that history is fun and that it's about people. What made 'em unique and strange and odd. That's the stories that people remember. So we hope that they'll take the fun part of Falcon Rest with them. - But it has been an adventure. There's always a new challenge and something more to make beautiful. And we get to see it through the eyes of the people who visit and WHO appreciate it, enjoy it all over again. - Thanks Ed. Whether you like your latte with a twist or you're partial to a mocha frappe, whatever that is. Seems like trendy coffee shops are popping up on every corner these days. Well, Miranda Cohen found a little place in Pelham with a different twist. Sure you can get your coffee and your cookies, but you'll find much more at Gallery 41. - [Miranda] Just over a mile down route 41 in Grundy County, you will find what is quickly becoming one of the hottest spots in Pelham Tennessee. Former truck drivers from New Jersey, Jody and Glen Smith are meeting, greeting, serving, brewing and baking up pure magic at an eclectic coffee shop with a name to match. - Being truck drivers and driving the country. We're like, "Route 66. "Well, wait, this is route 41 out here "and everybody knows it as 41. "So let's play into that." And that's how we came across Gallery 41. - [Miranda] Jody and Glen always loved the idea of having their own coffee shop and a place where Glen could create his art, beautiful metal sculptures and signs. But they never imagined the roads they traveled would lead them to Pelham. - As we were driving, we would think, "Well, gee, we don't wanna do this all the time. "Where would we like to end up?" I wanted the coffee shop and Glen wanted a workshop. So we wanted a building that would combine the two of those calling it Gallery because we wanted coffee and baked goods, but we also wanted artwork as well. We narrowed it down to Tennessee. And we just love it here. - [Miranda] Jody and Glen found the perfect space in an old grocery store where years ago it was also once a much beloved meeting place. Gallery 41 is state of the art with the exception of one thing. - [Jody] We wanted it to be very peaceful. We could have Wi-Fi, but we chose not to. We didn't want people just sitting here, you know, looking at their laptop or their phone the whole time. Let's encourage people to talk to one another. - [Miranda] Jody Smith is combining her special ingredients with her years of experience on the road, folding them all into her own made from scratch creations. Leaving her customers speechless. - For me, it's either their cinnamon buns and their chocolate chip cookie, particularly with ice cream and a little chocolate sauce on top. It's wonderful. It obviously has a home made taste. It tastes like they have put some love and effort into it. It's always fresh. And the flavors are just wonderful. - I'm a big fan of cinnamon. I'm a big fan of cinnamon buns. So again, a lot of trial and error trying different things to make it better, whether it was changing up some of the sugars or adding more cinnamon or even what to put in for the icing. Everything here is totally from scratch. - [Miranda] But they are in close competition with Jodi's handmade cookies. The standard chocolate chip is anything but standard. - Took a basic recipe, you know, kind of one that I've used throughout the years. And then I tried to make it better. And I feel like I have, I wanted it to look a certain way. I wanted it to taste a certain way. I wanted the texture and all that thing. So that was a lot of trial and error. - [Miranda] And for the diehard chocolate lover. - I just recently came up with the cocoa cloud. I wanted something that was not a brownie, but like a brownie, just different, but deep, rich and chocolatey. Sweet, but more the deep dark chocolate with a little bit of sweetness. - [Miranda] And if you need to stretch your legs after the decadent desserts, the art gallery is just steps away. Handcrafted works from local artists from Pelham, Jasper, Manchester, Hillsborough, and Murfreesboro just to name a few. Jodi loves all of her handpicked art, but she is particularly fond of one artist and his masterful metal work. - I'm so proud of my husband and I've always encouraged him and told him, I think he does beautiful work. What was neat was for him to put it out and for him to hear other people say that. - [Miranda] From the handcrafted beverages to the delicious homemade baked goods to one of a kind works of local art, Gallery 41 is warm and inviting and will send you back down route 41, feeling a little happier. - I've wanted to be able to support the community. I mean, we've had a number of people come in and just sometimes they'd walk in the door and they'd say, "I'm so glad you guys are here." And like I said, we've lived a lot of places. We never heard that from people. And we wanted our customers to be able to come in and we wanted to be able to lift them up. Now whether it was making them their special drink or giving them their favorite cookie or ice cream or whatever or just being there as a listening ear, you know, we just really feel that's important to encourage all our customers. - We wrap up this week with a true, hidden gem. We explored over in West Tennessee. The Crystal Shrine Grotto is a remarkable, handmade treasure, eight years in the making by one man. Now it's free, open to the public and you'll find it tucked away in a historic East Memphis cemetery. - When they drive in, they think of it as a park. And then particularly on a Saturday when the funeral home is very busy, a procession will drive through and kinda catches them off guard a little bit. They forgot where they are. - [Joe] That's because Memorial Park in East Memphis is not your typical cemetery. And according to Philip Hamilton, that was the vision of its founder EC Hinds back in 1925. - He liked the idea of everyone being the same in death, and hence the flat stones on the graves. - Mr. Hinds later commissioned the creation of some intriguing sculptures to beautify the grounds such as this one called the broken tree bench and the even more impressive 15 foot tall Abraham's Oak. All created with concrete by the hands of a Mexican artist named Dionicio Rodriguez during an eight year period in the 1930s. Of course, the masterpiece of this whole project is the world's only manmade cave, The Crystal Shrine Grotto. A 59 foot manmade cave carved into the side of a hill. The walls and ceilings were created with five tons of crystal, mined from the diamond cave in Jasper, Arkansas. - Wow. Nice work. - [Joe] The artist Rodriguez was a man of mystery. We do know he spoke no English, worked alone with only a few simple tools and was very secretive. - The story goes that Mr. Rodriguez worked out of the trunk of his car and when people would drive by, he would shut his trunk hoping that they wouldn't see what he was doing. He didn't want anyone to know his secret. This is all cement, looks like wood looks like logs, really, but it's all cement. - Well, it took a lot of loads of cement to build something like this. And even the thatch on the roof, right? - [Phillip] Yes. - [Joe] The interior features 10 scenes depicting the life of Christ from birth to the Ascension. While Rodriguez created most of the backdrops, the figures were added later by Memphis artists using plaster and even real wood. - Look at all the green Alex, look up, you see all that? Isn't that neat? - Who comes to see the Grotto. - Everybody. They come from all over the world. I had 50 nuns to drive up in a bus about two weeks ago. And they came in from Texas to see The Grotto, but they come from all over the world. - [Joe] The artist work extends beyond the Grotto itself, like this wooden or rather concrete bridge and the sacred cave of Machpelah, representing the storied resting place of Abraham and other biblical patriarchs. Inside what's called the pool of hedren, there's a fountain with images of Dionicio Rodriguez's seven children. - [Phillip] And this is what they call God's Garden. And this is where we have all of our weddings here at the park and the bridegroom will line up on the weekend and they'll get married here as well. - [Joe] Free of charge? - [Phillip] Free of charge that's right. - [Joe] Can't beat that, right? - [Phillip] Yeah. That's right. - [Joe] Wedding venue. We know that Rodriguez made his sculptures by hand first with metal tubing covered by rough wire mesh followed by layers of wet concrete. However, he destroyed all clues about his special technique of making the concrete look like wood. It's a secret Rodriguez took to his grave in the mid 1950s. - [Phillip] He actually died of pauper in Houston, and he's buried in a pauper's grave there. And we all hate that, but that's how he ended up. - [Joe] Leaving behind a one of a kind manmade masterpiece of art and inspiration. Well, we've come to the end of our line, but we still have time to remind you about our website, TennesseeCrossroads.org. Follow us on Facebook, of course. And don't forget to catch "Retro Tennessee Crossroads," first, Sunday of the month right here on NPT. See you around. - [Narrator] "Tennessee Crossroads" is made possible in part by Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways. Discover Tennessee's adventure, cuisine, history, and more made in Tennessee experiences showcased among these 16 driving trails, more TNTrailsAndByways.com. - [Narrator] You can't predict the future, but you can count on Tennessee Tech, always putting students first. Our faculty staff and students have shown strength, compassion, patience and kindness during these trying times. For us, it's personal. That's what you can count on at Tennessee Tech.
August 04, 2022
Season 36 | Episode 05
Laura Faber visits a newly-renovated soda shop landmark in Nashville. Ed Jones explores the historic Falcon Rest Mansion in McMinnville. Miranda Cohen visits a shop in Pelham where you can get coffee, cookies and a whole lot more. And Joe Elmore explores the mysterious Crystal Shrine Grotto in Memphis.