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- [Voiceover] "Tennessee Crossroads" is made possible in part by, "Discover Tennessee: Trails and Byways." Discover Tennessee's adventure, cuisine, history, and more made in Tennessee experiences showcased among these 16 driving trails. More at tntrailsandbyways.com. 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'll load up for some barbecue fun at "Shotgun Willie's." Then explore the past and present at the former hosiery mill at Nashville. We'll discover how a talented lady created a career with balloons. And finally go glamping in Smyrna. What's glamping? You'll soon find out. Hi, everybody, I'm Joe Elmore. Welcome again to another edition of Tennessee Crossroads. When Bill Laviolette moved to Nashville from his home in Houston, he also carried a dream with him, a place of his own where he could offer Texas brisket along with Tennessee-style barbecue. Well, the journey to achieving that dream was almost derailed. But Bill's hard work and strong conviction paid off at a place called Shotgun Willie's. - Hey, y'all. - Hello. - How we doing? - Good. How are you? - Good, what's for lunch today? Before I moved to Nashville I had a very contentious exit interview with a job that I was leaving. And the HR person said, if you could do anything in the world, what would you do? And I said, well, I'd sell barbecue by the side of the road. - [Joe] Bill Laviolette's dream eventually came true. Here in East Nashville at a place the Texas native named Shotgun Willie's. When you arrive, you immediately smell the slow-cooked aroma of prime-grade brisket. Bill's is sourced from "Braveheart Farms". It's the nation's premiere Angus beef program. With only salt and pepper for seasoning, the long hours of slow smoking give the meat the proper black outer coating with remarkable tenderness and flavor on the inside. Sharing cooker space today is another Texas barbecue favorite, Texas Hill Country sausage links. Of course if you're gonna feature a Texas-style barbecue in the Southeast, well, you gotta give it the same care and attention to Tennessee-style ribs and pulled pork. - [Bill] If we're gonna be known for our brisket, then everything else comes up to that standard. It's not "Well we're brisket, "and we just throw these other meats on the menu "to kind of fill up the gaps." Hey there. - How's it going? - [Bill] Good. How are you today? - [Joe] These days Shotgun Willie's is a bonafide hit among barbecue fans while gathering glowing reviews. But the road to success was more than a bit bumpy. After months of renovation cost and red tape, Bill was finally ready to open in early 2020. - And guess what happened? I don't know if you heard this but we went through this global pandemic starting right about May of 2020, which is right about the time we unlocked the doors. - Now you can laugh. - Yeah. Now I can. But so, we literally opened right when the pandemic was ramping up but we didn't have a cho... There was a moment between the middle of April and the beginning of May where I went to my wife and just said, "We're out of money and we have to open." - [Joe] First the restaurant was carry-out only, but after weathering the COVID storm Shotgun Willie's finally evolved into a full-fledged, dine-in destination. Oh, and if you're curious about the name. - Being from Texas, if barbecue is one part of my DNA then Willie Nelson is also another part of my DNA. And so I grew up listening to Willie Nelson and my second favorite Willie Nelson song is "Shotgun Willie." My first favorite Willie Nelson song is "I Gotta Get Drunk" but I felt like "I Gotta Get Drunk Barbecue" wasn't necessarily the right path to take. So I went to number two. - Even if you're a hardcore Tennessee pork barbecue fan, like myself, when you're in a place called Shotgun Willie's, you gotta get what Willie would order. It's gonna be good. - So I'm not here to say Texas is better than Southeastern-style barbecue or Texas is better than Memphis-style barbecue. My goal is to say, here's another way of doing this. Where I'm from, barbecue's a verb. It's how you cook the meat. In the Southeast, I feel like barbecue's a noun It's another word for pork. - [Joe] No matter which version of barbecue you choose you'll be glad to know there are scratch-made side dishes to go with it. - All of our sides I would say are traditional barbecue sides but with a little bit of a twist to them. We do a mac and cheese which is more like a Rotel chip and dip cheese. Mr. Tony, one of our supreme kitchen guides, created our green bean . We call 'em "Mr. Tony's Magic Green Beans." So we take a green bean and we systemically remove all the healthy parts of a green bean. And we replace it with all the meat scraps off the table and cook it down with the shoulder blade, and some onions and salt and pepper. So that's got a unique characteristic to it. - [Joe] Shotgun Willies is frequently winning new fans and followers. Some who are totally new to Texas-style barbecue. - That's what Texas is known for. So that's what I had to try. - [Joe] What's the verdict? - It's pretty good. - I also got the brisket. - Brisket sandwich. - Mm-hm. - What do you think? - Very good. - [Joe] This California couple came to sample some Texas and Tennessee barbecue. - Tastes really good. The seasoning is good. Potato salad is good. If you can look at my bone right here, it's almost clean. Clean as a whistle. - The cornbread was good. - [Joe] I noticed you were eating that with a fork. I haven't seen that before. - Nevermind me. - [Joe] You might say nevermind dessert, but you'd be missing out on a sweet Texas treat. Bourbon banana pudding. - [Bill] Y'all doing all right? - [Joe] So Bill's dream of running his own special brick and mortar barbecue place is now a reality. And while some days the brisket may run out, Bill's gratitude never will. - I have been so lucky between the staff, who have committed to my dream. I couldn't ask for a better group of people to help me out. The customer base, how loyal my customer base has been and how many times during the pandemic, and since then people came in and said, "Look, I don't want you to go away. "I'm here because I wanna see you succeed." For someone to invest in my dream that way, it's truly humbling. Hey there. What's for lunch? - Just a few blocks from where I'm sitting is a site that was once the largest manufacturer in Nashville. Today the old "May Hosiery Mill" has been transformed, but as Laura Faber tells us, the past is a big part of the revitalization. - [Laura] In the heart of the Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood of Nashville, an old industrial corner is being transformed into a new community and it's ready for people. - You gotta look back to go forward. And so what are the most successful urban neighborhoods are very walkable. They have a diverse group of retail, office, multifamily living options. And they're not just all homogeneous. It's not just a sea of seamlessness. - [Laura] Ben Weprin is the CEO and founder of "AJ Capital" and has a passion for revitalizing historic properties. This time it's the old May Hosiery Mills, which used to manufacture socks. He was first drawn to the brick warehouses and their unique rounded edges and large black-framed windows. - [Ben] It always felt important to me, right? The history of these buildings, the responsibility of repositioning them, the responsibility of bringing 'em back to life, of telling that story. I've always been incredibly attracted to historic architecture. - The seven vacant buildings on four acres is now home to businesses like the beautiful "Soho House." A members-only hotel, complete with event space, theater, restaurant, pool, and fitness center. Apple Music is here and "Pastis," a legendary New York Parisian restaurant is coming too. The revitalization of what's happening on this old May Hosiery Mills campus is exciting and focused on the future but as the saying goes, "If these walls could talk." What happened here in the past is remarkable. In fact, lifesaving. It is a story of courage, and survival and the Holocaust. A story Weprin had never heard until he started working on this project. A story that inspires him to honor the past. - When you think about the risk that he took, how many people would do that? Especially here in the Southeast at a time where that wasn't wildly accepted like it is today, it's mind blowing. And by the way, it wasn't even that long ago, people forget that was not that long a time ago when the Holocaust happened. And so with over time things... It is really important to tell that story. - [Laura] For 90 years, these buildings were once filled with May Hosiery Mill workers. Knitting, dying and drying. Pairing and packing socks. - My grandfather ran it for 30 years. My father ran it for 30 years. I ran it for 30 years. - [Laura] 93 year old Jack May is the former CEO of the May Hosiery Mills. He loves that many things are being preserved from those days and give clues about the past. Like the old May Hosiery Mill marker that hangs on the wall. And old time card slots used by factory employees. - We did do all kinds of auxiliary services. Since we employed largely women, we opened a small commissary to buy staple goods. We saw that they had first-rate legal services, first-rate medical services. Ran things like a barber shop, a beauty parlor and maybe most loved was a service station. So if you had any car trouble, you could leave it there and we had a good mechanic who could fix your car while you worked. - [Laura] "Dicey's Pizza" sits in what used to be that very service station for factory employees. Tires are used in the landscaping, another nod to its past. - [Jack] It is very important that people remember history because how can we know who we are? - [Laura] You have to look back to 1879 to see where it all started. Jack's grandfather, 17 year old Jacob May, came to the U.S. from Germany in search of a better life. - That's Jacob May. - That's your grandfather. - [Jack] That's my grandfather. And that's Mortimer. - [Laura] At its height, the company Jacob May built, May Hosiery Mills shipped a million socks a week all over the country, even to the moon. The factory provided socks for Apollo astronauts. - [Jack] That's Dan. We spent a lot of time, knew everybody by their first name. These are some of the foreman who met on Saturday mornings in the lunchroom. We employed thousands of middle Tennesseans in the first decade of the 20th century. From 1900 to 1910, was the largest employer in Nashville. Certainly the largest manufacturer until the coming of DuPont, right at the beginning World War II. - [Laura] The second world war would inspire a whole new focus for the May family. - [Jack] 30s brought the coming of the great autocrats. Hitler primarily. He organized his government around the persecution of Jews. It wasn't your fault, it was theirs. - [Laura] In 1936, Jack May's uncle, Mortimer May, made the first of many trips to his childhood home in Germany to help rescue fellow Jews from the Nazis. - Just a brilliant man, brilliant speaker, soft-spoken, wonderful fellow. And he made several trips to where the family had come from. He worked diligently up till the end of the 1930s to 1938 to rescue these people. The red tape was enormous. It was very difficult for them to get out. You had to guarantee if they came to this country, that they would not be public charges, would never ask for public money and they would have a job or means of support. And of course, the fact that the sock factory was here meant that he could endorse- - [Laura] Numbers vary, but the family estimates that Mortimer liberated nearly 300 Jews, sponsoring them and then employing many at the mill. Hedy Lustig was just a child when her family was sponsored by Mortimer May and brought to Nashville. She talked about that experience in the NPT documentary "Living On." - My dad came here and worked at the May Hosiery Mill and my mom did too. And I remember when I'd walked to school it was the greatest thing. In the springtime I thought it was so wonderful to see the grass. I really appreciated nature. This was a freedom I had never experienced because I really was so fearful in Germany. - [Jack] All of 'em made great adjustments in Nashville became like everybody else in the 1880s, 90s, 10s and 20s, millions of people immigrated. This story of Jake May and the hosiery mill is one that's repeated over and over again. People with great courage came and the freedom of America. They let their talents blossom and it made what America is today. - It is a consequential story about heroic actions by one family that changed the lives of so many others. Courage that is noted in unexpected places in this new transformation of the May Hosiery Mills. The old brick walls of the Wedgewood-Houston community will forever hold an important history regarding the Holocaust. - You'll find many equally moving stories in the new Ken Burns documentary, "The U.S. and the Holocaust". It premieres right here on NPT, Sunday, September 18th. Well next, thankfully we have a story that's guaranteed to lift your spirits. Balloons add a festive touch to any event but have you ever considered making them your livelihood? Well, you're about to meet someone who has. Miranda Cohen introduces us to a talented young lady who left the old nine to five and turned balloons into a way of life. - I think balloons make people happy. It turns regular space into a party space or into like a celebration. - [Miranda] Tiwana Fowler has always loved birthday parties. The bigger, the better. The cake, the clowns, you name it. But she always felt something was missing. And that's when "Inflated by Tiwana" began to billow. - Every time someone would have an event, I would put something together, whether it was a column, or balloon arch or just something where I could practice, and I turned it into a business. You know so. - [Miranda] Now five years in and her client list is inflating faster than her latex balloons. She specializes in lavish, colorful displays for every event you can imagine. - [Tiwana] I do birthday parties, of course, family reunions, done magazine release. I've done every single thing that you can think of. - [Miranda] Today she is throwing a little something together for a women's event at a local church. Under her careful hand and attention to detail, "SIS" becomes sensational in less than 30 minutes. Even her most elaborate displays go aloft pretty quickly. - Typically I would say anywhere between one hour and three or four hours, it just depends on how much people want me to do. And I work pretty fast too. - [Miranda] Tiwana has an extraordinary gift for mixing colors and capturing the theme or mood of the event. Whether it's a birthday party, baby shower, or engagement, whatever your celebrating, she can make it pop. - You just kind of get the eye for it. You just look at it and say, okay, I wanna put a little something here or put a little extra there. I have a style, they must have been looking at my stuff already so that means they trust me. I'll just go in there and do something and they always love it. - [Miranda] She can also add vibrant streamers to her displays. And those are supplied by her young assistant. - [Tiwana] My daughter, she does the fringe backdrop. Her name is Lakia, she's 11 years old. We came up with the streamers idea and a lot of people are liking it. - [Miranda] And she partners with Music City Letters to spell it all out. - [Tiwana] You can do anything with the letters, they're made custom 'cause everybody likes custom now. So spell your name out in lights. - [Miranda] She is even giving traditional holidays an elegant and airy new twist by creating stunning Christmas trees made entirely from balloons. Thanks to a little inspiration from her mother. - Literally the whole year, she was like "Don't forget on Christmas, "I want you to do me a Christmas tree." Honestly, I wasn't loving it while I was making it. I was like, this is not gonna turn out right. But when I finished it up, I loved it. - And her work is popping up all over social media. It seems everyone wants a colorful backdrop for their selfies. And they are more sturdy than you might think. A display like this will consist of hundreds of balloons. And Tiwana says, if you take care of them correctly, don't expose them to extreme temperatures, they will last months. But of course, if you are ready for the party to end, well, that's easy too. - [Tiwana] It's cute to look at and it's fun to pop. - [Miranda] Tiwana's lofty dreams have turned into reality. People love her and her beautiful inflated creations. And just as importantly, she loves what she is doing. Putting her heart into helping people celebrate milestones and each other. - They're booking me so that makes me feel like I have something to prove. It's my job to come out here and make people happy. Every single thing that I do work-wise is bringing happiness and it matches my personality. Balloons have taken me further than I could have ever imagined. - Thanks, Miranda. Have you ever heard the term "glamping?" Well, neither did I, until Danielle Allen came across this next story. You see glamping is just camping with many of the comforts of home. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, if it does, you'll feel right at home at a place called "Pomelo Grove." - [Danielle] You know that old saying, good things come in small packages? Well, they do at this place. This is Pomelo Grove in Smyrna, where you can go off the grid but not so far off that you lose the comforts of home. - [Erin] Pomelo Grove is a boutique eco camp where lodgings consists of brand new camper builds that are decorated and stocked with the amenities that you might find in a boutique hotel room. So I like to tell people that my experience is a boutique hotel room experience in a campground setting. And so you get the best of both worlds. - [Danielle] That world is managed by Erin Wolf, the owner of Pomelo Grove. She has three campers and each one is 150 square feet. Now that doesn't sound very big but you can fit a lot in there. - [Erin] My campers have a queen size bed with a memory foam mattress, organic cotton sheets, stocked with fluffy towels, biodegradable, really nice bath products. - Every inch of this camper is well thought out. Like this area. During the day, it's your table, but at night... Put another cushion here, and you've got a bed for the kids. - Every night, everybody gathers around the fire pit and enjoys my artisan s'mores kits. It's been amazing to watch people who don't know each other gather around the fire. And sometimes I'll be about to fall asleep hearing people laughing and having such a great time with these new friends. And that just warms my heart because I wanna cultivate a community of fun, and joy and laughter. And I'm just happy that I'm attracting the kind of people that wanna have that kind of experience. - [Danielle] No matter how you choose to unwind, Erin is usually nearby making sure your time at Pomelo Grove goes smoothly. - Hi. - Hey. How are you? - Good. How are you? - Good. - One of my personal missions is to show love through hospitality and so that's really how I treat my guests and how I frame my existence here, is using this experience to show love. - She has done such an amazing job to the detail, like the tiniest little detail, it's just so thought through and I love the wallpapers that makes it so fun. The color schemes and how they're different and just tie in with even the outside. The beds are so comfortable and it's just like a little home away from home. - [Danielle] And when it's time to say goodbye to that home away from home, guests can grab a pen and write about it all in the guest book. Those smiling faces and notes of gratitude are a reminder to Erin that she's headed in the right direction. But for everyone else, it's a reminder that sometimes you need a getaway so you can see the good things that come in small packages. Thanks, Danielle. You know we're always on the go and now you can watch us on the go, anywhere, anytime. Just download the PBS video app to your phone to access hundreds of Crossroads episodes and thousands of your PBS favorites. Well, that's it for this addition to Tennessee Crossroads. Hope you had a good time. Don't forget our website, of course, tennesseecrossroads.org. Find us on Facebook and please come back next week. - [Voiceover] Tennessee crossroads is made possible in part by, Discover Tennessee Trails and Byways. Discover Tennessee's adventure, cuisine, history and more made in Tennessee experiences showcased among these 16 driving trails. More at tntrailsandbyways.com. - [Voiceover 2] 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.
September 15, 2022
Season 36 | Episode 08
Joe Elmore samples the BBQ at Shotgun Willie’s. Laura Faber explores the past and present at May Hosiery Mill in Nashville. Miranda Cohen discovers how Tiwana created a career with balloons. And, Danielle Allen goes glamping at the Pomelo Grove Eco Camp.