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- [Announcer] "Tennessee Crossroads" is made possible in part by.... - I'm Tennessee Tech President Phil Oldham. Here in Cookeville, Tennessee's college town, we are bold, fearless, confident, and kind. Tech prepares students for careers by making everyone's experience personal. We call that living Wings Up. Learn more at tntech.edu. - This time on "Tennessee Crossroads," we visit a popular eatery on the historic town square of Murfreesboro, then meet a Cookeville couple who turned their home into a luxurious getaway. We'll explore some treasures at NashVegas Hippie Jewelry, and finally, discover how a Putnam County couple brought a tree house to new heights. Hi everybody, I'm Joe Elmore. Those stories and more on this edition of "Tennessee Crossroads." Thanks for joining us. Don't you just love Tennessee town squares? Each one has its own character and special features. Now, if you visit the one in Murfreesboro, you might consider a stop at Joanie's. You know, it's a comfy, friendly spot for coffee and scratch-made food, plus an inspiring story behind the name. The town square in Murfreesboro is a delightful, walkable destination with several historic landmarks. Well, such as the Rutherford County courthouse, built in 1859. The town square is not only historic and picturesque, it's populated by locally-owned businesses. In fact, our destination is a little dining spot called Joanie's. - So I wanted it to be an upbeat, happy place. I wanted people to leave the place happier than they were when they came in. - [Joe] That's Jason Day, owner of Joanie's, a brand with two local locations, including this one on the town square. High ceilings with exposed old brick offer a nice ambiance of antiquity as you enjoy your meal. Jason's career journey to Middle Tennessee started in California back when he was working in the business end of a healthcare facility. - You know, it was a great job. It was a comfortable job, but, you know, you're talking end of life, you're talking to people at their most stressed, you're talking, you know, death almost every day. And it mentally wears on you. And I just kind of had this epiphany, "You know, for the next 10 years, will I want to do this?" And I thought, "No." I wanted to do something that makes people happy. - [Joe] After a few trips to visit an old buddy who was living in the Boro, Jason happily headed east. - I'm so thrilled I did it, because it's just been the best community ever to do this in. My biggest thing was I wanted it to be an upbeat, happy place. I wanted people to leave the place happier than they were when they came in, so coffee was gonna always be a component 'cause I wanted it to be a social place. I wanted it to be a place where you can sit down with your friends and your neighbors and talk, and coffee's very conducive for that. - [Joe] Nowadays, the menus include breakfast, lunch, and dinner with, as they say, a little something for everyone. - We do, obviously, breakfast, 'cause our breakfast burrito is very popular. We have our French Toasted Waffle Pancake, which is kind of our signature dish. It's a waffle that we put two pancakes on and then we french toast it and cover that with strawberries and whipped cream. That's a very popular one, especially at this location here downtown. It's really turned into a lunch spot, so all of our sandwiches and quesadillas and tacos, gourmet burgers that we do here. My thing is, I always wanted to make sure that whoever comes in here, whatever their diet restrictions are or what their preferences are, we had something on the menu for everybody. - [Joe] That means any item on the menu anytime of the day. Want a burger for breakfast? Hey, no problem. - And because we make it all from scratch and we don't do microwaves, we make our whole menu from 7:00 AM to 9:00 PM. So if you want a burger at 7:00 AM, we'll make it for you. And if you want french toast at 9:00 PM, we'll make it for you. - [Joe] These days, you hear a lot about restaurant owners struggling to attract and retain good employees. Jason considers himself one of the fortunate ones. - There were two sides of this for me. It was, A, the customer side of it, which was to make sure it's a great experience for the customer. But the other side was make sure it's a great experience for my workers too. I want them to enjoy being here. 'Cause if they're enjoying it and they're having fun, the customers will enjoy it and the customers will have fun. So I'm fortunate enough to be able to pay well and pay competitively, but also hopefully make it a fun environment for them. - [Joe] By now, you might be wondering, who was Joanie? Well, she was Jason's mother who passed away just before he opened this downtown location. - And my mom was just kind of my rock growing up. I was the baby. I was attached to her hip as I was growing up. And everything I am, I owe to her. She worked really hard to give me a life that allowed me to put me in a position to save money and to ultimately do this. And I always say all the skills I have that required to do this I got from her. - [Joe] Jason's restaurants were called Red Bicycle before Joanie's passing. Then, a name change was inevitable. - It's one of the coolest things I've ever done. I get to think about her every day, I get to see her name on the coffee sleeves, and it's a it's a pretty special thing. - [Joe] Customers often ask Jason if he'll open a third location someday. He doesn't have an answer for that yet. Right now, he enjoys each day of pleasing guests, working with his friendly staff, and still savoring his decision to seek happiness and fortune in Middle Tennessee. - [Jason] I'm so thrilled I did it, because it's just been the best community ever to do this in. And they've made it so much fun for me to be here and supporting us. So I'm so blessed to have to have chosen Murfreesboro. - Say, have you ever wanted to get away from it all but not wander too far from home? Well, more than ever, Tennesseeans are exploring staycations right in their own backyards, so to speak. Well, Miranda Cohen travels to Cookeville now where a couple has turned their home into a luxurious getaway, or the perfect place to tie the knot. - [Miranda] If you've been to Cookeville, you've seen the sign. But do you know what wonders are hidden inside? The Saltbox Inn is a magical place bursting with beautiful memories. It all started back in 1970 by a collector of rare and unique things. - Well, it was built by a gentleman that was a Tennessee Tech professor. He gathered a bunch of materials together and sort of backed into it, so old barns and old sheds and old brick. And he was a pretty much a do-it-yourselfer. - [Miranda] Suzanne and Ed Buck have called the Saltbox home since the '90s. And the unusual name is more practical than you might think. - The roof on this building is a saltbox style roof. When you have two stories in the front, a short roof, and then a really long roof down to a one story, it's a saltbox. It's named after an architectural design. - [Miranda] Another architectural wonder is this meticulously-crafted log staircase in the great room. - [Ed B.] Mr. Buchanan built that himself. He had leftover logs from building the home. They told him he wouldn't be able to do it, and he just decided he would. - [Miranda] The Bucks raised a family in the eclectic farmhouse, but when their children were grown, they decided they wanted to share their beautiful 5,300 square foot home with others. - We thought that we could live here and have a B&B and have guests in. Hmm, no, no. You know, you can be messy, and you can't be messy with guests. - [Miranda] So the Bucks moved to a smaller cabin on the property and refurbished the 22 acres into a dream bed and breakfast and event venue. - I woke up one night and Suzanne said, "Are you awake?" And I said, "Yeah, I'm awake." She goes, "Do you think this is gonna work?" And I said, "Well, I think if you build it, they will come." And she said, "Well, I sure hope so." And it was received by Cookeville a lot better than we ever thought it would be. People became very excited about it and it became very popular. - [Suzanne] I was crying that it wouldn't work and that nobody would come and we would go broke. And then it was like, "Oh my, now I'm crying that, how can we keep up?" - [Ed B.] I really thought if we could just do one or two weddings a month and, you know, maybe rent a few rooms, we could pay the mortgage. And the year before the virus, I think we did 45 weddings and 65 other events. - [Miranda] The Saltbox Inn offers six luxurious bedrooms, a swimming pool, a hot tub, seven buildings, and five picturesque wedding and event locations. They can accommodate almost any request and can host up to 600 guests. They even have some pretty fancy options of getaway cars, from this 1958 Tennessee-themed pickup truck, to this vintage Rolls Royce. - [Suzanne] We can do as much or as little. We can get DJs, we can get bands, we can get caterers. We have a lady that does cakes. We kind of let a bride design her own. If she brings things in herself, that's great. If she wants us to do it, we can do that too. - [Ed B.] Lots of gardens and patios and fountains and those types of things, 22 acres of land. We have a waterfall, we have a cave. Some interesting pieces on our property. - [Miranda] As Tennessee is becoming more and more of a destination wedding location, the Saltbox Inn may be the perfect one-stop shop for a trip down the aisle. - [Suzanne] Well, they can come in on Friday, get set up, have their rehearsal dinner, spend the night, you know, have ceremony and reception the next day, spend the night, get up on Sunday, clean up. It's just a whole weekend that they have a lot of time. Kind of mini family reunions sometimes that weddings turn into, but, you know, everybody can just stay here. And so it's a fun time for the whole weekend. - [Miranda] The Soft Box Inn also host Christmas parties, fundraisers, corporate events, and much more. The Bucks loves sharing their family home and treasures with others, offering up the perfect backdrop for family memories and introducing Cookeville to people from around the world with stunning views, inn keepers well versed in southern hospitality, and a name you will never forget. - But I mean, I love it. I love people. So it's fun meeting people. And you end up having friends that you never knew you would have. I mean, some people will call and go, "Now, is this the Sandbox?" I'm like, "No, it's the Saltbox." - Thanks, Miranda. Our next story is about an artist who brings beautiful old jewelry designs from northern India and brings them back to life. Cindy Carter shows us how Mary Elizabeth Long handcrafts new treasures for her company, which is called NashVegas Hippie Jewelry. - [Cindy] You might say Nashville jewelry designer Mary Elizabeth Long has a flare for the dramatic. - [Mary Elizabeth] It does come in waves, though, my creativity. So I have to strike when the iron's hot. - [Cindy] A creative spirit with a bohemian sense of style, Mary Elizabeth is every bit the embodiment of her company's brand, NashVegas hippie jewelry. And the jewelry, like the designer, is unique, dynamic and yes, dramatic. - I just get lost in the process. And time goes by so quickly, I'll be working on something and the next thing I know, it's two o'clock in the morning. And it's like, "Wow, I need to go to bed." But I get a little obsessed with it. - [Cindy] An obsession that totally makes sense if you spend some time with the artist, as we did inside her home studio. - [Mary Elizabeth] Well, I make rings and necklaces, i make earrings, I make it all. But with the metal clay, mostly pendants and rings. - [Cindy] This former stylist and makeup artist got serious about jewelry design after her father was diagnosed with dementia and moved in with her. She needed a new creative path, one she could pursue at home. - [Mary Elizabeth] Oh, there it is. - [Cindy] That's when Mary Elizabeth rediscovered something she'd dabbled in decades prior: jewelry making. As an added bonus, it was also something she could do with her dad. - I got really excited about all the different things I could make. And I found a guy down in New Orleans, and he had all this beautiful jewelry. And I asked him what the medium was and he said, "Metal clay." And that was my introduction to metal clay. - Bronze, copper, silver, Mary Elizabeth makes her own clay with these precious metals. She then molds the clay into her designs, often using one of several unique dyes she's collected over the years to make impressions in the clay, giving her work an old-world look and feel. So Mary Elizabeth, you really enjoy working with these antique metal dyes. What is it about them that excites you so much? - Well, I really love to see these little works of art being brought back to life. They're over 100 years old, and they're hand engraved by Indian jewelers. And it's a pleasure for me and an honor, honestly, to bring them back to life. - [Cindy] As you can tell, Mary Elizabeth is thrilled to share this unique artistry with a new generation, and says the history tied to each dye inspires her work as much as the dye's actual design. - [Mary Elizabeth] Each one is so special. And I really love it when they're signed on the back. And that makes it special. - [Cindy] Each piece of jewelry takes a few days to create. Once she makes her clay, molds it into her vision, and makes impressions with the dyes, the pieces are dried, sanded, burnished- - This is the fun part. It starts looking like metal. - and perfected. - [Mary Elizabeth] It just makes it really smooth. - [Cindy] Then, it's off to the kiln, which Mary Elizabeth admits was initially pretty intimidating. But now, she can't wait to see how the pieces turn out. - [Mary Elizabeth] Ooh! Once you burn off the binder, you just have the metal left. And then you put it in carbon and you fire it at between 1,500 and 1,800 degrees. And that makes the metal center and it becomes a a piece of metal and a piece of jewelry. - It's a process that makes this designer's modern jewelry again look and feel as if the pieces have been around for decades. Mary Elizabeth can certainly fashion her precious metal clay into a variety of pieces, but admits rings and pendants work best. That's because this material has some weight to it. - [Mary Elizabeth] I like to make big pieces, so it can weigh up to 50 grams, it can weigh 100 grams. But it just depends on the piece that I'm making. - [Cindy] And the jewelry she makes does make a statement: one of-a-kind, handmade adornments that have also caught the attention of a few prominent Tennesseeans. - Miss Jeannie Seely, who is an Opry star, she's worn some of my pieces. Jared James Nichols, who is a blues guitar player, he wears some of my jewelry, and a lot of musicians around town. - [Cindy] Not bad for a self-proclaimed NashVegas hippie, a free-spirited jewelry designer with a flare for drama. - [Mary Elizabeth] And I just turn my music on and I just start creating and it's really exciting. - Thanks, Cindy. Remember climbing trees as a kid? It was so exciting to see just how high you could go. Well, maybe you were even lucky enough to have had a tree house. Well, a Putnam County couple never outgrew their love for tree houses, I guess, because they've taken it to another level. A while back, Ed Jones climbed up to see them at a place called Sulfur Ridge. - We wanted people to experience and to see things they don't normally see, so we wanted things that were different, things that were unique, something special. - [Ed. J.] Something special, that perfectly sums up the whimsical dream house, which Susan and Trent Dyer made a reality. Nestled in the forest just outside Cookeville, Sulfur Ridge Treehouse bears the name of the Cumberland mountainside it gracefully rises above. - Trent and I do a lot of mission work, and we travel a lot all over the world. So in 2015, with Trent's job, we got to live in Australia for a year and we stayed in this really cool Airbnb property. So we thought, "Why don't we have that in Tennessee? Why don't we offer that here?" - [Trent] So I took pencil and paper and drew it all up. - Yeah, we drew it up. We had to become best friends with the codes department, but we did. We achieved that goal. - But they would kind of fight over who's gonna get to come out and see what progress had been made. So they were as excited as we were. - [Ed. J.] Once you're settled in, you quickly realize that the most exciting thing about Sulfur Ridge is the lack of excitement, also known as stress. And that's all part of the plan. - I said, "We're not gonna have wifi. We don't want to have wifi. Let's let people get away, couples, as kinda like a retreat center to come and be together and just enjoy each other and enjoy being away from all the busyness." - [Trent] To unplug. - We have a lot of birthday surprises, we have a lot of anniversaries and a lot of honeymoons. It's the perfect escape for a couple. We had one couple that said they sat in the chairs by the window and they sat there for four hours and they'd play the jukebox. - [Ed. J.] The jukebox is just one of the many unusual items that add to the allure of Sulfur Ridge. - It started with just the tree house, and then we went to the side shack, and then she comes up with the bottle wall idea. - [Susan] We created a bottle wall as the entrance of the tree house that we did with some antique doors that are eight feet tall. - It morphed into- - It's still morphing. - [Trent] what it is, and it's still, it's still morphing. It's still changing every day. - [Ed. J.] The ever-changing landscape is an eclectic mixture of new and old. Take the front door, for instance. - We found it in a local shop, and it's dated 1848. It come off an old mansion near Shelbyville that was used as a hospital during the Civil War. But our favorite story is the floor. - The floor, yes, yes. - The floor is our favorite story- - Very unique. - because the floor is from a local factory, Wilson Sporting Goods, that has been closed for many years. They were getting ready to tear it down. - Oh, it was filthy. - It had 73 years of dirt on it. so we scraped. - All the tongues, all the grooves. To get this amount of floors- - yeah, we sorted a lot. - [Trent] this is about 30% of what we sorted through. - We did the windows, we installed all the glass and all the trim. So Trent's been a custom cabinet maker most of his life. So the buffet we brought out our home, but here again, we wanted people to see things they'd never seen. - Yes. - The rustic charm of the bedroom is quite a contrast to the opulent bath. - [Susan] The quartz on the countertop has a lot of purple color in it. So the tub is new, but it's a cast iron tub and we had it custom painted purple to match that quartz. Our faucets are brass-plated swans. So they're very unique. - [Trent] Everybody has a swan, right? - Yeah, everybody has a swan faucet. - In their bathroom. - And then the window in there is from a 100-year-old church. - Out of Henderson, Kentucky. - Out of Henderson, Kentucky. - [Ed. J.] Take a walk up the hill from the tree house and you'll enter another time and place known simply as... - Shasta Camp. An area with three vintage-inspired Shasta campers that are actually 2015, but they were recreated to look like the 1961 Shasta. So we have three of them. The red one we call hot Tamale. The yellow one is a 19 foot. The red one is 16 foot. the 19 foot is Mellow Yellow. - Mellow Yellow. - And the mint green one is Peppermint Patty. And I had that vision in my mind of how to create that campsite. Here again, we didn't want it to look like a regular campground. We wanted it to look different and be in community. So they sit in a semi-circle and they all have a shared fire pit. They all have a sidewalk that comes to a shared fire pit. And we have a game area. We have a bocce ball court. We have a life-size Scrabble game. It's a cute place up there, too. It's kind of like stepping back in time a little bit. - [Camper] Whoo! A little hot. - [Ed. J.] Stepping back in time, before the internet, before email, before our phones were a constant irritating companion, before things got so complicated. The only stressful task that visitors to Sulfur Ridge face is deciding what part of their stay they like the most. - Sometimes it's the view, sometimes it's the jukebox, sometimes it's the swing. They love the hot tub at nighttime, and underneath the stars and the fire pit. They love being outside. They love being surrounded by the trees. And even in the winter when the trees are bare, it's still absolutely stunning. - Gorgeous, it really is. - Because it's still very private, you're very secluded. - [Ed. J.] Whether you choose to camp in 60's style or spoil yourself in the luxurious tree house, you're sure to make lasting memories with that special someone at Sulfur Ridge, memories that the Dyers love to read from their guest book. - "This has been a wonderful getaway for us. As our kids are now older, we reclaim our youth, just the two of us alone and together." "But the best time was spent dancing to the songs of days gone by. So much more could be written, but you'll have to excuse us. We have four more quarters." - "And we want to dance." - Well back down on the ground, it's about time to say goodbye. But don't forget about that PBS video app we've been telling you about. Check out our website anytime, tennesseecrossroads.org, and follow us on Facebook. Oh, and don't forget next week. Join us then. I'll see ya. - [Announcer] "Tennessee Crossroads" is made possible in part by... - I'm Tennessee Tech President Phil Oldham. Here in Cookeville, Tennessee's college town, we are bold, fearless, confident, and kind. Tech prepares students for careers by making everyone's experience personal. We call that living Wings Up. Learn more at tntech.edu.
May 25, 2023
Season 36 | Episode 38
Joe Elmore visits a popular eatery on the historic town square of Murfreesboro. Miranda Cohen meets a Cookeville couple who turned their home into a luxurious getaway. Cindy Carter explores treasures at Nashvegas Hippie Jewelry. And Ed Jones discovers how a Putnam County couple brought the treehouse to new heights.