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- [Announcer] "Tennessee Crossroads" is made possible in part by. - [Phil] 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. - [Announcer] Averitt's Tennessee Roots run deep. They've been delivering logistics solutions here for over 50 years, and though Averitt's reach now circles the globe, the Volunteer state will always be home. More at Averitt.com. 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. - This time on "Tennessee Crossroads," we discover a former Green Beret's current mission in the spirit business. Then visit a shop full of toys for all ages in Nashville. We'll do lunch at a popular dining destination in Bon Aqua, and finally, a hot story about a talented metal craftsman in Donelson. Hi everybody, I'm Joe Elmore. Welcome again to "Tennessee Crossroads," glad you joined us. From the mountains of Afghanistan to the hills of Tennessee, Andy Lang turned a military career and a hobby into a business. After nearly three decades as a Green Beret, well, he decided to open up Leatherwood Distillery in Clarksville. Tammi Arender has the story. - [Tammi] Not too far from Fort Campbell in Clarksville is Leatherwood Distillery. Fort Campbell was a second home for former Green Beret Andrew Lang, an owner of Leatherwood. - I was a Green Beret for 26 years, and some friends of mine have been drinking my wine and homemade spirits for years. - [Tammi] Lang began distilling batches of wine and brews for his Special Forces team while stationed overseas. He would actually use items on hand, like his meals ready to eat, a packet of melted Skittles, add water, sugar, yeast, and let it ferment. So when he retired from his military service, he knew he could turn his hobby of making moonshine into money. - [Andy] Sweet feed whiskey is one of the oldest moonshine whiskey recipes that has ever been around, and moonshiners would make it, because they could go into a feed store, buy one bag with all the grains they need, and it didn't look weird, right? So they didn't have people following 'em home, finding out what they're doing. And it was just so unique, and nobody makes it, and you know, in the industry so I figured, you know, it's unique enough that people will come to to try it out and see what it's all about. - [Tammi] In 2017, Leatherwood Distillery was born. The name came from the old road that he lived on growing up in Dixon County. - [Andy] I knew what I was gonna make here once we went, you know, got our license and everything, 'cause I'd kind of perfected the different flavors and things that I was gonna make. Something I'd never made was bourbon, and real, you know, mashed in whiskeys. - [Tammi] Lang became the master distiller, but he knew he needed help, so he posted an ad and this vet popped up, Brian Lafond. - First one I looked at was his on the veteran's side, and it said infantry 26 years. I said, "Lemme call this guy." I called him, I was like, "What are you doing?" He's like, "Nothing." I said, "Come on down, let's talk." And we just hit it off and hired him right off the bat. - And I kind of fell into it, and so I was working an IT job, and I was looking for something different, and after a quick job search, I found this position open, interviewed for it and got it same day. - [Tammi] Lafond was a Marine, and after his service, he was working in the corporate IT field. He had never made a batch of liquor, but he was eager to learn, and Lang was excited to have another veteran on board. - The learning curve was pretty sharp, because we did have a master on site, and then he decided to go to Europe for a month, and so, yeah, I took a couple of notes, watched a couple of YouTube videos, right? Made a couple of calls, had one guy come in and mentor me for one run, and then after that I was on my own. - [Tammi] Lafond's fondness for trying and learning new things paid off. He's now the master distiller at Leatherwood, perfecting the rums, bourbons, and moonshine that come out of here. - [Brian] The mash bill kind of dictates what kind of grain that you will use. For our purposes, we use for our whiskey, we use a large amount of corn, followed by some wheat, give it some sweetness, and then barley or malted barley. - So what they're making today is this elderberry rum, and you might be surprised to know it takes about 400 gallons of water, 500 grams of yeast, and get this, some 1,600 cups of sugar. - The Snake Eater bourbon's gonna be an 85 proof. - [Tammi] When looking for libations at Leatherwood, you'll find a unique assortment. Yes, it's rums and whiskeys, but each with a flavor profile not found at most drinking establishments. - [Andy] I like to call it redneck science. You know, there's a lot of science involved with it, but there's, you know, it's just really trial and error, trying things. Some of it works, some of it doesn't. - [Tammi] While you're sampling those shots of liquid courage, you can take in all of the military memorabilia. The walls are lined with snapshots of Lang's days with Special Ops. There's also a memorial flag for those who are no longer with us. - [Andy] As you see in the flag over here, those are pictures of all the guys that have died since Vietnam from 5th Special Forces Group, so it's our memorial flag, and all those pictures, you can take 'em down, put 'em on your table. So guys come in that knew one of them, they'll put the picture on the table and hang out. It's kinda like hanging out with 'em. - [Tammi] It's a chance to make memories, and remember those who've sacrificed for our country. - [Andy] Some people, I wouldn't say are afraid, but they're like, "Oh, that's a veteran's place." It's not, it's great to see people that aren't veterans that really get to know some veterans, hang out with 'em, spend time with 'em, get to hear their stories. I think that's pretty big for other people too. - Thanks, Tammi. Our next story is for the young and the young at heart. NPT's executive producer Megan Grisolano takes us to a shop in Nashville that's chock full of toys from the '60s to present day. Well, Matthew and LJ, owners of Totally Rad Toy House share what makes their shop so special. - [Megan] It seems fair to say that we all had a toy that stood out to us growing up, one we found extra special. Matthew Powell and LJ Landrum, the store owners at totally Rad Toy House in Nashville, certainly had theirs. - I love when we get as weird as they are, Hugga Bunch, 'cause I have a fond memory of getting my first Hugga Bunch and thinking it was the coolest thing. - The main thing I collect is He-Man & Masters of the Universe. Just seeing them and holding them just takes me back. One of my favorite things in the store is when somebody walks in and goes, "Oh my God, I forgot all about that, I had that." That's like, the biggest joy, that, and also when somebody has a kid, and the kid comes in and they're like, really into something that was in to. Like, there'll be like a Ninja turtle or something. I'm like, man, that's so cool, even the younger generations are still jumping in on this. - [Megan] While totally Rad Toy House sells vintage toys, it's definitely not an antique shop. They have their niche in terms of collections and decades represented. - [Matthew] So when you come to the Toy House, you're gonna find a little bit of everything. Some of the most common toys we have are gonna be like, Masters of Universe, GI Joe. Ninja Turtles is a real big one, Barbie Dolls, all the things we grew up with in the '80s, and even some newer stuff that's still adjacent to the '80s, but coming out now. - We try to carry, I guess what you would call "girly" stuffed dolls, Cabbage Patch, Strawberry Shortcake, Rainbow Brite, Gem Dolls. I get 'em in, and they're usually gone within a week. I mean, we had a My Little Pony collection, almost an entire collection, and it lasted a month. We had people from Norway contacting us, like, "How can I get one of these ponies?" - I have a feeling many of our "Tennessee Crossroads" viewers saw the "Barbie" movie, and I expect most of us walked away with a similar question, and that question is, what's this thing worth? - The Millennium Barbie? - Yes. - Yeah, it's- - A holiday collection? - A holiday collection. Probably about $10, maybe. - $10, my prized possession? Ah, what a shame. Okay, what about these guys? 1959. - [Matthew] Oh, these are what you're looking for. - [Megan] Barbie, she's in rough, I mean, you know, her face is, she's looking oily, she's got- - [Matthew] Even in this condition- - [Megan] Tell me what's going on. - [Matthew] Even this condition, she's available. You can actually clean her up pretty well. I mean, these can go for a couple hundred dollars. - You know, when they make a movie about Barbie, you think people are gonna come in and want to buy all of your Barbies. For us, it was the opposite. Everyone wanted to sell us their Barbies. They thought they were sitting on a gold mine at that point of I have an entire holiday Barbie collection, you know, what's it worth? And we actually had to turn it away. We were on the news for saying, "No, we will not take your Barbie." From mid '80s all the way to the 2000s, there was holiday Barbies every single year, and they actually are not even worth what they sold for then. The harder ones from the '80s, like Peaches and Cream, especially the fashion ones, because they're like, a next level of detail, so those are, you know, like, three, $400 Barbies. - [Megan] It turns out there are quite a few common misconceptions in the retro toy industry, and there's one in particular that Matthew and LJ have found to be the most pervasive. - So some common misconceptions and common questions we get that I hate to burst anybody's bubbles are Beanie Babies. We get calls at least three times a week. We even have it on our sign that we don't buy Beanie Babies, but we still get constant calls about people thinking they're gonna retire on their Beanie Babies, and unfortunately, they're not worth anything. You might have one that's worth 10 bucks. There's a lot of people who find them online that says they're worth like, they sold for 20,000. Unfortunately, that's money laundering. So many people will get kind of mad at if you tell 'em they're not worth anything, and I'm sorry, I wish they were. - [Megan] While Matthew and LJ obviously have deep knowledge and love for '80s and '90s toys, which are key in this business, their complimentary skills and joint vision also helped lay the foundation for a successful launch. - [Matthew] So we were both working on our own eBays, selling just toys and knick-knacks, and I've always been really good at knowing toys in general. That's something I've collected since I was a kid. You know, I've never stopped. - I had worked in a comic bookstore in the early 2000s in Florida, so it was something I sort of knew how to run the business a little bit. It was something we always talked about, and one day he just said, "Let's do this." - So for two years, we just hunkered down. I just collected inventory from estate sales, online auctions, yard sales, and put it in our garage, just with in mind that we're gonna open up a toy store eventually, and I think it's been a really good thing for Nashville. - I think it's rewarding, 'cause you know, we're doing this as best friends, and at the end of the day, it's like, you can't really ask for more than that. - [Megan] LJ and Matthew pride themselves on the vibe when you come in. They aim to make shopping a real experience. - It doesn't necessarily feel like a store. - [LJ] My favorite thing someone ever said was just like, "I feel like I just walked on the set of 'Saved by the Bell,'" and I was like, "We did a really good job then." - [Customer] I enjoy coming in here, not just to look at all the stuff or purchase something, but I enjoy hanging out and talking with them, and appreciate them helping me to build a totally rad collection, because a lot of my stuff has come through them and I appreciate that. - [LJ] There was a magazine article written about us, and the guy referred to it as the barbershop of toy stores. He happened to be in the store one day. So we have guys that just come in just like a barbershop, and they'll spend an hour, sometimes more, just completely in here hanging out and you know, talking toys. So when we were dubbed that, I was like, that means a lot. This isn't just about making money to us. It's also about the community, and our love for this as well, so I'm proud of the fact that we kind of have that reputation of being the place to go and really talk toys, and collecting and stuff, be nerds. - Thanks, Megan. To many of us, the words tea room conjures up visions of those little finger sandwiches, scones, and dainty teacups. Well, you can get tea at The Beacon Light Tea Room, as long as it's iced tea. It's the sumptuous southern cooking that attracts loyal diners. Well, let's head to Bon Aqua and discover their secret. 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 Wynn 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 want to 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. - [Kim] Now, you have to cook it in a cast iron skillet. That's the secret. That's just the old time way to, you know, that we all grew up and then we'd have fried chicken, you know, 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 crutch. You haven't jumped on that so-called hot chicken bandwagon yet, have you? - No, no, we try 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. Do 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 'em. - [Joe] Lard and buttermilk? - Lard, not shortening or vegetable oil, lard, yeah. Okay. Now, the homemade biscuit toppings are not jellies, not jams. - [Kim] It's a preserve, so it has more of a liquid consistency to it, and we just put the fruit in and sugar, and just let 'em cook, and they're really good over some hot biscuits. - [Joe] And a lot of customers want to 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 little 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, let it come to a little boil. The boiling pulls the salt out of the ham to give it that flavor, and then it'll be ready for us to eat, 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 Levine'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 cookin' ♪ ♪ Where every waitress is so good lookin' ♪ ♪ This is just the place to get it all ♪ - [Joe] When you're open six days a week, well, you have to put in plenty of hours of hard work. But for Kim Wynn, the happy faces of satisfied customers make it all worthwhile. - I do love it, and you know, the customers that come in here, there's so many of 'em that are repeat customers, and you just, you get to know 'em, you know? I think that's just the atmosphere that we want The Beacon Light to have. ♪ Under that Beacon Light sign ♪ - Bouncing around from job to job, it took Keith Herendon several gears to finally realize that following his dream was the only answer to finding job satisfaction. Well, Cindy Carter visited the workshop he has in Donelson where his metallic dreams have come true. - [Cindy] Keith Herendon's job gets pretty. - So I'm giving it some air from the blower. - [Cindy] Heated at times, actually, most of the time. Certainly you can call him a blacksmith, but he says that title isn't a perfect fit. - You can't just say blacksmith nowadays. It gets people thinking it might be shoeing horses. - [Cindy] Keith is much more comfortable with the term blacksmith artist, and if you look at some of the beautiful and beautifully intricate pieces he's done over the years, you'd agree. - [Keith] I cut the wine bottles myself, made the whole thing, riveted it all together, and it's over 80 pounds. - [Cindy] See, not a horse in sight. He does have a dragon. Keith crafted this fire-breathing forge for larger pieces, and inside Keith's basement workshop, he uses what he calls his Mickey Mouse forge for smaller ones. - [Keith] No matter what's going on in the world, I'm going to come down here at 7:00 in the morning and make something. - [Cindy] Keith has been making something out of iron since he was in high school. - [Keith] I took a class called General Metals, and then once I grabbed a piece of metal, I knew exactly what to do with it. So I was making rocking chairs, and my teacher just gave me some metal and said, "Hey, I want you to make these rocking chairs," and I didn't know how to make a rocking chair. It took me a while to figure it out. - [Cindy] But he did figure it out pretty quickly, moving on from his first rocking chair to more complicated pieces. - [Keith] Then I would just find a catalog out of the mail, and started seeing different designs of like, a sunflower or such like that, and I started making my own furniture. - [Cindy] Blacksmiths forge fire with raw metal, melting, hammering, and bending their designs into existence. - [Keith] It does a lot better when it's hot. - [Cindy] It's a functional art form, which means Keith doesn't have to be a starving artist. He pays his bills making in demand items like gates, doors, and handrails, oh, lots and lots of handrails. - [Keith] This is my blueprints. I hardly ever take anybody else's blueprints. - [Cindy] Keith says those measurements are the most important step. He learns if he was off only when the project is completed, and no one wants to start over. - This is a tree hand rail that I'm working on. Almost finished with one, I got two to do. - [Cindy] From here, it's a painstaking process of fire, strength, patience, more fire, and so on, until Keith has a result like those tree handrails both he and his client are happy with. - [Keith] You don't have to be smart, you don't have to be good looking. You don't have to know a lot. All you have to do is just keep your word. When you tell that person you're going to do something, you just do it. - Handrails and gates, they all have artistic value, but Keith says he wishes sometimes his clients would think more outside of the box and ask him to make something a little bit more like this, or this, or that, or even that. This is the kind of work that lights Keith's fire. - [Keith] You got an idea in your head, now you gotta try to make it come together somehow. - [Cindy] Keith makes his metal art in between those jobs that pay the bills. Most pieces are his own design, but sometimes he'll see something in a book, challenge himself to recreate it, and then travel the world to track down The original work of art. - [Keith] Made this door knocker, and it took a long time. It took a couple of months I was off and on working on it. I knew it was gonna take a long time, but I wanted to do it, and when I finished it, I was looking it all up online, and I said, "Well, this exists in Barcelona." I always wanted to go to Barcelona. - [Cindy] As great as it was to lay eyes on the original 16th century door knocker that inspired him, Keith says it felt even better knowing he nailed it. - [Keith] That gives me like, satisfaction, joy, happy. - [Cindy] That happiness is why Keith works so hard all day almost every day, despite the very physical and sometimes emotional toll it takes. - I think I did enough today, I'm finished, and then I just. - [Cindy] This blacksmith is grateful for the work, all of the iron work he gets to do in his shop, but the blacksmith artist is always looking forward to the day when he can leave the handrails behind, and focus on the art that burns in his soul. - It'd be great one day to say, "I don't do that anymore. You need to call this guy. You missed me by 10 years." - Well, I'm afraid that's it for this edition of "Tennessee Crossroads." Thanks for joining us, and don't forget to explore our website, tennesseecrossroads.org, where you can download the PBS app and watch all your favorite shows anytime, anywhere. And don't forget to join us next week. I'll see you then. - [Announcer] "Tennessee Crossroads" is made possible in part by. - [Phil] 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. - [Announcer] Averitt's Tennessee roots run deep. They've been delivering logistics solutions here for over 50 years, and though Averitt's reach now circles the globe, the Volunteer state will always be home. More at Averitt.com. 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.
October 19, 2023
Season 37 | Episode 14
Tammi Arender discovers a former Green Beret’s current mission in the spirit business in Clarksville. Megan Grisolano visits a shop full of toys for all ages in Nashville. Joe Elmore does lunch at a popular dining destination in Bon Aqua. And Cindy Carter has a story about a talented metal craftsman in Donelson.