Dogs lounge on the sidewalk tethered to their owner’s chair. Friends chat away sipping cups of coffee. Couples walk past hand-in-hand talking about where to buy wedding dresses or where to eat. Doorways jingle in the storefronts as people peruse clothing, jewelry, cosmetics and furniture. Men raise their arms and shout at the TV’s in the open-air bar. A group of students decide their feelings on the French movie they just saw.
This could be any day of the week, nearly anytime but there’s only one place in Nashville where all of these things always reside: Hillsboro Village. The little strip on 21st Avenue South is packed with a palate of Nashville’s tastes, including food, clothing and entertainment. It’s been around for years, experiencing ebbs and flows of vitality, but it was really in the mid-nineties that it became alive.
Sandra Shelton, owner of Pangaea, has lived here all her life. Her store has been in Hillsboro Village since 1997.
“I’ve seen the village go up and down over the years. When I moved down here it had started a pretty good revival because of Provence and Fido. That really stepped up the interest of people coming to the village,” said Shelton.
Fido has been it’s Village location – a former pet store – for 14 years. Having expanded the seating in the cafe last fall Bob Bernstein, owner of Bongo Productions, including Bongo Java, is adding a new business to his collection. The connection to Hillsboro Village? It’s right next to Fido.
Bernstein is opening what he calls an experimental business called Hot & Cold, mixing espresso with popsicles and ice cream. His wife, Irma Paz Bernstein, owner of Las Paletas, will be his main provider of popsicles while he brings in his espresso machines to test these hot and cold mixtures.
The products will be no different than going in to either store separately, except now they will be married together. One of the menu items Bernstein mentioned was popsicles dipped in espresso. Hot & Cold will also carry premium ice cream. The provider of that treat isn’t publicly known yet, but it will be a totally different product than Sweet CeCe’s, Hillsboro’s other frozen treat shop, Bernstein said.
Sweet CeCe’s is a fairly new addition to Hillsboro Village, about a block away from where Hot & Cold will be. Sweet Cece’s, a frozen yogurt shop, started as a local business with several locations. Bernstein thinks the differences between the stores will be easy to see.
“It’s just too weird to franchise,” said Bernstein about Hot & Cold.
But that type of store fits right in with all of Hillsboro Village’s offbeat vendors, like Shelton’s store, Pangaea, which offers varieties of pillows, clothing, jewelry and quirky home decor items.
“I live nearby, it’s my neighborhood anyway. Great places to eat. Great places to shop. The theater. It’s wonderful. I hardly leave my bubble,” Shelton said.
There’s also The Belcourt, a movie theater that has been in the village since 1925. It’s gone through a lot of remodeling and different owners over the years but now it shows films at all times focusing on foreign films or classic movies as Kirk Futrell, facility manager and head projectionist at Belcourt, called them.
Even though storefronts might have changed over the years and homes changed into restaurants Futrell said The Belcourt has remained a key location.
“It’s an anchor institution there. A community anchor. It’s a destination for people to go to that’s been there, unchanging, for 80 years,” said Futrell.
Hillsboro Village has everything from shopping, a park, food, movies and banks, an art gallery and bridal shop. Even though these businesses might be old ideas they’re being made new with unique twists and accessible locations.
“Artists, musicians, and the intellectual side of Nashville hangs out and lives in Hillsboro Village,” said Bernstein.
It’s the part of Nashville where you can regularly go, not like the honky-tonks on Broadway. It’s all right there, next to Belmont’s campus, so go explore for yourself and find out what Hillsboro Village has to offer you.