Every downtown district has its one main street that seems to be the heartbeat of it all, and for Clarksville that’s the lifeline known as Franklin Street. A hub of activity offering everything imaginable from shops and eateries to theaters and galleries, Franklin Street is where it’s happening. Here are a few highlights that you’re sure to love:
Making everything from scratch from their boudin boulettes to the French bread that they use to make their flavor-packed po’boys, Roux Restaurant on Franklin Street is an authentic taste of New Orleans that brings Creole country in each and every dish. Serving NOLA classics like Fried Shrimp and Grits, Crawfish Etouffee, and Jambalya, the menu is truly jazzy; and owners Theresa and Greg Shea have wisely drawn inspiration for their unique restaurant from the flavorful roux that serves as the basis as a majority of their food—hence the name so apropos of a place that’s as filled with rich flavor as its namesake.
As the former chef of several New Orleans-based restaurants, Greg certainly knows how to create a bite of Bayou bliss. And when he and Theresa decided to use their need to relocate a restaurant they had started in Bowling Green after it grew too big, they decided that the charm of historic downtown Clarksville was absolutely perfect, and they were met with the welcome greeting of a community of people hungry for what they were ready to serve. “Clarksville offered us exactly what we had been longing for—to be a part of a community where we could build relationships,” says Theresa of their decision to open Roux, which officially opened in March 2017. “We love to cook for people and see how much they enjoy our food, and our biggest reward is knowing that we’ve given them an unforgettable experience.” With its exposed brickwork and restored red oak hardwood floors to the century-old pressed steel ceilings, Roux embodies old New Orleans—and that’s something that their guests are savoring with delight.
Taking their love of downtown Clarksville and their desire to keep the fires burning at what was once one of the city’s most popular fine-dining restaurants, John Shephard partnered with his parents Gary and Linda, to reclaim and revive Benne’s Steakhouse and rebranded it as Edward’s Steakhouse to honor Gary’s father. Now serving a menu of prime steaks, seafood, fresh pastas and house specialties featuring lamb, pork chops, and chicken, the cuisine at Edward’s is a cut above, and they’re a downtown highlight that’s absolutely delicious. “We hope this restaurant will bring more people downtown,” says John, who also worked at Benne’s while it was open. As Clarksville natives, the Shephards have a deeply rooted love for the community, and they’ve let it shine in the décor, showing off the building’s original Franklin Street brick walls and incorporating other bits of historic charm into its theme.
Having fallen in love with the charm of downtown Clarksville after moving to the area from their hometown in Kansas City, Jen and Bill Parker opened Plumb Line Coffee in January 2017 and have since been offering guests an artisan coffee experience that’s something to buzz about, including pour over coffee, craft espresso drinks, lattes made with their house made syrups, cold brew coffee, hot or iced teas, and even fresh pastries. “We love the history, the vibe, and the diversity of generations all sharing the same space downtown, and it’s truly a beautiful place to be. Downtown is being developed and it’s only getting better from here!” says Jen. Next time you need a cup of coffee, check out their brews. You’ll never look at java the same way again.
With their huge supply of outdoor gear from brands like Sanuk, Under Armour, Vibram Fivefingers, and Yeti Coolers, Bink’s Outfitters has everything you need to take your love of the great outdoors to a whole new level. Whether you need all-weather apparel or rugged footwear for your next hike, you can visit their Franklin Street shop to get yourself stocked up in style.
If you’re looking for something truly unique to give as a gift or feel in need of a bit of retail therapy, Mildred & Mable’s offers everything imaginable from home decor, women's fashion & unique jewelry. Show off your personality with a new Alex & Ani bangle, light up your home (and support a great cause) with a Bridgewater Candle, take in the scent of fresh cut flowers from Sango Village Florist OR pamper yourself, upstairs, at Isabella-Sophia Salon! No matter how you spend your day at Midlred & Mable's, you'll always leave feeling like a brand new woman!
Whether it was a well-played tactical move or a risk that could have gone full-on FUBAR, former Army helicopter pilot Jeff Robinson’s decision to “quietly” open a pub on Franklin Street on St. Patrick’s Day in 1992 was one that, in the end, paid off—despite the fact that the newly-opened business was overrun with thirsty customers who overwhelmed Robinson’s beer supply and ran his taps dry. Coming to his rescue, Budwiser of Clarksville literally brought in the cavalry, and Robinson was able to meet the demand by selling beer straight from the case.
Now celebrating 25 years of business, Robinson’s pub—which opened on that auspicious day as Franklin Street Pub—has gone through quite its share of changes, not the least of which was its name. Choosing the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment as his inspiration, Robinson re-christened his popular downtown joint in 1995 as Blackhorse Pub & Brewery, a name honoring the regiment’s tireless energy and fighting spirit, qualities that Robinson hoped to exemplify every day. The title was also an important part of their expansion as construction of their very own brewery was completed, making them one of the very first craft brew houses located in the Southeast during the early days of the burgeoning craft beer movement that has now become explosive. In addition, Blackhorse’s expansion brought with it the opening of a pizza kitchen next door that became truly incorporated when the two divided spaces were opened up into one large restaurant and bar in 1996. In addition, they have added a location in Knoxville and have amassed a large distribution area for their beer label.
The full menu now offered at Blackhorse Pub and Brewery includes truly creative specialty pizzas, flavorful steaks, tasty sandwiches, signature entrees, fresh salads, scratch-made soups, and decadent desserts—but their claim to fame is their expansive menu of craft brewed beers made in their very own brewery. Included among them are the Blackhorse IPA, Barnstormer Red Ale, McGee’s Pale Ale, Coalminer’s Stout, and Coffee Milk Stout in addition to seasonal varieties such as Scottish Ale, Wicked Harvest Pumpkin Ale, and Saint Nick Dunkelweisen.
This spring as it celebrates its 25-year anniversary, Blackhorse plans to open a rooftop deck to seat additional guests, which will add to the experience and expand their capacity from the 185 seats available downstairs and 80 upstairs in the taproom area. Currently, the upstairs area also serves as a popular event space often used for large gatherings such as birthday celebrations and military functions.
It’s a dream come true for Robinson and his wife Sherri, who has played an integral part of Blackhorse’s journey since the days when it was but the glimmer of an idea being tossed around. As Clarksville residents since the days when Robinson was stationed at Fort Campbell, the couple knew that they had a home base for their vision to be brought to life once they’d left Army life behind - and they’ve tapped that vision to be flowing with success.
Culture and art are something that the Clarksville community holds in high regard, and the Downtown Artists Co-op gives local artists a place to shine. Operating their own gallery in the heart of downtown, more than 40 artists and artisans comprise the co-op to include the talents of area painters, sculptors, photographers, and other craftsmen to form a beautiful variety of creativity at its very best. “The types of art represented at the co-op are extremely varied, and so are the artists themselves—coming from all types of backgrounds and places all over the world,” says co-op vice president Lucas Chambers. Among the members are artists from Europe, military personnel, and area natives—all of which lend a hand in diversifying the perspectives, the imagination, and the flair at work. Open Tuesday through Saturday, the co-op gallery hosts a new exhibition on the first Thursday of the month called the First Thursday Art Walk. The Downtown Artists Co-op is located at 96 Franklin Street, Clarksville, Tennessee 37040. To learn more about exhibitions or membership, call (931) 919-3770.
Nearing their two-year mark in business, Journey’s Eye Studio has become a thriving part of the downtown scene in Clarksville, staking its claim on Franklin Street to showcase the talent of its owners and imbue the historic area with even more charm and interest. Having come to the community in search of a new place after leaving their hometown of Boston, owners Steve Tyrrell and Jody Isaacs fell in love with Clarksville and its welcoming citizens and knew they couldn’t have found a more perfect place to set up shop. “We knew we wanted to part of an up and coming town, and when we came here, we knew immediately that we had found the right place,” says Isaacs, who serves as half of the creative team behind the shop and its many unique pieces of art.
Offering both retail pieces and interior design services, Journey’s Eye is something extraordinary, combining custom furniture and lighting pieces made by Tyrell along with their design acumen to work with both residential and commercial clients. Taking on projects both large and small, Tyrell and Isaacs have created everything from one-of-a-kind lighting features for homes to industrial pieces for restaurants and other commercial spaces throughout Clarksville and into the Nashville area, and their showroom is a veritable treasure trove of vintage finds they’ve discovered on their hunts to pieces they’ve made with their own hands, bringing their buyers an experience they can find nowhere else. “We love going on the hunt for the perfect piece to bring into the shop and having the opportunity to share Steve’s masterful industrial creations with the wonderful people here. We’ve loved every minute of our time downtown, and our community is incredibly supportive in so many ways,” she continues. “One of our favorite times is the last Saturday of every month, which is our live singer/songwriter series called ‘Live at Journey’s Eye.’” Open to the public by reservation, the event starts at 7:30 p.m. and encourages people to come in for a peek at their wares, enjoy some great music, and spend time with their fellow community members.
“It’s been amazing to see how much the streets are coming alive with locals and visitors who are discovering what we have to offer downtown, and word is getting out about all of the new things going on here. I’m so grateful for the anchor businesses that have made it possible for us newer folks to come in and contribute our part in building and sustaining a healthy, vibrant downtown. There’s a sense of camaraderie here unlike any I’ve ever experienced in any other business setting. We love each other and support one another in anyway we can; and for us, saying thank you falls short of expressing the gratitude we feel for those who have shown us what it’s like to truly be able to work together. There are so many steady, humble people behind the scenes that fuel the growth of our community.” If you’re looking for a departure from the ordinary, the journey stops here.
Horsefeathers. It’s a word that Laura Mercier grew up hearing her grandmother say, a word that the dictionary defines as a turn of phrase used in place of—to put it mildly—“nonsense.” And while it might seem an odd word to inspire the name of a business, it was one that Mercier always wanted to use, a silly and fun descriptor for so many of her life experiences and quite the colorful title for a place where being colorful is the first order of business.
Opening in a small space she rented inside Mildred & Mable’s, Mercier welcomed her first customers at Horsefeathers in 2011, offering a wide selection of ready-to-paint pottery, canvases, and woodcraft pieces that were just itching to be splashed with color. And the concept caught on like wildfire, bringing everyone from walk-in clients who just wanted to try their hand at creating their very own works of art to full groups who book the studio for an event. “Our success is due primarily to our satisfied customers telling their friends and family about their experience and then spreading the word,” says Mercier. “Really, word-of-mouth referrals are the bread and butter of our business, and all of that is a direct result of the customer service we provide and the positive experience our customers have during their time with us.
“We’re not selling a product—we’re creating an experience, and that’s something I stress with my team here. It’s all about the customer and the details, and I want our customers to feel taken care of.”
And that’s anything but horsefeathers. In fact, judging by the growth they’ve experienced, it could well be said that Horsefeathers is far from a nonsensical idea. A mere four years after opening, the studio’s popularity outgrew the confines of their rental space at Mildred & Mable’s and required them to move to another location that provided triple the square footage they previously occupied. Now in its own storefront, the all-inclusive “paint-your-own” studio is celebrating its sixth year in business and has become a very colorful part of a very colorful downtown scene. “I love being downtown,” says Mercier. “There’s something nostalgic about it; and when I was growing up n Pulaski, going dowtown was always an event. Everyone knew each other, and there was such a sense of camaraderie amongst the business owners,” she recalls fondly. “We would park the car and walk to all the different shops and stores and have lunch at the local burger joint and maybe even have an ice cream from the drugstore. It was really an adventure; and I love the thought of others coming here, to downtown Clarksville, to see us and this becoming a destination. There are certainly a myriad of choices in more commercial areas, but there’s always something special about a downtown. And it’s at the very root of our humble beginnings.”
Remembering those humble beginnings and giving back in any way she can, Mercier and her staff at Horsefeathers are greatly involved in a number of community events and participate in multiple outreach programs such as Manna Café and Empty Bowls, even collecting donations that go toward assisting families who are unable to afford sending their children to art classes or camps. “It’s our goal to serve not only our customers but also to embed ourselves in the community, and we take deep pride in participating in every aspect of service that we can.” And that’s a point of pride that makes every bit of sense—and every bit of difference.
The largest artifact on display at Customs House Museum & Cultural Center in downtown Clarksville isn’t a massive collection of bones that’s been excavated and reassembled or some piece of artwork that’s been donated by a giving-hearted patron. It’s the very building itself, an impressive and unique architectural gem that was built in 1898 and stands as a reminder of the city’s past even while it welcomes a future of change and progress. Originally intended as a federal post office and customs house to direct and distribute the large volume of foreign mail created by the city’s international tobacco business, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and was given a new purpose in 1983, when it was chartered as a museum. In the 33 years that Customs House has been open to the public, it has welcomed more than 30,000 annual visitors to showcase the colorful and unique history of Clarksville and Montgomery County, offering a wide range of fascinating objects on permanent display as well as providing more than 30 temporary exhibits that keep things on the move. And with interactive displays that offer a fun way of learning, Customs House makes education a more hands-on experience that visitors absolutely love. “We’re the second largest general interest museum in the state and a unique destination for art, history, science, and children’s interactives brought together under one roof,” says Marketing and Media Director Melina Ludwig. And that roof—or rather, the building in its entirety—is a very important one, not only for its place on the historic registry, but for the fact that it’s one of the most photographed in the entire state.
Inside and out, the whole museum is a must-see for community members as well as tourists to the area, for people both young and old. There’s fun to be had for everyone, from the Bubble Cave where “you can make bubbles of all shapes and sizes while learning about the science behind bubbles and caves,” to one of the largest model railroad layouts in the region. “Figures and automobiles move and helicopters fly at the touch of a button!” says Ludwig. And history buffs can brush up on their area facts by learning stories about Clarksville’s past at Becoming Clarksville: Honoring Legacies of Leadership, an exhibit located in the historic portion of the museum that recounts such details as the importance that the tobacco industry once played; the way that riverboats drove commerce; the background of Austin Peay Normal School and the career of Governor Austin Peay; the impact of the Civil War and the Cold War; and the ongoing influence of Fort Campbell. “Customs House has played a vital role here as cultural and educational resource, a wellspring of community pride, a stellar attraction for visitors, and an important economic driver,” says Ludwig. And for a building whose purpose was once directing mail, that’s an honorable task to carry on and a legacy to carry with pride.