‘I do feel the normalcy coming back,’ 2nd Ave. businesses hopeful for future

Local News

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Businesses in downtown Nashville are beginning to see some signs of normalcy, after more than a year of hardships.

Beginning Friday, bars and restaurants in that area can return to normal operating hours as the mayor eases COVID restrictions.

It’s encouraging news for businesses on 2nd Avenue still trying to recover following the bombing.

“I do feel the normalcy coming back,” Rachel Gray manager of French’s Shoes and Boots told News 2.

Much of the heart of downtown is still broken. Nearly four months later, a portion of 2nd Avenue is littered with cranes trying to mend businesses destroyed from the Christmas bombing.

“It’s been a real struggle,” stated Gray. 

Outside the fence of the closed down street, there is some new life on 2nd Avenue. Music plays inside the new Taco Bell Cantina, a Taco Bell with booze and a stage.

“They have been jamming over there since they’ve opened up. It’s turned into like a sidewalk concert over here,” Gray smiled.

As more businesses open on 2nd Avenue, more customers are finding their way into French’s boot store.

“As far as the people coming back in town, I’m starting to feel the rush again.”

For a decade, Shelley Johnston has been setting up shop selling Native American jewelry inside the boot store. 

She said the pandemic shut out the majority of her customers.

“My biggest customers were from Australia, England, Sweden you name it. That was our biggest customer,” Johnston explained.

While some windows are still boarded up at the popular boot store and many of their neighbors remain closed, Gray says business is finally picking up. 

“George Jones, they shut down in the pandemic and haven’t even tried to reopen. I don’t know if they are even going to come back, which is sad. Wildhorse, they are gradually opening. They are doing the weekend thing right now, but it’s definitely brought people back to 2nd Avenue,” Gray explained. 

She says over the last year they’ve lost about 70 percent of their business, but they’ve hung on by their boot straps.

“Oh yeah, we can make it up; we just need the people back. I feel like this summer that Nashville is going to open back up and be booming bigger than ever now.”

Johnston agrees, saying, “The last three weekends since the Mayor lifted the restrictions on the time downtown people can stay out has been the best three weekends. It’s going to get better. It’s just going to take time. It’s going to take probably a year and a half until that opens up. Once that opens and CMA comes back, it will be booming down here.”

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