NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Nashville’s longest continuously operating restaurant, Elliston Place Soda Shop, is closed for meticulous renovations after it was purchased by a real estate developer.
The iconic diner has been saved by real estate developer Tony Giarratana, who will protect it from going out of business and restore its brand, its timeless style and, of course, its home-cooked favorites – including “Miss Linda’s Coconut Pie,” according to a release.
Giarratana Restaurant Group LLC. acquired the assets of Elliston Place Soda Shop from owner Skip Bibb, who had purchased and saved the classic restaurant when it was previously threatened by closure in 2013.
“Nashville would simply not be Nashville without Elliston Place Soda Shop,” said Giarratana. “It is a time machine; a living museum. I have been a loyal customer for years. When I recently heard from Skip Bibb that he was going to have to shutter the restaurant because of escalating rent, I told him I would try to buy it and refurbish it to its original classic style and provide necessary upgrades to the menu, décor and atmosphere.”
To restore the “period-correct 1939 soda shop,” Giarratana has enlisted renowned restaurateur Randy Rayburn’s Music City Consulting to develop the concept plan and menu and Inman Design to re-fabricate the kitchen and restaurant – including the vivid red tile, stainless steel counters and vintage mini-juke boxes. Elliston Place is now closed for a period of several months and will reopen in 2020.
According to Giarratana, the team would like to re-open Elliston Place Soda Shop in its current location but that hinges on successful rent negotiations. If unable to strike a deal with the property owner, the restaurant will be rebuilt at one of five possible Elliston Place locations very close to the original.
“This is a tremendous day for the Nashville restaurant community,” said Rayburn. “Tony Giarratana’s love affair with Elliston Place Soda Shop and Nashville has fueled his desire to be a steward of the restaurant’s future for Nashville going forward. Our team is thrilled to be involved in restoring the quality and historic integrity of this important landmark which can now be enjoyed for generations to come.”
Employees of the Soda Shop, including Linda Melton who has been the General Manager for over 25 years, will help reopen the restaurant following the restoration and continue as part of the team that will continue to bring simple, American classic food to Nashville residents and visitors. Updates about the project will be posted on the Elliston Place Soda Shop Facebook page during the coming months.
“I could not be happier that the Elliston Place Soda Shop torch has been passed to Tony,” said Bibb. “The first time I ever walked into the restaurant, Tony was eating a hamburger at the lunch counter. He loves this place and values our team and will make sure that our landmark is sustained for the future.”
On the National Register of Historic Places, Elliston Place Soda Shop holds a special place in the local restaurant community. The street was named in honor of the Elliston family who originally owned most of the property along the present-day Elliston Place corridor. It has been a prime location for shops since the early 1900s. The site of the current restaurant was originally a drug store opened by the Chandler family, who added a soda fountain and cafeteria in 1939.
The Elliston Place Soda Shop’s nostalgic atmosphere makes it a popular filming site for music videos, television commercials and photo shoots. Celebrities and local and national politicians frequently stop in for a visit.
For over 30 years, Giarratana LLC has focused efforts on bringing new life to the Church Street corridor by developing urban residential, retail and commercial properties in the area. This includes projects 505, The Cumberland, Viridian, Bennie Dillon, Encore, Sobro, the recently announced 900 Church and nearby Belle Meade Town Center, Belle Meade Court, Dallas, Edge, 1818 and The Pearl apartment communities.
“The revitalization of Church Street and Elliston Place means both holding onto important treasures and adding new projects that enable people to live, work and play in this special area,” said Giarratana. “I’d particularly like to thank Skip Bibb for stepping up six years ago and rescuing Elliston Place Soda Shop. Our team is excited about the chance to do the same. I’d also like to thank friends Tom Morales, Bart Herbison and Randy Rayburn and his associate Bob Bedell for their encouragement and guidance.”
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