South Nashville ethnic businesses say higher rents forcing them to close

Nashville 2019

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Woodbine is historically one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Nashville, but businesses there claim the city’s growth is causing many ethnic mom-and-pops to close up shop. 

It started with coffee and sandwiches, then came the customers, and then local art. Flatrock Coffee, Tea, and More isn’t just a coffee shop– it’s a community incubator and the only of its kind in Woodbine.

“We try to keep our prices down for the neighborhood,” said Owner Karen Estevez-Gill, “We work with a lot of nonprofits in the neighborhood because there are so many immigrants and refugees coming through here.”

But their building on Nolensville Pike was recently sold and with a new owner, came a new rent check. 

“We went from $2,000 a month to five,” Estevez-Gill told News 2.

A price they, as well as the barber shop and church in the same building, can’t afford. Now, they’re forced to leave. 

“We’ve lived in the neighborhood 28 years,” Estevez-Gill said, “One and half months short of five years, we’re closing.”

As Cuban-Spanish business owners, Estevez-Gill and her husband are part of an ethnic community that is struggling with Nashville’s growth.

“I’ve been looking for a place for almost a year to build a commercial kitchen,” said Loraine Segovia-Paz, who makes empanadas for Flatrock and other businesses to sell, “Everything we’ve been able to find, it’s not affordable, impossible to pay for it whether we rent it or buying it.”

Yuri Cunza with Nashville’s Hispanic Chamber of Commerce says it’s happening everywhere. 

“Members in our network have expressed concern that the landlords are presenting them with contracts that are very high when theirs are up,” Cunza said, “Many doubling, or more.”

The councilman for District 16, where Woodbine is located, Mike Freeman did not want to interview but told News 2 that higher rents can only help his district.

Councilman Colby Sledge for District 17 told News 2 it’s an issue council should be looking into.

“There are a lot of tools out there that we need to be exploring as a city to ensure that these immigrant-run businesses know what’s available and can protect themselves from big rent hikes,” Sledge said.

“In the process of growing and becoming better, we also need to protect the ones that were here, the ones that are here, and the ones that are contributing,” Cunza said.

Other businesses closing in Nashville that are also claiming rent hikes include antique malls, restaurants, and catering companies.

“This was historically the most ethnically diverse neighborhood In the city and that was one of the things that we loved about it. And it’s quickly becoming mostly white,” Estevez-Gill said, “People have moved here because they love the neighborhood, and they love the fact that it’s so diverse, but now it’s pushed those ethnic communities farther out of the city.”

Flatrock will close its doors for the final time on May 25th, but they say the community is helping them find a new location in Woodbine. 

News 2 is reporting on Nashville’s historic growth and the growing pains that come with it. Click here for more Nashville 2019 reports.

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