The Nashville Originals

By Joe Nolan

As the nation continues to strain under the economic slow-down, the local food move- ment is proving to be a prescient prescription for the ills of a struggling market: Spend your money in your local economy, and make it stronger. One group that is taking this movement to a new level is an affiliation of inde- pendent, locally owned restaurants called Nashville Originals.

While every business is competi- tive, the restaurant business is known for being downright bloodthirsty. Most restau- rants don't find success, and the ones that do don't plan on going gentle into that good night. That's why Nashville Originals is so refreshing. It's a group of competitors who believe that a certain amount of cooperation is ultimately the best thing for all of them.

Started by Tin Angel owner Rick Bolsom and a group of like-minded restaura- teurs, the Originals raise funds through dis- count gift certificate sales and events like Restaurant Week. This way they increase their marketing reach and compete more effectively with the corporate chains that can always outspend a mom-and-pop operation.

Simply speaking, Nashville Originals is based on the fact that there is strength in numbers. And when it comes to the local restaurant scene, Rick Bolsom perhaps says it best: “If you care about keeping a cohesive communi- ty, and for what is unique in your environ- ment, you have a choice. If that choice is important to you, make it!”

It may seem dramatic, but one can't help conjuring images of revolution when con- templating the cooperation between the roughly 40 restaurants that belong to the group. But the best news is that no one needs to rush a police line or stand in front of a tank. No, it seems that the good comrades in this rebellion are simply being asked to order din- ner. Now that's a revolution worth fighting for.

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Joe Nolan is a poet, musician, and freelance writer. He is a regular contributor to the Nashville Scene, Number: An Independent Journal of the Arts, Nashville Public Radio, WPLN, and Local Table.