FACES of Nashville: Martha Nemer


Martha and Bob Nemer opened The Cotton Mill in Nashville 25 years ago. After such a fabulous run as one of Nashville’s go-to women’s boutiques, they closed up shop on December 19, 2012. We have loved getting to know them both, and we particularly enjoyed our girlfriend talks with Martha over the years. We thought it fitting to raise a glass to Martha on New Year’s Eve and toast this fabulous couple and business that we will miss! We are so happy to have Martha Nemer as our FACE of Nashville, this Dec. 31, 2012.

What brought you to Nashville?

The Cotton Mill brought us to Nashville. I am originally from Cookeville, Tennessee. Bob is from Paducah, Kentucky. Nashville was the perfect compromise and the best place to raise our family.

How did you and your husband Bob decide to open The Cotton Mill 25 years ago?

Bob was heavily involved in his family business in Western Kentucky, which, at one time, had fifteen stores, several different types of retail businesses. We decided we wanted something of our own and something that would allow us more quality time at home with our young children. In the summer of 1987, The Cotton Mill Clothiers, Incorporated was born.

What are you most proud of regarding The Cotton Mill?

I am most proud of 25 years of loyal customers whom we have clothed for so many special occasions and life cycle events…and then their daughters…and most recently their granddaughters. They became our friends! We were fortunate to share in their lives and grateful that they shared in ours.

So, now that you have closed shop, is the customer ALWAYS right?!

Honest customers are always RIGHT and you do your very best to make sure they are happy and treated with absolute respect! I feel it is very important, though, to establish fair company policies to protect your business from those who continually try to take advantage and work the system.

If you were to give advice to someone opening up any retail business in Nashville right now, what would you tell them?

Keep it passionate and keep it small!

How has Nashville changed in the past 25 years?

Nashville is so much more current and urban now. I love how it still has its small town feel but now has so much more to offer.

How did you spend Christmas Eve?

We always look forward to spending great casual, quality time in our home with our special Jewish family and friends. “Feliz Chanukah!” It’s all about the fajitas, margaritas and good times! We celebrate it on December 24 each year, no matter when Chanukah falls on the lunar calendar. It’s a special time to wind down from all the “hustle and bustle” that December always brings.

What will you be doing in your immediate future?

Relaxing, traveling, working on being a better community volunteer, artist and friend. Now it’s my time to give back!

What was is like starting a new business with young children at home?

We actually decided to leave the family business and go out on our own because we had young children at home. Bob was traveling a lot and we wanted to be able to spend more time at home with the children. In the early days, they often took naps in the dressing rooms…and later traveled with us on buying trips with their Gameboys and homework. It’s funny, they actually knew more fashion designers, personally, by the age of 10, than most know in a lifetime! It was good times!

What is one thing you would change about Nashville if you could?

Its narrow mindedness….but I think that is currently changing.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received over the years?

Always stay active, positive, grateful and kind…AND…don’t think too much…you’ll create a problem that wasn’t there in the first place!

What are your favorite clothing lines?

Definitely Lululemon before noon…DVF for great lasting style and easy basics…and always Alice + Olivia when I need to spice it up a little!

Where is your favorite place to vacation?

Anywhere that’s warm and relaxing. Touring has never been important to me, but I am hoping that attitude will soon change.

Do you and Bob have a favorite place to eat dinner in Nashville?

That’s a tough one. Nashville has so many great dining choices…Sperry’s is always our to-go, especially in the winter months. We love Mackie’s, Germantown Cafe, and Virago when we’re “stepping out.”

What books are you currently reading?

Currently on my bedside table is The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson and The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman. I have high hopes of rereading Great Expectations in January. Wish me luck!

Name three things you can’t live without (besides God, family and friends!)

That’s easy! Strong coffee, good wine and lipstick!

Thank you, Martha and Bob, for your 25 years of running one of Nashville’s BEST, The Cotton Mill!

Special thanks to Ashley Hylbert for her beautiful photography each week for our FACES of Nashville feature. To see more photos of Martha and our Midtown celebration, click here.

FACES of Nashville is proudly sponsored each Monday by Baptist Hospital: