To most of the outside world, Nashville is still regarded as the epicenter for all things country music. Tourists flock to the city to hear live music and brave the crowds on Broadway. To Bennett Piispanen, the mastermind behind the Born in the N.A.S.H. project, Nashville is so much more than music. It’s a hot spot for that important industry, yes, but it’s also a mecca for highly talented artisans with an unmatched passion for their crafts. Nashville is home to creators of jewelry, clothing, furniture, food and many other unique items. And while the gift shops and their plethora of memorabilia commemorate Nashville’s rich history, their goods are often made in China. Bennett did not see this as a fair representation of the city. His own passion and appreciation for craftsmanship is what fueled his desire to share the Nashville he has grown to love with the world. And that’s how Born in the N.A.S.H was conceived.
The website defines Born in the N.A.S.H as a “rolling retail shoppe in a 1974 Airstream trailer renovated by Nashville’s best craftsmen, offering quality handcrafted goods made in Nashville.” While this definition hits the nail on the head, it does not share the story behind the project. So how does someone get the full experience? You have to see it for yourself. Of course, it’s hard to miss the silver Airstream; I had my first spotting at the Nashville Flea Market. The sheer beauty of the shop took me aback. Light, hardwood floors, bright paint and custom shelving all come together to create an inviting space that beautifully highlights the wares. It piqued my curiosity to know more about the company, the brand and the man behind it.
A few days after my first Born in the N.A.S.H. experience, I linked up with Bennett at Barista Parlor X Golden Sound, to get the skinny. I learned that Bennett is a kind, friendly and energetic guy, who has gone shark diving in South Africa, loves antiques, enjoys a warm glass of tea and, ironically, was not born in Nash, at least not in the traditional sense. He was, however, raised to appreciate creative culture, so when he saw our city’s community of craftsmen, he jumped at the opportunity to support it. With a Music Business degree and an MBA, both from Belmont, and a handful of jobs under his belt, Bennett’s desire to create a business around this idea of bringing local artisans’ work to the people was a natural fit.
The Trunk, Moto Moda and Sisters of Nature were up and running by the time Bennett started planning Born in the N.A.S.H., so the idea of a retail shop on wheels was not new to him. After he developed a clear vision of what he wanted—an all-encompassing representation of Nashville craft makers—things started falling into place. With help from a few friends, he found the Airstream and began to bring his idea to life. After five long, grueling months of reconstruction, the updated 40-year-old Airstream took to the road.
The most impressive part of the process was the team effort it required. Each of the craftsmen and artisans that pitched in brought their personal touch to the shop. Here is a sampling of the many hands that played a part in the project:
- Luke Duncun, of Eli Mason, helped encourage the dream.
- Clay Kotter, a woodworker, led Bennett to the Airstream.
- Charles Miller, of First Platoon, designed the logo.
- Nick Georgiou, of re:wind, helped reinvent the Airstream from start to finish.
- Daniel Heering and Matt Childress, of Wild Card Design, lent their architectural and design skills to the project
- Meredith Edmondson, a local glass blower, handcrafted the upholstery on the couch that lives at the back of the shop.
- Josh Hinson, owner of Hitson & Co Handcrafted Wood Floors, hooked them up with the hardwood.
- Jonathon Malphrus, of Steric Design, helped supply some of the amazing pieces of walnut featured in the shop.
- Jacob Greer, of 6th Man Movers, offered the use of a generator and storage containers.
Whether you recognize these names or not, this list illustrates the large community that rallied to support Born in the N.A.S.H. These artisans, many of whom Bennett met through Fort Houston, came together in support of something uniquely Nashville. With their help, a platform was created on which their friends and colleagues could showcase their talent. The surge of Nashville pride in the past few years has brought a rise in locally made inventory to stores across the city. The community of local artisans has helped catapult this movement forward, and people are rallying around it. Bennett says this “gives you faith in the city and makes you appreciate it on another level.”
As he looks back on the project, Bennett reflects, “We took the pie-in-the-sky idea that we had, and we created it … such a rewarding and humbling feeling. It would not have been possible without all the people involved. Everyone is an artisan, and I have a true appreciation for them.”
Follow Born in the N.A.S.H. on Twitter and Instagram for updates on where the Airstream is heading next, and then stop by and experience the Airstream for yourself. Bennett will help you get acquainted with works by Monkey Ink Design, Golden Apothecary, Handmade Studio, Walker Jewelry, Wildcard Design, Consider the Wldflwrs and numerous other vendors he carries. The list of goods is always changing, so visit often, and tell them StyleBlueprint sent you!
Photography by Sarah Hrudka