It can easily be said that entertainment runs in Marcie Allen’s blood. A powerful voice in the music industry, her company MAC Presents (which she founded in 2004 to connect artists and brands) has played an integral role at such prestigious events as the Super Bowl, the Grammy Awards, and South by Southwest. The Rhodes College alum also owns Hillsboro Village’s Anzie Blue, where she flexes her entrepreneurial muscles while tackling the hospitality industry’s glaring issues with gender and racial disparity.
With the recent closing of Anzie Blue as a restaurant and its upcoming reopening as an event venue, Marcie has a full plate … and then some. We spoke to her about the Anzie Blue relaunch, finding balance in the midst of it all, and more! Please welcome this week’s FACE of Nashville, Marcie Allen.
Can you tell us a bit about your upbringing?
I have to credit my nontraditional upbringing for building the mindset required to succeed as a woman in customarily cutthroat industries. I was raised by two grandmothers and a squad of aunts — the strongest women I have ever known. They are the metaphorical and literal house that built me. I am also the third generation in my family to work in the music and entertainment business, following my grandfather, DJ “Hossman” Bill Allen (d.1997), and my aunt Bebe Allen Evans who managed The Charlie Daniels Band for 40+ years.
I moved more times than I can count — 16 schools before fifth grade — living in Georgia, California, Oregon, Washington D.C., and NYC. I was always using each new landing spot as a way to reinvent myself. To a degree, that is still what I do.
What was the trajectory that led to MAC Presents, and can you tell us about it?
My path was anything but linear. The summer before my senior year of college, I accepted an internship at Cellar Door Concerts in Washington, D.C. I did not know at the time that it would become the launching pad of a career. At that time, my music resume consisted of booking bands at Harpeth Hall High School and sorority parties at Rhodes College in Memphis, where I attended college. I never returned to college for my senior year because of a job opportunity offered at the end of the internship. Interns, take note. Your time spent in the shadows is not wasted.
I used that summer to become a student of the music industry. My jobs at William Morris Endeavor and CAA allowed me to experience the ebb and flow, the highs and lows, and how to navigate those. Once I had my steady sailor legs, I knew I was ready to think more like an entrepreneur. That is how MAC Presents was born. I explored nearly every nook and cranny of the growing industry until I uncovered a road that had not been traveled or traveled well. Sponsorships were the untapped niche. I doubled down.
What was the inspiration that led you to open Anzie Blue?
[My husband] Derek and I know firsthand how much CBD can help with the craziness of life from a health perspective. Sleep, anxiety, back, knee, or joint pain … CBD changed our lives for the better. We all know that stress management in the professional realm is also good for our personal life. It works the other way around, too. Win-win.
Anzie Blue’s original mission was to educate the world on the benefits of CBD and create a welcoming community where people can enjoy the company of others while sharing coffee, drinks, and gastropub favorites in an art-filled, cool ambiance (blue and white are good for the brain). Nothing makes us happier than seeing laughter among patrons raising a glass or coffee mug al fresco on a patio.
During the pandemic, we poured our creative and business energies into making Anzie Blue the place to hang out, meet up with good friends or family, and enjoy being in the moment. If 2020 taught us anything, it is that enjoying the little things is more important than ever.
Sadly, the hospitality industry has notoriously low numbers when it comes to female executive chefs. Your Executive Chef, Star Maye, is such a rockstar! How did you find her and begin collaborating with her?
Star joined Anzie Blue as a cook and stated she had always worked for male chefs and had never been given the opportunity to be an executive chef. I knew immediately that needed to change. We bonded deeply. We think the same way. We are determined. We are creative. And we do not mind being an underdog. [We] women have to work a little harder and speak a little louder to have our voices heard. I wanted to give Star the microphone she deserves so she could finally be heard and seen. She is so talented and charismatic, and she is on a trajectory that no one can stop.
What can we anticipate from the Anzie Blue relaunch and redesign?
I do not want to reveal much before we open the doors in February, but I promise it will be worth the wait! Jonathan Savage and his team at Savage Design are creating a flex space that will become a cultural hub of Nashville. Music + comedy + art + culinary events, AB is going to be unlike anything in Nashville when we reopen in February 2023.
You wear so many hats — talk about being busy! What do you do to set aside time for yourself, and how do you spend it?
I have not always done balance perfectly. It would be a lie to pretend that I have hit that target my entire career. The good news is that when your life is even slightly out of balance for an extended period of time, your mind (and probably your body) will tell you. Too many people burn themselves out too early, and there is no honor in going down that way. I usually spend vacation time at our house in the Florida Keys or our lakehouse at Center Hill Lake with a good documentary.
You were raised in Nashville and have a huge passion for small businesses. What are your go-tos for dining and shopping locally?
Corzine & Co. all for birthday and holiday gifts, and Magpies for all baby gifts. The Luxury Label for clothes and shoes: why pay retail prices?! Nora Melton for event and party planning. HiFi Cookies: need I say more about their cookies?! Osa for coffee. Crieve Hall Bagel Co. for the best bagels in the South. Blowout Co. is my guilty pleasure. My favorite lunch spot is SATCO (the O.G.) or Green Hills Grille. I could go on and on. Shop small. It matters.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received, and who gave it to you?
She did not directly give me the advice, but I certainly took it to heart when Spanx CEO, Sara Blakely, shared that her dad used to ask her this question: How did you fail today?
Sure, her father wanted to hear about her successes. But he was really giving Sara permission and encouragement to greet failure as a stepping stone. That is an entrepreneurial and growth mindset, and without it, we are doomed. So many people forget to examine the failures of those who are successful. Every single one of them leaves a trail of failure in their wake. The difference is that they keep showing up until they get it right. My dad passed away in the summer of 2019, and he was an entrepreneur as well. I always turned to him when I was struggling with a business decision or client.
Outside of faith, family, and friends, what three things can’t you live without?
Iced Tea. My dog, Blue. Law & Order, SVU.
Nashville women are doing inspiring work. Meet more of them over at our FACES archives!