Marathon Village as a destination for trolly buses and tourists was nonexistent until 2011, the year American Pickers arrived. The creative thinking community that Marathon Village is today, with tenants including Antique Archeology, Bang Candy Company, Corsair Artisan Distillery, Barista Parlor and D. Luxe Home, was an ambitious project when Barry Walker acquired the historic factory in the mid-’80s. A young Barry recognized the potential of the building, which was first home to an auto factory, Marathon MotorWorks, where vehicle production took place until 1914. Overgrown and overrun by drug users, prostitutes and crime, Marathon began to see change, thanks to Barry.
Barry is a Jackson, Tennessee native, sharing a hometown with Southern Engine & Boilerworks, which later became Marathon Motors. He spent many years and dollars fashioning Marathon Village into the burgeoning area it is today. As the city has continued to transform itself, so have its many neighborhoods, Marathon Village amongst them. Retrofitting old factory buildings is not uncommon, and with Barry at the helm, Marathon Village embodies thoughtful growth in the city. The turnaround of the neighborhood began when Barry first purchased the property, and it has continued with each new tenant.
Sarah Souther, the owner of Bang Candy Company, a longtime tenant, reflects on more than six years of business in the building: “I’d never known about Marathon until a breakfast with Mike Wolfe [of American Pickers] … he told me he was opening a shop there and that I should come to check it out … I did and immediately fell in love with the building. I signed up immediately. The ethos of Barry Walker aligned with mine, and I felt Bang Candy had found a good home,” she explains. “It’s really quite amazing to see the change over the last few years. At the beginning, it was very different. We had to figure out different ways to make ends meet — we served soups and sandwiches for the first few years as well as sweets. Now we can concentrate on the sweets and coffees as that is what we are. I love the evolution.”
Bang Candy Company joined the neighborhood in January of 2012, following Marathon Music Works and Antique Archeology, which opened their doors in 2011. Marathon Music Works and Antique Archeology are Marathon’s two biggest tenants and attract locals and tourists for music and events and antiques, respectively.
Office space, retail spots and restaurants are occupied by a new generation of makers and creative thinkers. Nashville’s Independent Radio, Lighting 100, holds office space alongside other local companies, such as Tennessee Wood Flooring, ROAR, TackleBox Films and Ingram Design Collective (a few of many on the long list). But the real reason folks head to this historic factory-turned-cultural destination, is for shopping, eating and entertainment.
“When we moved in March 2013, we were one of the few actual retail businesses in the building,” D. Luxe Home owner Larry Wilkes tells us. “The tenant population is so much larger now, which is great for everyone (and sad at the same time because we don’t know everyone as intimately as we once did). Now it’s more like a little city. I think more locals know about Marathon now, but it’s still a bit of a hidden gem. There are so many more tourists now, but also more competition because there are so many more stores now.”
D. Luxe is joined by a long list of retailers, not limited to Lorraine’s Jewelry, Island Cowgirl, Market Street Mercantile, Screen Threads, Paige Barbee Jewelry, “O” Gallery, Jack Daniel’s General Store, Boswell’s Harley-Davidson, Vincent Peach Fine Jewelry and, of course, Antique Archeology. New to the list is The Faded Farmhouse, a store that first opened in Columbia, Tennessee, and launched their Marathon Village location in September, and Nashville Olive Oil Company, which opened in October and offers nearly 40 varieties of olive oils and balsamic vinegar, plus local gourmet foods. You will also find service providers, such as Pure Salon, Safehouse Tattoos and Orange Amplifier Showroom in the building. Larry cites the architecture, Barry Walker’s love of preservation, the Marathon community and its location and proximity to amazing neighborhoods (such as the Gulch, East Nashville, Downtown and Germantown) as reasons that Marathon Village makes a good home for local businesses.
The shopping options range from high-end jewelry to locally made gifts. But don’t be fooled into thinking these items are for the tourists; locals will also delight in the selection of goods, hand-chosen by each retailer.
Eating and Drinking
The neighborhood wouldn’t be complete without options for indulging in culinary treats and locally made wines and spirits.
As mentioned, Sarah opened Bang Candy Company in 2012, when the cluster of shops, restaurants and offices that called Marathon Village home was much smaller. In the same year, Garage Coffee, a rustic coffee shop that celebrated the architectural integrity of the building by showcasing its exposed brick and reclaimed wood, opened. Unfortunately, Garage Coffee served their last cup of coffee earlier this year but was quickly replaced by the ever-popular Barista Parlor. The Southern Engine Deli has been a go-to spot for lunch seekers since their opening in 2017. The deli, reminiscent of one you’d find in New York or Chicago, specializes in sandwiches. The small space serves sandwiches, salads, soups and drinks from an old-fashioned soda fountain.
Two distilleries and a winery make sure folks are well served. Corsair Artisan Distillery is a longtime venture by longtime friends who moved their operation from a garage to a distillery in Marathon Village in 2015. At Corsair, you’ll find spirits (including variations of gin and whiskey) as well as brews. Tennessee Legend Distillery specializes in moonshine and brings a taste of the local liquor to Nashville. The distillery, which is headquartered in Sevierville, recently expanded to Marathon with their moonshine tasting room, where you can taste moonshine (and whiskey, cream liqueur and vodka).
Grinder’s Switch Winery offers a taste of Tennessee wine in their Marathon Village tasting room, which also opened in 2015. For nearly four years, they have been introducing folks to the flavors of Tennessee grapes and welcoming locals and tourists to a tasting experience. The winery’s vineyard sits in rural Hickman County, where they grow varietals like chambourcin, Cabernet Sauvignon and a Portuguese grape called Touriga Nacional. The wines are dry and fruity, and they pair perfectly with The Bloomy Rind cheese. You can discover just how well they pair during the winery’s Wine and Cheese Pairing Experience (for $24).
“I thought we should consider a second tasting room in Nashville, and [we] came to town to look at some locations. We saw this space in Marathon Village and signed a lease that day. It was only three days between when we first had the idea to expand until we suddenly had two businesses. It has really brought in a lot more foot traffic than we ever saw in Centerville,” owner Jodie Chessor Morgan tells us.
In the space formerly home to Imogene + Willie’s production, Third Coast Comedy Club offers a space for laughter. Luke Watson and Scott Field are the funny guys behind the comedy club, which opened in Marathon Village in 2016 as a home for local comedians. The comedy club hosts shows that range from improv and stand-up to sketch and variety. The calendar is full of funny stuff you don’t want to miss.
Marathon Music Works is another center for entertainment at Marathon. The multi-purpose space lends itself to live music and special events. The renovated warehouse has the industrial charm of vintage buildings but is equipped with modern amenities and state-of-the-art sound, lighting and video capabilities. Furnished with exposed brick, reclaimed wooden beams and finished concrete floors, it is a space that can be easily transformed into a remarkable event venue.
Another source for entertainment is the Marathon Village Museum, which offers a first-hand look at the history of the building. Four of the eight existing Marathon cars are on display, alongside displays that tell the history of Marathon MotorWorks. The building embodies the history of manufacturing in the 1900s, and Barry has worked to preserve this history while transforming it into a cultural hub for the city.
To see how much Marathon Village has changed (and remained the same) in the past six years, take a look at this old article. And then go check out today’s Marathon Village!
Learn more about Nashville’s many neighborhoods here.