Coffee& Ep.4 (Transcript)
Q Taylor: Wake yo ass up and get some coffee.
Nate: To us, coffee isn't just a beverage. It's a community. It's an accumulation of the global network of fair trade farmers to the independently owned coffee shops working together to bring the freshest coffee to their local neighborhoods.
Q Taylor: You're listening to Coffee&, powered by Acme Radio Live.
Good morning. Good morning. It's a gloomy, rainy day in Nashville, Tennessee.
Nate: Love it.
Jimmie: Me, too.
Q Taylor: It's different down here. The vibe is ... it's not as bustling. The traffic was insane driving in. But we made it.
Nate: I don't do traffic. I just decided. I don't do it.
Q Taylor: Did you ride a bird down here?
Nate: No, I just don't do it. You just wake up, and you say, "I'm not doing traffic today." It just doesn't happen.
Q Taylor: So, you just compartmentalize
Nate: Yeah. It's all in your head.
Q Taylor: I like that. I'll do that next time. I'll do that when we're done with this. Welcome, Coffee& podcast, powered by Acme Radio Live. My name is Q Taylor. I got my homie Jimmie here.
Q Taylor: My brother Nate.
Q Taylor: Best barista in town.
Nate: That's not true.
Q Taylor: Debatable. And we got an amazing, amazing special guest in the building, a good friend of mine. Innovator, pioneer, one of the first to do it in the city. Mr. Bob Bernstein is here.
Bob Bernstein: How are you doing?
Q Taylor: Good to see you.
Bob Bernstein: Good to be here.
Q Taylor: Good to see you, my brother. This is our fourth podcast, man. I thought of another question.
Nate: I'm already stressed.
Q Taylor: So, my question is what's your all-time track four listing, on an album? Tough question.
Jimmie: Silence while the Spotify app opens.
Nate: You used the word all-time, and that makes it-
Q Taylor: Well, favorite track four on the album. Favorite track four.
Nate: Jimmie, why don't you go first.
Jimmie: I'll field this one. All right. A band called Superdrag.
Q Taylor: Oh lord. Never heard of them.
Jimmie: Album's called Head Trip in Every Key. Song is called Do the Vampire. Check it out.
Jimmie: Came out in '98. Just some nasty indie rock in the late '90s.
Nate: '98 is good for that.
Q Taylor: I got one. I got The Wood Brothers. On the Ways Not to Lose album is a song called Glad. It's track four on that album. That's dope. I should have requested that today. Maybe we can switch that up.
Nate: Next podcast.
Q Taylor: Do you have anything?
Nate: Okay. All right. Okay. I don't know if it's all-time, but I do really, really, really, really, really love All Your Favorite Bands by Dawes. Track four is All Your Favorite Bands. And that song makes me nostalgic for things that never happened to me.
Nate: Listening to it for the first time, I was like ... they were talking about things that do not relate to my actual life, but I was like, "I do miss those things." It just makes me so nostalgic.
Jimmie: When they say "I hope your brother's El Camino runs forever," you're like, "Dammit, I hope it does. It's a great car."
Nate: My brother has a Subaru, but I do hope that his El Camino runs forever.
Q Taylor: That's hilarious. Well, well, well. So anyway, so we'll get back to these favorite songs on track four. But I want to get people up to date on what's been going on with us. Honestly you can follow 8th & Roast on Instagram, @eighthandroast. You can go to our website, www.8thandroast.com, if you want to order coffee online. And actually, if you text 31996, you get 10% off on your first order, so, go to our website, get some wholesale coffee delivered to your home, for those who want to stop running out of coffee.
Nate: Is that your phone number, Q, that people are texting?
Jimmie: Text me.
Q Taylor: No. I'm not giving out my number. And obviously, we talked about this in our last podcast, we do brunch every day at our Charlotte Avenue location from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Come in and get some nice, healthy options to eat. And that's it. Bob.
Bob Bernstein: Yes sir.
Q Taylor: Let's talk to you, my friend. I want to say something. I want to dive into culture. People who are forefathers have given this city some identity and a certain genre. When I was thinking about Bob and doing my research, and me and Bob have been friends for about six years now, I was thinking about how people put things on the map, and it made me think of 8Ball & MJG and Three Six Mafia because they kind of gave Memphis some identity in the hip hop music world.
I don't know why, it just made me think of Bob, and it made me think about other things as well. People like Tandy Wilson and Josh Habiger, who is putting Nashville on the forefront on the culinary side. James Beard nominated. Things like that. And what Aaron Douglas is doing over at the Fisk art department, and how the envelope is just constantly being pushed forward with some of the best exhibits Nashville has to offer.
In the coffee and the hospitality community, our guest today is one of those people who fall under the same umbrella as being in the forefront of establishing the coffee culture of Nashville, and that's our guest today, Mr. Bob Bernstein.
Bob Bernstein: Wow. I-
Q Taylor: That's what I think, man.
Bob Bernstein: That's impressive.
Q Taylor: That's love.
Bob Bernstein: I appreciate that.
Q Taylor: Hey I appreciate you taking the time, coming over here and doing this podcast with us. So, over 25 years in the business, you started out in journalism. How did your path transition over to coffee?
Bob Bernstein: Oh, wow. Yeah, I moved here to be a business reporter, and thinking I was going to move on to a “bigger, better city”. You know, in quote marks there. At a bigger and better paper, and after about a year, I realized I had it backwards. That I really liked Nashville. There was opportunity here, but the journalism thing wasn't really what I wanted to do.
And so I stuck at the job for a couple more years while I figured out what I wanted to do, and I eventually realized I wanted to work for myself. And I'd done enough bartending, waiting tables, fast food and everything to know that I didn't want to be in the restaurant business, but it's what I knew. And I missed coffee houses. I had hung out in coffee houses. I got in this business because of the culture of coffee houses, not because of a love of coffee.
Q Taylor: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Bob Bernstein: And that's what I did. I missed hanging out in places, so I figured I could open a place, sit behind the bar and write the great American novel while I waited for customers.
Jimmie: There was nothing like that here at that time, right?
Bob Bernstein: Well, when I decided to do it, no. A couple of places had opened up, and they're long gone. They didn't last very long. And there was a guy ... I mean I was ... people give me credit for starting this thing, but there's ... Joe, who had Bean Central, he's been roasting coffee here for at least 10 years before I started, but he was just a roaster at the time and didn't have a café. So I'd like to go back to really give him credit too.
Jimmie: So were you using his coffee initially?
Bob Bernstein: We used a little bit, but to be honest, we were like a lot of coffee houses in town that just think they need to be different and special, and I kind of, to this day, I kind of regret that we didn't. And now that I'm a big local supporter of business, I really regret that we didn't use his coffee more. No, so we didn't.
Jimmie: So whose coffee did you use when you were first getting started.
Bob Bernstein: Oh, we used a bunch of people. There was a small roaster in Colorado we really liked. We liked somebody up in Seattle. We would buy five pounds here, 20 pounds there. We kind of rotated around a bit. Then, we opened in '93, and then we started roasting our own in '96. I'd say in '98, we were doing it well.
Jimmie: It takes a while to figure out how those things work.
Bob Bernstein: Well you know, it's like you buy a roasting machine and the guy says, "You put it in for 15 minutes, turn up the dial to 425 or whatever, and it's done." You're like, really? And then we had a guy roasting coffee, and who knows what else he was doing when he was roasting coffee. Then I had to do it for a while, and I didn't ... my ADD ... I just sort of go like, "Oh yeah. I was supposed to dump those beans."
Jimmie: I think they were done a while ago, Bob.
Nate: That sounds like instructions for a personal pan pizza in the oven. 425, leave it for 15 minutes.
Bob Bernstein: Leave it 15 minutes. That's right.
We definitely didn't ... it took us a couple of years to get the right people in place and to start taking it more seriously, and that's when we started building a wholesale business.
Q Taylor: What was the Belmont neighborhood like back then? Because it was like a ghost town, right?
Bob Bernstein: Kind of. International Market Restaurant had been there a long time, but that was about it. That whole Belmont University scene that's there now and has turned our place into a collegiate town, that was a parking lot.
Q Taylor: Wow.
Bob Bernstein: So our place was busy right away. But it was this family, 30 and older crowd that would come in. I still kid people like, we'd play Jenga every night at the tables, and it was really an older crowd. So it changed over time. We had the best parking in town, we had this huge parking lot at Belmont. And then after a while it became more of a high school hangout. High schoolers took over the place and they finally found a safe place they could be.
Q Taylor: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Bob Bernstein: And then when the college was built over there it changed again. All of a sudden there was a reason for college students to come to that part of town. So our business has evolved over time.
Q Taylor: Wow. You made me think about Jenga, and college. Side note, in college we used to say, "Hey, what are y'all doing after this? Wanna go back to our house and play Jenga?" What?
Nate: That's not real. That's not real.
Q Taylor: No I'm serious, that was our line to-
Bob Bernstein: That was code.
Q Taylor: To get girls to come hangout.
Jimmie: Oh yes. Naked Jenga.
Q Taylor: I got sidetracked on that.
Bob Bernstein: You didn't tell me it was going to be this kind of podcast. Thought it was family-friendly, kids could listen to this.
Q Taylor: Jenga was a staple in our house. Being the first coffee roaster, what was that like?
Bob Bernstein: We weren't the first roaster.
Q Taylor: Okay.
Bob Bernstein: We're the oldest café. I have to be very careful with my words. I had a friend open a café a year before we did, that was long gone. But anytime he sees me in the papers saying I'm the first café he gets mad. We're the oldest café now.
Nate: Oldest living.
Bob Bernstein: That's right. And Bean Central's still roasting coffee. So we're still the second oldest roasting in Nashville. So what was the real question? Before I clarified this?
Q Taylor: That was the question.
Bob Bernstein: Before I get the legal stuff out of the way.
Q Taylor: Is there anyone ... Jimmie, you talked about inspiration, or was that you, Nate, that talked about inspiration?
Nate: Yeah. I'm curious just how, from a branding perspective, obviously you didn't know that you were going to have so many locations when you started in ’93. Did you have a clear vision of what you wanted that café to be? As far as what you wanted the menu to look like and what you wanted people to feel when they walked in the door? Or is it kind of just, opportunities have come up and you've taken them because every one of your cafes is completely… there’s something that ties it together.
Bob Bernstein: Right.
Nate: But, it's not like you've copy and pasted a bunch of cafes. You’ve got the game spot over in East Nashville that's so cool and people can go play games for hours.
Bob Bernstein: Jenga.
Nate: Yeah, you can go play Jenga. Back to the old roots. You've got places all over that are very different and have their own identity. What's happened there?
Bob Bernstein: Well it's two different things. The first café I was all excited trying to raise money to open a café and I just said, "I'm going to open a café." One of my investors said, "What's it going to look like?" I'm like, "What do you mean what's it going to look like?" He's like, "I want to know. I trust you to make something comfortable, I get it. But what's it going to look like?" It kind of made me realize I really need to figure this out. And then I went back to my hometown, Chicago, and went and visited a whole bunch more places and I came back with the answer. I said, "The walls are going to be white. We're going to put local art and we're going to rotate it. And have local artists paint the tables, it's going to bring this feeling. And the wood floors are going to stay the same," etc. All of a sudden I had a clear vision. When I was pushed into the corner, I came up with it. At the time I was only thinking one store.
Bob Bernstein: I never thought about anything else. I had no money, turned 30. I quit my job right before I was 30 because I just didn't like it anymore. I wasn't thinking beyond that. But when time came to do a second store, the opportunity came up in Hillsboro Village. And I'm like, "Oh I'm not doing Bongo Java again, that's boring. Let's do a something different. What do we want to do?" That's when the idea instead was, "We're going to roast coffee." And the place was a pet shop for 50 years and had this really cool neon sign up there and I'm like, "Somehow I got to tie into that." I couldn't come up with a clever name so I finally just looked at that, stared at that dog and I'm like, "You need a name." And it was Fido. It was either Fido or Spot. Spot sounded too cute, it's like the coffee spot.
Nate: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Bob Bernstein: It didn't hit. So Fido was it. But that building was really Fido in Bongo Java Roasting Company.
Bob Bernstein: For a while, until the roasting proved impossible in Hillsboro Village, so we moved it out.
Nate: Yeah I can't image trying to receive green coffee shipments down there. Holy shit.
Bob Bernstein: Exactly. Well now, back in '96 it wasn't that bad. So we did it for three, four years, but it was bad. A truck pulls up, it's not only that, but I can get six bags at a time. I have no room for more bags.
Bob Bernstein: So I got to do this every three days.
Q Taylor: That's awesome, man.
Nate: I'm really glad you settled on Fido.
Bob Bernstein: Thank you.
Jimmie: It's a good spot.
Nate: It's a hip name.
Bob Bernstein: It was just naming a dog. That dog is cute.
Jimmie: Did you have food there right off the bat, as well?
Bob Bernstein: Well it started out really different. It started out as a sandwich shop, basically. We didn't really hire a chef, we just hired somebody who could make food, make sandwiches. I purposely designed that place not to be a restaurant. I did not want a restaurant. So I put the kitchen in the middle of the place, I shrunk my seating as much as I possibly could, and devoted as much space as I could to the roasting part. And then quickly I realized to make money I need to make this place a restaurant.
Jimmie: Got to sell that food.
Q Taylor: That happens, that happens.
Jimmie: Quite the coffee habit.
Bob Bernstein: So the place evolved.
Q Taylor: We're glad you're here. We're going to take a break right now. Thanks for being here, we're going to take a quick break. Coffee&, powered by Acme Radio Live.
Q Taylor: Coffee&, powered by Acme Radio Live. My name is Q Taylor, got my buddy Nate, got my homie Jimmie, got our lovely guest, Mr. Bob Bernstein, owner of Bongo Java and Fido. For those who's never been to Fido it's located on 1812 21st Avenue South. Open daily from 7am to 11pm?
Bob Bernstein: Correct.
Q Taylor: Awesome.
Jimmie: Love those hours.
Bob Bernstein: Seven, eleven?
Jimmie: I just think there aren't a lot of coffee venues that you can go sit in at night in Nashville, and for those of us who don't feel like hanging out at the bar… There's a distinction for sure, I respect that you have cafes in town that are open in the evening.
Bob Bernstein: Later hours. Thank you.
Q Taylor: All day, every day.
Jimmie: Yeah. So Mr. Godfather of Coffee.
Bob Bernstein: You warned me that was coming.
Nate: Slip it in.
Jimmie: I did.
Bob Bernstein: Got to put that in there.
Jimmie: I've been thinking about that. I have to call him this. It's definitely out of respect, I promise. Let me ask. You're from Chicago.
Bob Bernstein: Correct.
Jimmie: So I have to ask this question. Cubs or Sox?
Bob Bernstein: What was the first word?
Bob Bernstein: I don't know what that is.
Jimmie: Or Sox?
Bob Bernstein: I don't know what that first word is.
Bob Bernstein: I know the White Sox, but what's-
Jimmie: Chicago Cubs?
Bob Bernstein: Is that a baseball team?
Bob Bernstein: Really? There's two teams in Chicago?
Jimmie: You're blowing my mind right now.
Nate: He's a Sox fan.
Q Taylor: So you South Side?
Bob Bernstein: My dad grew up South Side. I grew up North Side. I think it shaped my personality growing up on the North Side as a Sox fan. Because when everybody's going left I'm going right, or well actually the opposite. Everybody's going right, I'm always going left, but no matter what I'm going left. When everybody's into something, I'm feeling like I need to do the opposite because I was surrounded by, I can't even say that word, sorry.
Jimmie: That's such a good joke. For a moment there I was like, "Holy shit, Bob doesn't know what baseball is." And then I just felt like an idiot for asking the question. We can still be friends. I'm a—
Nate: Jimmie's a huge Sox fan.
Jimmie: I'm a North Sider.
Bob Bernstein: Oh you grew up there? Where'd you grow up?
Jimmie: No, I didn't grow up in Chicago, my father was born in St. Charles.
Bob Bernstein: Okay.
Jimmie: So my grandfather took him to Cubs games all the time and then-
Bob Bernstein: You keep saying that.
Jimmie: A little bear, baby bears.
Bob Bernstein: You guys asked me to be in this podcast and you didn't tell me the abuse I'd be getting. This is too much.
Jimmie: Sorry about that. All right well we'll move on from that question. Are there any spots in Chicago when you go back there, café wise, that you're like, "Oh I have to hangout here."
Bob Bernstein: There used to be when my mom used to live in downtown. But then she moved out to the suburbs with my brothers. So now most of my time's spent in the suburbs and I really just can't find the place that I want to be at. It’s kind of a struggle. There's a place, I don't know if it's still there on the North Side, called Kopi, K-O-P-I.
Bob Bernstein: And that's where I stole the idea for the painted tables. At the time there were three women who owned it, and I knew one of them. And I went in there and was like, "Oh I'm taking this idea." So that was a comfortable place to be. I grew up in Skokie and right next door was Evanston, there was a place called Cafe Express, long gone. In high school that's where I would hangout and read and write. That's where I kind of started to realize what coffee houses were. I'd order my cappuccino because it sounded familiar and I'd let it sit there for an hour and a half while I read or wrote and pretended to like it. That's how I developed my coffee culture.
Jimmie: That's so rad. I really think it's cool that your main connection with coffee is the atmosphere-
Bob Bernstein: Yeah.
Jimmie: And what it means, relationally to other people. To me that's equal parts important as the quality of the product you're serving.
Bob Bernstein: Oh to me that's what we're all selling, is an atmosphere and a place to hangout. I think that's why we survived and most of the cafes that opened before us, they may have, I don't remember, they may or may not have had better coffee than us at the time. But they certainly had no atmosphere.
Bob Bernstein: One place had white table cloths.
Q Taylor: White table cloths and coffee don't mix.
Bob Bernstein: It was just bizarre. That place did serve awful coffee. There was a place downtown, Blue Sky Court, where Martin's Bar-B-Q is now. That place was cool but it was just so off the beaten path that it was hard to get to. I knew the atmosphere and eventually we figured out the coffee part. At the time we were lacking, there was no real competition in town. So we were able to work through what we were doing. Somebody told me we were the second place in Nashville to have a commercial espresso machine. Whether that's true or not, I don't really know.
Nate: But there was no Starbucks.
Bob Bernstein: No.
Nate: You were here before.
Bob Bernstein: I forgot to say, "What?"
Nate: Just like the other word. The baby bears and bar (inaudible) . I'm going to go ahead and edit myself in case I say any of those words. Because I don't want to (inaudible) .
Bob Bernstein: I think it’s funny because I love bears, teddy bears and stuff.
Nate: Yeah. Sweet lovable-
Bob Bernstein: No don't say that.
Nate: Blue bears.
Bob Bernstein: And the play on the name, Bernstein Bears, it's all there except for that one thing.
Nate: Right, right.
Jimmie: That's amazing.
Bob Bernstein: We put a mural up of five bears in Five Points, in East Nashville. I like bears.
Jimmie: Yeah, it's just the baby ones that you hate.
Bob Bernstein: But they should be playing football.
Q Taylor: That's awesome.
Nate: Now earlier we talked about how your customer base has shifted through opening day to now. Through older crowd, high schoolers, college students. Throughout the amount of time you've been running cafes, a big part of our job as baristas and running a coffee shop, to us, seems to be education and getting people to understand a cappuccino is a good drink.
Bob Bernstein: Right.
Nate: And drinking good coffee. What was your experience teaching people about coffee culture? Or was that not really a priority for you?
Bob Bernstein: No, go back 26 years when we opened, nobody knew what any of this stuff was. It was, every once in a while you'd get somebody in there, "Wow, you guys have an espresso machine." It was cool, but nobody knew what a latte or a cappuccino was. I mean, the staff barely knew. It's kind of embarrassing to go back and think about the kind of cappuccinos we used to make. Our café evolved as this industry evolved. Back in the day, coffee wasn't taken that seriously and people, the FSA, the Coffee Association, and others have really pushed the quality of the drinks and everything else. So we've evolved with that.
And you asked about Chicago. I forgot I used to go to Chicago and my mom lived in one of those big buildings. One of those big chains in Chicago had a space in the first floor and that's the first time I saw latte art. "Oh my god, we need to do this." I came back and I had to challenge my baristas and they figured it out and we did it. Now we all take this for granted and this is just something you do. But 15, 18 years ago nobody did that in town, barely anybody did in the country.
Nate: So cool that your baristas figured it out without YouTube.
Bob Bernstein: Well it's funny because in that same play, I kind of jumped over this story. The real story is, within a month, somebody from that coffee company called me and said, "I'm moving to Nashville, need a job." I'm like, "Well what do you do for that company?" They go, "Well I teach the baristas." I'm like, "I don't know who you are, but you're hired."
Nate: Get here now.
Bob Bernstein: I was like, "So this worked out well."
Q Taylor: Wow.
Jimmie: Have you ever had to kind of put your foot down as far as what drinks you will make or things you will or won't do? Or do you kind of just go with the customers?
Bob Bernstein: Customers are a big part of it but it’s also employee driven. I've got people on staff that know way more about coffee than I do. And they're into it- It's my job is to find the right people.
Q Taylor: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Bob Bernstein: I could talk the talk. I could not walk the walk. Don't put me behind an espresso machine and I'm very honest about that. I'll even be honest, I went to a coffee trip to Ethiopia, tasting coffee in the coffee lab, it's very formal and they asked me which coffee I liked and I said, "this one." And they just started laughing at me because I had the most defects of the bunch.
Nate: Bob that's an 81 point coffee, come on.
Bob Bernstein: I keep saying I got in this for the culture and that's what I know best. And I know what I don't know and that's why I hire people and give them as much freedom as I can. Our baristas came up with the idea of having contest to put new drinks on the menu. Our baristas came up with a whole bunch of other ideas.
Q Taylor: Are y'all listening to this?
Nate: It's good. It's good.
Q Taylor: Are y'all listening to this?
Jimmie: Are you listening to this?
Q Taylor: I do the same thing.
Bob Bernstein: That's what we want to do. We want to encourage other people to do it, run with it.
Q Taylor: Beautiful. Speechless.
Nate: That's pretty rad.
Q Taylor: We'll stop right there. We'll come back and we want to talk about Nashville today when we come back. Coffee& podcast, powered by Acme Radio Live.
We're back. Coffee& podcast, powered by Acme Radio Live. This has been a good one, man. It's been nice to have Mr. Bob Bernstein here. My name is Q, this is my brother Nate, my homie Jimmie. We've talked about some great things today, that last portion of the podcast was really inspiring, it affirmed that I'm doing the right thing. That was really good Mr. Bob. Where we at today with this, in the coffee community? Nate, you were thinking about this the last few days, right?
Nate: Yeah, I'm curious. I travel mildly frequently, and I go to a lot of other cities and seems like Nashville has a lot of coffee shops. Compared to even, cities that are bigger than us. If someone was to open a coffee shop in Nashville today, what would you tell them? And do you think people should open up coffee shops in Nashville today?
Bob Bernstein: Wow. Yes we do. Nashville has incredible coffee culture for years. It's not just the individual shops, but I learned, again from my baristas, that they're all friends. When they first started popping up you get the sense of competition, you get the sense of, "Oh my god. They're going to steal half my business," or whatever. But then my friend’s here, my friend’s there. They start these latte competitions and stuff. There's this friendliness to it. And for the most part of Nashville, shops have opened up. They each have their neighborhood, and that's been historically the case. But now that we're the 'It' city its changing. And this is where I could talk all day about my strong feeling that local business needs to be supported in this town. Coffee houses are very symbolic of it. People think of local coffee houses when they think of local business.
I'm worried about the future of Nashville, not just from local coffee houses scene, but from the local business segment. Rents are going sky-high. When I opened up my first shop landlords were like, "You want to give me money for this building? Great." Now it's who's going to co-sign the lease and are they credit worthy, and are they this, and are they that. Some national chain is going to come in and say, "I'll pay more." So it's getting more difficult, not talking just coffee here. Retail and restaurant wise for a small business to operate is tough. I feel fortunate for when I started I was able to make mistakes and be able to grow over time and there was the opportunity. Now if you're not pretty much on top of your game pretty quickly with social media, you're going to be given this huge bad reputation for not a good reason. So it’s tougher, a lot tougher than it was.
Did I answer the question? I started rambling.
Nate: Yeah. No, I love it.
Bob Bernstein: I go in my little thoughts and I start rambling.
Nate: We've talked about where Nashville coffee came from. The next 15 Bongo's, what are those going to look like?
Bob Bernstein: Oh there won't be 15 more Bongo's. But now the competition coming in, we can all see is, bigger chains, are starting to open up across the street from you or next to you. That idea of I'm on Belmont Blvd, you take 8th Ave… It was never spoken but everybody found their niche. And I quickly got over my fears of, "Oh they're opening across town. They're going to take half my business I guess." No-
Bob Bernstein: That's a totally different neighborhood. Most people don't drive half way across a city just to go to their favorite coffee house, they live, work, or just happen to be there, and that's where they go.
Q Taylor: I feel like there's no code now. It's just-
Bob Bernstein: No there's-
Q Taylor: Somebody open a coffee shop right next door to you now.
Bob Bernstein: Yeah and it's the same with every other business in town. I was always told when I got here 30 something years ago, Nashville's built on this co-writing feeling. People co-write here. That doesn't happen anywhere else.
Q Taylor: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Bob Bernstein: That mentality kind of spread out through business and everything else. "You're opening a business. What can I do to help?"
Q Taylor: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Bob Bernstein: "Give me flyers, I'll put them out." There was this really helpful attitude in the early days. Now it's like you see a chain open across the street from you and saying, "Whatever."
Q Taylor: Right.
Bob Bernstein: And you got landlords, you've been there for 20 years, and they're like, "Well the rent's going to triple," or "We don't really want you there anymore." It's happening all over the city. Places are closing.
Q Taylor: The game is changing.
Bob Bernstein: Yeah. It's tougher and tougher, Nashville.
Jimmie: So, we're talking about this proverbial bubble, that feels like it's going to burst and cause some destruction. Speaking of destruction, do you want to talk about what happened?
Bob Bernstein: The way I'm describing it, it's kind of symbolic. It's like they're building a new restaurant that's going to be owned by out of town people and they've got 15 locations. To me that's a kind of a really sizable chain. That's going to open a breakfast, lunch place right between us and Pancake Pantry. And that's what we specialize in as well. During the construction, part of the building that we're in collapsed. It's operated by a clothing boutique. That building collapsed, which has done damage to our building, structural stuff. So we've been closed for weeks. So to me it's symbolic that the construction of a new out-of-town chain restaurant caused us to close, not after they open and put us out of business, but during construction.
Jimmie: Just preventing you from operating.
Bob Bernstein: I'm not saying anybody meant to do it this way.
Jimmie: Yeah, yeah. Definitely wasn't a-
Bob Bernstein: It's a symbolic thing.
Jimmie: Not malicious intent there.
Bob Bernstein: So Fido is our busiest store and it's been closed for almost a week now. And it'll be closed for another week or so while we figure all this out. While we're recording this, I've got structural engineers over there, a fourth structural engineer to tell us what needs to be done-
Q Taylor: Did it mess up the kitchen as well?
Bob Bernstein: No, it's minor stuff. There's some ceiling panels that have fallen down, but there's one wall that's kind of leaning over a little bit. And that's the wall that they're all worried about. Is it going to fall or is it just no big deal? It's a mess in there, but it's not that bad. If they give us an okay to be in there we'd be open in two, three days.
Q Taylor: Right. I saw that you put a sign outside, that expressed how it made you feel. Have you gotten any backlash on that from the community?
Bob Bernstein: No, nothing but good, I mean, not nothing but. We've got huge community support. It's funny, we've been doing this 26 years and this is, to me, our third 15 minutes of fame. We got 15 minutes of fame because we found a cinnamon bun that looked like Mother Teresa, which you brought up during the break. Then we got 15... All of a sudden my mind just went blank. The second 15 minutes of fame, oh, when I got in a controversy in a neighborhood over the naming of our café. That gave me a second 15 minutes of fame. And this is sort of the third opportunity and its the first time I just said... After both of those I wish I said to myself, "I wish I had a time out to think about what I want to say." And this time I took the time. I said, "You know what, this isn't just about opening this restaurant. This is about giving me a platform that I can talk about whatever I want to talk about. And what I want to talk about is small local business." Going back to saying, "This is a symbol of what's happening all over Nashville."
I'm fortunate I've been doing this for 26 years and we've bought a lot of our real estate. And to be honest, we're more valuable as a real estate company than as a restaurant company. But my business store has a limited lease and will be out of business eventually, I assume, unless the landlord changes the write about extending our lease. So to me it's using a platform to say, "This is happening all over the city." Way over here I saw a sign that the antique mall closed after 30 years.
Q Taylor: There's a place that closed next to us on 8th Ave recently. The antique store that's three doors down.
Bob Bernstein: Right, right. Exactly.
Q Taylor: We share the same parking spaces with them. So, I'm very curious to see how that's going to affect-
Bob Bernstein: What's going to move in next.
Q Taylor: Yup, exactly.
Bob Bernstein: Right.
Q Taylor: Hopefully it's not, I'm not going to name drop some-
Bob Bernstein: No.
Q Taylor: Some corporate chain. Let me keep my mouth shut.
Nate: Don't do it.
Jimmie: Taco Bell's coming in. Taco Bell's coming in hot.
Nate: That's kind of the reason we started this podcast. It wasn't a 8th and Roast Coffee podcast. No one really wants to listen to that. We just loved the culture and community of Nashville coffee and we wanted to keep that going and have guests like you on and just talk about the very cool culture we have with how many coffee shops we have. And they're all different and they're all in different neighborhoods. And I just love the idea of baristas supporting baristas. I'm going to go to a different coffee shop after this, and then I'm going to go work at my coffee shop and then I'll probably go to another one afterwards. It's just, feeding into each other and having those throw downs and having that community, I think is really important. So we're excited for Fido to re-open.
Bob Bernstein: Thank you.
Nate: If you want to know when Fido is re-opening follow them on Instagram. Also we will post it on our Instagram when they're back open. We will let you know Fido's up and running, get over there, grab some breakfast, grab 12 lattes.
Q Taylor: Definitely show some love.
Jimmie: Minimum 12 lattes.
Q Taylor: Make up for the lost revenue of inconvenience.
Nate: Yeah. So we will keep you guys posted on that.
Bob Bernstein: You might wait a little bit for 12 lattes. But please order one.
Nate: That's all right, that’s all right.
Jimmie: Plan for a day, okay? We're going to go hangout at Fido.
Nate: Get some work done.
Bob Bernstein: Its going to (inaudible) . If everybody ordered 12 lattes.
Nate: But to drink all 12 of those lattes.
Bob Bernstein: Oh drink, yeah.
Nate: Because it's per person not a group thing.
Q Taylor: So hold on, I noticed, explain this NunBun Mother Teresa.
Bob Bernstein: You know it's so funny. I thought I was going to get through one interview without talking about the cinnamon bun and I'm the one who brings it up.
Q Taylor: What was that? I don't get it.
Bob Bernstein: You don't get it?
Q Taylor: I don't have any idea what that-
Bob Bernstein: Just google NunBun and it'll be crazy. But now what happened in-
Q Taylor: Is it the ass of a nun? Listen, I'm Sir Mix-a-Lot, you got buns, nun.
Bob Bernstein: Oh man, you are so far off.
Q Taylor: I'm sorry, my bad. My bad.
Bob Bernstein: So far off.
Right after Fido opened in '96 at Bongo at Belmont, one of my employees, about to eat a cinnamon bun for breakfast, looked at it and said, "Hey, this looks like Mother Teresa." And that was in October and they just froze it to keep it around as an inside joke and everybody would look at it. Then two of my employees decided to make a funny little movie about it and as a former reporter I begged people to write a story about it. Finally on Christmas Eve ’96 they did. On a Friday it hit the local paper. By Monday, this is sort of before the internet, by Monday it hit USA Today and every morning DJ had a call and every afternoon DJ had a call, and I did interview, after interview, after interview.
Q Taylor: Wow.
Bob Bernstein: I went on Burden Approve, not Burden Approve ... Yeah Burden Approve with Gloria what's-her-name. And had to debate Mother Teresa's attorney about copyright law, because we put a picture of the cinnamon bun on a T-shirt and called it ... First we called it the Mother Teresa's Miracle Bun which they didn't like. So then we started calling it Immaculate Confection, they didn't like that either.
Jimmie: That's the best one.
Nate: Yeah, screw those guys.
Bob Bernstein: So finally we settled, we all liked NunBun, they wouldn't sue us. But they didn't want us to put the image of the bun on the T-shirt and I had to go on these shows. And who am I? My dad wanted me to be a lawyer but I didn't. And I had to explain to him that if he's arguing that, that bun is her image, then it truly is a miracle. We just think it’s a bun.
Nate: Yeah, it’s up for interpretation at that point.
Jimmie: When people see the Virgin Mary on some wall of a tunnel, does her attorney show up and like...
Bob Bernstein: What's the weirdest thing to get a call Mother Teresa's attorney, I got a letter from Mother Teresa.
Q Taylor: Wow.
Jimmie: Did you frame it?
Bob Bernstein: Well it's in the store, a copy of it, don't steal it, its just a copy of it.
Nate: Okay. I won't take it then, I promise.
Bob Bernstein: You can take a picture. Actually you can take it I'll just make another copy. The funniest thing was though, after she died. I was at a Titan's football game and I got this phone call, I don't usually answer my phone. But it was this out of country number and I just, that's interesting, I’ll answered it. He wanted me to comment about her life, some reporter. I'm like, "Me?"
Q Taylor: Wow.
Nate: What did her letter say?
Bob Bernstein: She said something like she knew we didn't mean ill-will, but she doesn't use her image or anything to raise money. So she didn't want us to use her image to raise money for anything. And I think they were afraid we were going to mass produce NunBuns or something. People say we, yes, our café was very busy for a couple weeks. Anybody driving through Nashville and heard this on the radio, because it was huge, would stop and look at the bun and laugh or whatever. Your business peaks for a week, it's not going to change your lifestyle.
Nate: Right, right, right.
Bob Bernstein: And I think we sold overall, maybe 300 T-shirts.
Q Taylor: Wow.
Bob Bernstein: One of you guys said you think you had one.
Nate: Oh yeah, yeah.
Bob Bernstein: We still have them in the café. We're selling them for cheap to get rid of them because it's not that big of a deal anymore. But at the time, we were huge.
Nate: That's amazing.
Q Taylor: Yeah.
Jimmie: So cool. Immaculate Confection.
Nate: That's my favorite one.
Bob Bernstein: We had, I can't remember all the puns we had come up with. It's times like that's a business lesson, what do you do? I had a platform to talk to the whole world and I was scared to death. And I was a former reporter.
Q Taylor: I wish there was a website.
Bob Bernstein: Yeah, one of my customers did websites. He goes, "You need a website." I'm like, "What's a website?" And our web address was like, I don't know...
Q Taylor: NunBun.org
Bob Bernstein: It was like a foot long because it was his company, slash this, slash that. I don't know how people found it but we got a million hits within 30, 60 days, something like that.
Jimmie: That's crazy.
Bob Bernstein: It was back in '97.
Q Taylor: Wow.
Nate: A million hits in '97-
Bob Bernstein: That was a big deal.
Nate: That counts as 20 million hits now.
Bob Bernstein: We won Nashville's Best Website of the Year that year.
Nate: That's so sick. I remember that year, I was three.
Q Taylor: Unbelievable.
Bob Bernstein: Thanks. Well you're about as old as the NunBun.
Q Taylor: Well Bob, man, thank you for being here today, man. It means a lot to us.
Jimmie: Yeah, we certainly appreciate you.
Bob Bernstein: I enjoyed it. Thanks for having me.
Q Taylor: So make sure you guys go and support, Fido will be opening back up soon. Stop by our shops on 8th Avenue and we have a new location on Charlotte Avenue, 4104 Charlotte Avenue. This is Coffee& podcast, you guys have a good day, powered by Acme Radio Live.