Nashville’s ‘Unofficial Mayor’ Mourns the Loss of Mom and Pop Stores

by Shelby Scott

Nashville has remained a premier tourist spot for numerous Americans across time. Known as the home of country music, flocks of tourists have migrated to the iconic city. Meanwhile, more and more businesses and residents continue to move in. Overall, the influx has surely amassed great profit for Tennessee city. However, Nashville’s “unofficial mayor” believes the mega growth has been detrimental to the success of mom and pop stores locally.

As WKRN states, the rapid influx of businesses and residents alike has taken away from the iconic city’s “hometown” feel. It perhaps serves as another reason for the loss of traditional mom-and-pop stores. Further, Bob Bernstein, Hillsboro Village’s “unofficial mayor,” shared his own reasoning with the outlet as to how many of his former business companions have been forced out of business.

Bernstein owns the Hillsboro Village’s mainstay restaurant, Fido’s Café. The cage marks his first business, opened in 1996, and currently serves as his “headquarters.”

In speaking to local changes, Fido’s owner said, “I used to be able to feel like the Mayor of Hillsboro Village. I would walk up and down the street and wave to everybody.” Now things are much different. “Now,” he explained, “the owners of the businesses aren’t here.” Bernstein surmised, “most of these people…have never stepped foot in their stores.”

The less-than-familiar feel among the neighborhood has caused many local mom-and-pop shop owners to leave. The Fido Café owner said, “I see the whole fabric of the city changing, and I see friends of mine, who have been here for years leaving or thinking of leaving, and it’s sad.”

Mom and Pop Stores Suffer with Nashville’s Big Business Additions

Compared to the intimacy and familiarity of Nashville’s previously thriving mom-and-pop shops, big businesses have successfully pushed out locals. Simultaneously, the landscape has begun to change. In speaking with the news station, Bernstein detailed one of the latest “nails on the head” in the departure of local owners.

In 2019, construction crews nearby were working on a new store which ultimately led to a wall’s collapse. The destruction wound up causing damage to the entire strip. 

Of the incident, Bernstein said, “To me, that was a symbol of Nashville’s growth. They are building a space for an out-of-town business, and what they do is damage two local businesses and put us out of business for a long time.”

Fortunately, as one of the damaged businesses, Bernstein and his beloved café saw a lot of help from locals. Together, they rallied around the local owner in efforts to help the Nashville resident reopen.

Nevertheless, the preservation of the business doesn’t signal much as far as its longevity. The business owner revealed he’d previously signed for a long-term lease, which people initially thought he’d been crazy for. However, now it’s benefitted him as his own mom and pop store has been able to remain open while many others have been forced to close among a lack of affordability.

Unfortunately, however, that lease soon comes to an end. Ahead of the beloved cafe’s 25th anniversary, Bernstein is left contemplating the closure of his local business.

“I don’t want to sound like I’m down,” he shared. “[T]his is just the reality.”