The entrepreneurs behind a European-style food hall that revived a historic New Orleans building are planning to bring a similar model to Nashville, reports the Tennessean.
New Orleans’ St. Roch Market, which opened last year with 13 food and beverage vendors, is located in a mid-1800s neighborhood market building that was badly damaged during Hurricane Katrina. As Nina Feldman wrote for Next City last year, public markets were once crucial gathering spaces in New Orleans, as well as food purveyors, until supermarkets and the automobile eroded their prominence and the city sold most of the 34 markets it owned in the 1940s.
After Katrina, entrepreneurs Will Donaldson and Barre Tanguis won a bid from the city to redevelop St. Roch, one of the last municipally owned markets, into a high-end destination food hall. Today it’s home to vendors selling Creole-Korean fusion and herbed cocktails.
Now, Donaldson and Tanguis plan to expand their concept to four or five other cities, starting with Nashville. St. Roch Nashville would also revitalize a historic building, the former May Hosiery Mill Property — once home to the oldest sock mill in the South.
“Part of our unique aesthetic has been historical renovations. It adds a lot to what we do, so to find a [building] that has this type of personality, it made sense to us,” Donaldson told the Tennessean.
The 8,000-square-foot space, acquired by investors last year for $6.5 million, would house about 10 food vendors, most likely including a cocktail bar, oyster bar, produce stall and coffee shop.
The New Orleans market also serves as an incubator for food entrepreneurs and chefs, who lease spaces for their ventures to try out concepts before investing in their own brick-and-mortar establishments. “It’s a platform for chefs to experiment,” Tanguis said. He and Donaldson are currently meeting with local Nashville chefs and food purveyors to find tenants for the new market. They hope to open St. Roch Nashville in 10 months to a year.
“The market has the potential to help transform the fast-changing neighborhood just south of downtown that was once an empty industrial area,” reports the Tennessean. In New Orleans, the transformation St. Roch Market participated in didn’t come without resistance. Though Donaldson told Next City last year that the market also aims to provide affordable options, it was still dubbed “gentrification ground zero” by the Times-Picayune after 18 windows were broken and the building vandalized within months of its opening.
Jen Kinney is a freelance writer and documentary photographer. Her work has also appeared in Philadelphia Magazine, High Country News online, and the Anchorage Press. She is currently a student of radio production at the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies. See her work at jakinney.com.