Is Chocolate Expressions the cafe north siders have been longing for?
Ever since I moved to Germantown (and no doubt well before that), I’ve been hearing folks talk about how much they want a coffee shop in the neighborhood. We had a tease a while back when one of the retail spaces on the street level of the Summer Street Lofts had a sign saying that a coffee shop was “coming soon” (and then, mysteriously, later said “pending“… and then disappeared entirely). And the new Starbucks at 8th and Dominican in Metrocenter is almost close enough to count, but even if it were right next door, most of the locals would prefer a locally-owned place.
So it was a pleasant surprise a few weeks ago when I noticed the “cafe” sign on a historic house at Jefferson and 7th. The rest of the signage identified the business as “Chocolate Expressions,” an African-American art gallery and bookshop… with free WiFi. Nice. My hometown in the south suburbs of Chicago had a book room and tea shop (though without the WiFi), and it looked like this might have a similar multi-purpose feel, so I was curious to check out the vibe inside. I went by once or twice hoping to catch them open, but the hours weren’t what I expected: the shop doesn’t open until 10 AM. (Which strikes me as a bit of a problem, but I’ll get to that later.)
I did stop by yesterday on the way back from the craft fair at the Farmers Market. The space is divided into two rooms, front and back, with the front room being used for selling books and art (of which the owner, Mark Miller, tells me some is locally created so that’s definitely a good thing), and the back room is where the coffee and food is served. I had a cup of coffee, which is served from vacuum pump pots. I didn’t notice espresso machines so I’m not sure specialty coffee drinks are served, but the coffee was pretty good. (The cups, however, are styrofoam. Hopefully that’s just a temporary accommodation that will be replaced with something both more eco-friendly and more palatable as resources allow. If you can, bring your own cup in the meantime.)
The posted hours show an 8 PM closing time on most days, so this isn’t exactly a night owl place, either. But from the looks of it, the focus will be on the early evenings for regular events. Here’s a sampling:
Thurs, 9/20 – Networking Night 5-8 PM
Fri, 9/21 – Wine Tasting 5-8 PM
Sat, 9/22 – Germantown BBQ 5-8 PM
Sun, 9/23 – Book Reading 2-5 PM
and so on.
Back to the late opening hours. If this business has any hope of satisfying the neighborhood cafe demand — and to be fair, I don’t know that they do have that hope — it’s almost a foregone conclusion that there will need to be earlier hours. As one of my neighbors quipped, “See, the thing about coffee is…” You don’t need the rest completed for you — it’s a morning beverage for most folks.
On the whole, this looks like a solid addition to the neighborhood business profile — not to mention a great resource for African-American books, art, gifts, and community. I strongly encourage folks in north Nashville especially to check it out, buy some coffee, meet Mark Miller and Frederica Hall, and let them know you plan to be back.
624 Jefferson St. Suite A
Nashville, TN 37208