The owners of B&C Market BBQ in the Nashville Farmers’ Market are making the most of a miserable situation.
Like everyone else there, they were forced to temporarily shut down after the city-operated market north of the state Capitol took in 18 inches of floodwater in May. So the owners set up a makeshift barbecue shop outside the still-damaged facility, where they sell sandwiches and baked beans, and most importantly, maintain some visibility.
“Our main goal is to keep kind of a presence there, and to give our employees a chance to work and get a paycheck,” said Paul Johnson, who co-owns the restaurant with Ed Smith. “It at least fills in the gaps until we get to open back up again.”
Most tenants haven’t been so fortunate.
Nashville’s historic flood left the Nashville Farmers’ Market a mess. The flea market and produce areas outside the facility recovered quickly, but it’s been a different story inside the enclosed building, called The Market House.
With the facility submerged under a foot and half of water, every wall inside the market had to be removed, including some storefronts. Floodwater swamped the basement, home to an elevator and 14 walk-in coolers filled with food. Those coolers were light enough to float, breaking sprinkler-heads and other equipment that stood in the way.
Of the 12 restaurants or establishments that postponed operations, only two have been able to keep any presence at the market at all: The Snowball Stand, because snow cones are made and sold from a movable cart, and B&C, because food is prepared at its sister store in the Melrose neighborhood and transported.
Two establishments, Swett’s Restaurant and Nashville Coffee & Co., won’t return. Meanwhile, all the businesses inside the market have accrued significant expenses to pay for damaged cooking equipment.
It’s been slow going on rehabilitating the Metro-owned portion of the facility — the walls, storefronts and restrooms, for example. The initial cleanup, damage assessments and swab testing to ensure against contaminants are done. But tenants are still waiting on Metro General Services to finalize a deal with a contractor that will do the actual rebuilding, a procedure that has dragged because of the procurement process required for Metro to seek reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“What we are working now is the scope of work to get the farmers’ market up to pre-flood condition,” which involves repairing things like walls, floors and electrical equipment, said Velvet Hunter, assistant director of general services. “I’m sure to a business owner, it feels like an incredibly long time, but the main goal is to get it right.”
The Nashville Farmers’ Market itself, which has a $1.2 million annual budget, is losing about $30,000 per month, largely because tenants aren’t renting space while they’re closed.
“These are all independent businesses with small, local ownership,” said Jeff Themm, director of the market. “They’ve had no income since that time. And this is our busy time.”
On that end, Themm said he expects to have a better idea later this week when restaurants could finally reopen; the time frame depends on when Metro officials secure rebuilding agreements. Themm believes a reopening date could be in the ballpark of 60 to 90 days.