Local record store owner Tony Shrum has found that Clarksville’s small-city vibe is a great place to escape the big-city blues.
After spending close to a decade living in cities on the West Coast, Shrum decided to move back to Clarksville, Tennessee in 2017, because he missed the greenery. “I wanted to be somewhere with real trees and actual water,” he says. Growing up in a military family, he had gone to middle school in the area from 1997 to 1999, before his mom was redeployed to Germany, where he and his brother Matt had been born in the late 1980s. “I’ve lived all over the country,” he says. “But I really like Clarksville and there’s a lot going on here right now.”
Speaking from his newly opened record shop AndVinyl in Downtown Clarksville, which he launched with his brother Matt, he is a part of a new wave of business owners bringing fresh energy to the area. Among other millennials flocking to Clarksville, where home ownership has increased among individuals under the age of 35, Shrum feels the city offers a great lifestyle because it’s affordable, has a small-town feel, and lots of natural beauty. “It’s really easy to be outdoors here,” he says. “People just kayak and canoe right in town at the offshoots of the Cumberland River.”
Located at the corner of Franklin and N. 2nd streets a short walk from the Downtown Commons, Shrum’s shop is not far from the onetime music store, which according to local lore once leased a guitar to a then-unknown Jimi Hendrix for $10 a month during his time at Fort Campbell in the 1960s. Over the last few years, the historic neighborhood has been at the center of a renaissance. “We’re all building one community,” he says. “But there are different subcommunities within it, which is really cool – one night, we’ll have a showcase for local bands or the bookstore will do readings.”
Coming largely from a generation which has embraced co-working and collaboration, the neighborhood has a real sense of community. The Shrum brothers got their start with a booth at Miss Lucille’s Marketplace, a destination shopping experience just off the interstate which houses more than 200 carefully selected vendors, a café and an event space. A fellow vendor at the market, who had opened a shop in downtown, encouraged them to do the same. “Our plan was to open a brick-and-mortar shop later down the line in 2019, but then this space opened up and we decided to take a gamble,” he says.
Photo by Mari-Alice Jasper.
So far, the gamble has paid off. Since opening in November 2018, they have tripled their stock of new and used records and also sell turntables and vintage-inspired band T-shirts. Set up to feel like a place to hang out rather than purely a retail venue, the shop has a couch with games and hosts musical showcases after hours. Split between new and used records which are shelved in raw-wood cabinets and alphabetized with handwritten signs, it’s ideal for crate-digging. “I want the space to feel comfortable and familiar and not too corporate,” says Shrum. “We’ve got a wide range of genres, but everything is mixed in together.”
Much like the shop, the burgeoning neighborhood has an eclectic mix of stores and restaurants. A few doors down on Franklin Street, the Copper Petal is a stylish boutique selling women’s clothes that opened in July 2018 and is owned by a newlywed couple in their mid-20s from Clarksville. Around the corner on N. 2nd Street, Hey Noli is a gift shop specializing in one-of-a-kind items for kids and grownups, such as handcrafted vegan soaps and wooden baby unicorn teethers. On Franklin Street, the only business older than a few years might just be the Blackhorse Pub & Brewery which opened more than 25 years ago and has been a local establishment ever since.
Photo by Bori Photography.
“We get a lot of foot traffic from people going to the Blackhorse,” says Shrum. The shop also gets more customers on nights when the Downtown Commons hosts special events like the free concert series Downtown @ Sundown, which kicks off its second season on May 3 and runs through October 18. Designed as a gathering space for the local community, Downtown Commons grew out of a study by a group of University of Tennessee College of Architecture students which identified a lack of public areas. Now the modern square has become a thriving part of the neighborhood’s resurgence.
“It’s a pretty exciting time to be in Clarksville because any day of the week you can do something down here,” says Shrum.
By Cemile Kavountzis for Visit Clarksville