White walls of a welcoming room are lined with art, lighting up the light from all around. The recent renovation of the Edgehill Cafe is completed, and the staff is serving customers at the early hour of 7 a.m.
After five years at 1201 Villa Place, the father-and-son ownership team of Mike and Winn Elliot sought a renovation due to a change in vision. Amid the news of the redevelopment of Edgehill Village, the cafe seized the chance to advance its brand.
“We have a great history to build on, but Nashville’s food and coffee scene has changed pretty dramatically since we opened in 2010,” said Mike Elliot.
The old barn-wood style that once defined Edgehill was replaced with a contemporary theme, resulting in noticeable awe and shock among customers faces, beverage director and café manager Jack Egan said. The newly renovated coffee hub prompted questions that made Egan laugh.
“Is this still Edgehill? Is this a temporary move?” imitated Egan of regular customers.
Yes, this was still the same Edgehill, urged Egan, but there were multiple changes, most notably a change in appearance.
Between the structural changes and the minor details, Edgehill’s management relied on interior designer Chad James of the Chad James Group to transform the Elliot family’s new vision into a reality.
“The old space was very much the kitchen everyone wished they had: an open space, concrete floors and barn wood. This was much more the living room that everyone would maybe want: the banquette walls, the lower style dining room tables,” Egan said
Purple sofas line the wall, and a chandelier similar to the shape of a far-out planet hangs over the tables. White-on-white is a common theme throughout the space, but subtle pops of color grab the guests’ attention.
Coinciding with the refined new look for Edgehill and a posh-styled staff, head chef Michael Gilbert took advantage of the opportunity to upgrade the menu.
“We saw an opportunity to really up the food game. We knew with that we would have the ability to add an infrastructure for a better coffee program. But by upping the focus on food, you inherently change the system a little bit,” said Egan.
With a new commercial kitchen, the reality for an in-depth menu began to unfold. Gilbert developed a seasonally-changing menu including the basics and new recipes.
“Nashville has a lot to offer, and we’re excited about utilizing a wide range of locally and regionally sourced ingredients that come from within and around our great city,” said Gilbert.
After the arrival of an upgraded menu and physical renovation, there was one more element of the project to be completed – the staff’s wardrobe.
Denim aprons were added to the dress code to bring together the vision and appearance of the improved coffee shop.
While cohesive uniforms set in place by management embody a certain look, Egan also aims to hire staff members who exhibit approachable personalities.
“We can train you how to make coffee, how to serve people, how to flip eggs, but if you’re not willing and you’re not kind, those are the things you cannot teach,” Egan said.
After spending more time with his staff than his family, Egan admits working together is similar to living together.
When the lunch crowd leaves Edgehill, the fashionably-dressed, educated college students look to complete assignments and engage in conversation with the coffee shop community. These connections further enrich the community stressed by management.
“Over the years, as I’ve sat in the bar, I’ve found out whenever I needed anything, whether it’s a doctor for a friend or a lawyer for a buddy’s band, I’ve never had to look further than the customers I talk to everyday,” said Egan.
A physical transformation from barn-wood chic to sophisticated and sleek did not affect on the attendance of Belmont students, said Egan.
The caffeine spot has transformed into a hybrid, Egan said. Functioning as a spot for people to converse over coffee and enjoy a full menu of entrees, the café remains true to its core characteristics: its product, a welcoming staff and presence of the community.
“In the end, it’s not just about having fun, it’s about doing something worth doing,” said Egan. “Everybody here understands that. We are trying to give service where you actually see somebody for who they are and serve that need. The service gives them the sense of community.”
Article and photo by Meg MacDonald