Slim & Husky’s Pizza Beeria oozes of Black culture. And it will soon bring that feel — along with Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack — as the first Black businesses on Nashville’s famous Lower Broadway.
At the pizzeria, R&B and hip-hop oldies are the soundtrack that feed customers’ souls. And they select pizzas named after popular songs like “P.R.E.A.M.” and “Nothing But A ‘V’ Thang.”
Back in 2017, their sleek black-and-white design started to lure customers to Buchanan Street. They’re part of a new chapter of Black businesses that anchor the corridor.
“We use community revitalization as one of our business models,” Slim & Husky’s co-owner Clint Gray says. “We like to go into neighborhoods that need quality products. They need job opportunities, places they serve as somewhat food deserts, you know, because we’re on a mission.”
They’re doubling their investment on their street, against the old advice of naysayers, as they prepare to open an art gallery and Pizza Park (which is paused due to COVID-19). During the pandemic, while other small businesses have suffered, the pizzeria has expanded into frozen foods and new locations.
The new Fifth + Broadway development sits on a prominent corner and will house shops, an officer tower, the new National Museum of African American Music and many local restaurants.
Evolution of Lower Broadway
Nashville historian David Ewing says during the 20th century, Black businesses joined together in two districts: either downtown on Fourth Avenue, between Dr. M.L.K. Jr. Boulevard and Union, or in North Nashville on Jefferson Street.
“If you had a Black business, you wouldn’t have gone to Lower Broadway during that time,” he explains. “And when they did urban renewal in the ’50s and cleared out a lot of the Black neighborhoods around the state capitol and that Black business district. Everyone just kind of moved over to the Jefferson Street area.”
He adds that in 1984, Lower Broadway was home to peep shows and pawn shops. So when city leaders opened the Nashville Convention Center they placed the entrance on Commerce Street, which signaled how little they thought of Broadway.
“We didn’t want to have people coming to the conventions to wander out on Broadway because that’s what we were not promoting,” Ewing says. “Now fast forward … Lower Broadway is the selling point.”
Fifth + Broadway expands runway
Butch Spyridon leads the way on promoting Nashville’s brand to tourists and looks forward to the new development.
“That lets people take a peek under the hood of Nashville,” says Spyridon, CEO of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation. “So if it opens people’s eyes to what we have to offer, they’ll want to come back and they want to go to the original location.”
When tourists come into town, Gray wants them to associate pizza with Slim & Husky’s — just like hot chicken is synonymous with Prince’s.
“It’s very important for them to know that it’s not just, you know, cowboy boots and country music downtown. But that downtown should be a representation of, you know, what, Nashville is made of 100%,” Clint says. “And we were part of that fabric.”