The Food Biz: Southern Man

Andy Marshall expands Puckett’s brand with trolley, new downtown Franklin restaurant

Andy Marshall, owner of the popular Southern-inspired cafe and live music spot Puckett’s, has a lot going on these days. He’s working to add a new Puckett’s on the square in Columbia, and he just unveiled a mobile-kitchen version of Puckett’s in the form of a trolley bus.

But most intriguing of all, he has purchased the former Gray’s Drugstore building in downtown Franklin, which he will reopen this fall as a new restaurant concept.

Marshall is taking on these projects in addition to running the existing Puckett’s cafes in downtown Nashville and Franklin. (He sold the original Puckett’s, in Leiper’s Fork, to a different group.) He is one busy guy.

The Gray’s Drugstore building at 332 Main St. is known for its iconic neon sign, but the space has been vacant for a while, and Marshall said that bothered him. “As vibrant as downtown Franklin is, it’s been a shame to see it empty,” he said. Marshall is active in Franklin affairs — he’s president of the Downtown Franklin Association and is on the executive board of the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County.

“We’ve been developing the concept for about a year,” Marshall said of the new restaurant, adding that the team plans to keep part of the building’s historic name, calling the new place Gray’s on Main. His operating partners in the project are Joni and Michael Cole.

The menu at Gray’s on Main will take inspiration from Southern foodways, Marshall said, including the cuisine of the Carolinas and the Low Country, with lots of seafood. There will be an emphasis on shared plates, with “appetizers for people to sit down and enjoy together, as family or friends.”

Marshall said it will take a fair amount of construction to convert the old pharmacy to a modern restaurant, but he hopes to open in September.

Also coming this fall is the new Puckett’s in Columbia, going into the old Porter-Walker building across from the town’s historic courthouse. And it might not be the last Puckett’s outpost, Marshall said.

He’s looking at adding future locations in Murfreesboro, Chattanooga and Memphis.

But the most unique Puckett’s spinoff is the new trolley. “It’s like its own location, a mini-business on wheels,” Marshall said. Unlike many of the food trucks roaming Nashville’s streets, it contains a full mobile kitchen, including a flat-top grill, a fryer, a refrigerator, a freezer and a three-compartment sink. “We designed it so we could work out of it for two days,” he said.

Marshall said the team found a used trolley bus and had it completely refitted as a kitchen, a process that took six months. The idea was to make the trolley flexible enough to serve up fun food at festivals as well as more ambitious menu items for weddings and private events.

He said he put the trolley through its paces for the first time March 17 at the Main Street Brew Fest in Franklin. “It ran beautifully,” he said. “The flow inside the trolley was very efficient. People were able to get a fresh-cooked meal in under five minutes.”

The trolley won’t travel the streets for regular lunch or dinner service like other food trucks, concentrating instead on festivals and private events. Puckett’s held a contest on Facebook to name the rolling kitchen — the winning moniker was Trolley Parton.

Mike Turney has been selling barbecue from a trailer on Old Hickory Boulevard in Hermitage since 2009, and as my Nashville Scene colleague Chris Chamberlain reported this week on the Bites blog, Turney has quietly staked out a little bricks-and-mortar spot serving ’cue and side dishes.

It’s called Papa Turney’s Old Fashioned Hickory Smoked BBQ, and if the Turney name rings a bell, it’s likely because of  Mama Turney’s Pies, a side business that grew out of the pies Turney offered at a former location in Whites Creek. The pie brand is now found all over town.

As for Papa Turney, he serves up pulled pork, ribs and brisket, enhanced by the sauces he makes in house. Daily specials are intriguing, anything from a smoked ribeye stuffed with bacon to smoked turkey legs and catfish.

Papa Turney’s is at 5835 Old Hickory Blvd. in Hermitage; the smokers can be spotted in the parking lot. The phone number is 485-7502.