Coffee bar tries to keep it authentic – The Tennessean

Lesa and Brad Wood are committed to the quality of their coffee and the quality of the space in which it’s served.

They started their coffee roasting business, Roast Inc., from scratch after stumbling into the hobby in 2008. They rapidly outgrew their makeshift operation in the garage and opened up shop in Crieve Hall. For the past three years, they’ve been roasting beans to sell at Nashville’s farmers markets and exclusive coffee-shop outlets.

This month, Roast expanded yet again to a new location on Eighth Avenue South, called 8th and Roast, where the owners are prepared to increase production capacity and share a bit of Tennessee history with the community. This time, Wood says, they’re not planning to outgrow the space so quickly.

“In the past, we never planned for success,” said Brad Wood, who also has a full-time job as an engineer. “For once, we did it right, and instead of thinking, ‘What if no one shows up?’ Lesa’s been asking, ‘What happens if everyone shows up?’ And we’re ready for that.”

They ordered a 1,300-pound custom coffee roaster, which Lesa says will triple capacity, catapulting Roast Inc.’s business production to nearly 60,000 pounds of coffee a year. Framed by a clear window at the back of the new shop, the brown and chrome roaster stands proud, ready to transform Central and South American coffee beans into a delicacy.

One of the few women in her field, Lesa says the new equipment is one of a kind and manufactured in America — just like many other details in the new space.

“The goal with the shop was to preserve the building and its pre-Prohibition roots,” she said. “So, everything is as local and period-appropriate as we could find, including the Tennessee walnut bar tops and the light fixtures, which we built ourselves.”

Reclaimed maple

In addition to the shop’s exposed brick walls and restored doors, which employee Tim Carey completed, the Woods point out two natural maple tables at the front of the shop, which once formed a bowling lane at Cumberland Lanes on U.S. 70. When the alley was closed in 2010, Brad Wood picked out the particular lane he wanted, and Carey used the material to create a unique focal point at 8th and Roast.

The Woods also explain that the pour-over bar is a part of Nashville history. A skinny table is covered in coffee grinders and scales and currently serves as a coffee-experiment station where customers can practice their own barista skills. But from 1931 to 1973, that table was the lunch counter at Nashville’s Union & 6th Bus Station, and the site of a 1960s sit-in.

“This is such a special piece of Nashville to have,” Brad Wood said. “It was one of those moments where we just got lucky, and we feel that it was meant to be.”

The table was found in a Clinton, Tenn., barn by a Knoxville collector. Brad says it required a half-gallon of orange oil to clean and restore it — but Lesa says the work was worth it.

“Coffee must be imported, and we reconcile that in every other area of our business by upholding what is authentically Nashville,” she said. “Preserving the history of our physical space is a meaningful way for us perpetuate our local culture.”

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