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Fox’s Donut Den

4 May

Fox's Donut Den

Amidst a lackluster sea of chain restaurant signage, Fox’s Donut Den breaks up the monotony of commercialism with a nostalgic pop of neon. With its dancing doughnuts and Dutch boy mascot, the sign has become a Green Hills showpiece.


In 1973, Norman Fox, a then recent graduate of Lipscomb University, purchased a portion of the Memphis based “Harlow’s Honey Fluff Doughnuts” franchise. At the suggestion of his wife, he dubbed his business “Fox’s Doughnut Den” and began cranking out a steady supply of delicious sugary golden rings. In 1977, the business moved to its current location in Green Hills. It was at this time that Norman purchased the beloved sign from Harlow’s for $1,200, and had it moved from Memphis to its new home in Nashville. Over the years, the neon beauty has become one of Green Hills’ most recognizable landmarks.


In 2009, Brookside Properties began a remodel of the Hillsboro Plaza, requiring all of its tenants to update their signage. Hoping to create a more modern and uniform look, the quirky sign was removed by the property owners with no intentions of being returned. Fans of the beloved Donut Den were dismayed, and demanded the return of the neon landmark. A great loss was felt at the sign’s removal. Many believed the character of the area, which was in low supply to begin with, would be greatly affected if the iconic “dancing” letters were replaced with a static piece of painted fiberglass.


During its absence, hundreds of Donut Den customers expressed their wish to see the sign returned. Brookside was not deaf to the outpour of requests. After much deliberation, the property owners opted to restore, rather than replace, the glowing Green Hills attraction. After a few coats of fresh paint and some much needed TLC, the famous sign was returned to its proper location.  The Dutch boy had never looked better.


Today, it’s hard to imagine Green Hills without its most loved icon, and if you’re willing to brave the mall traffic, you can see the sign for yourself. The restored neon still hangs proudly above the Hillsboro Pike storefront. And if the sign alone doesn’t justify the venture, a few dozen treats from Fox’s bakery shelves are sure to make the jaunt seem worthwhile. No matter how frustrating that mall traffic can be.


Post written by: Natalie Hosselton


(To view an animated gif of the sign, click here.)

Harlow's Donuts

Before it was moved to Nashville, the famous sign belonged to Harlow’s in Memphis, Tennessee.






Blackwood, Suzanne Normand (2004, March 25) Donut Den: A delectable treat for many. The Tennessean.

“Donut Signs.” Web. 04 Apr. 2012. <;.

Williams, William. “Donut Den Dims the Lights after More than 30 Years.” Nashville City Paper. 13 Aug. 2009. Web. 04 May 2012. <;.

(sign photos found here.)


Big Idea Entertainment, LLC

4 May

Brandon Vazquez

Big Idea Entertainment started out as a small design company by the name of GRAFx Studios in 1989. Originally intended to create logos and animation for commercials, it wasn’t until founder Phil Vischer teamed up with his friend Mike Nawrocki in 1993 that their focuses shifted towards animation. Since then, Big Idea has undergone many dramatic shifts in the company, from lawsuits to feature films to bankruptcy. Ultimately, these changes brought Big Idea to the Nashville area, where it has flourished since 2004 and continues to provide jobs for animators, writers, and, of course, graphic designers.

Former TN Governor Phil Bredesen welcoming Bob the Tomato, Larry the Cucumber, and Terry Pefanis, former COO of Big Idea, to Tennessee.

Big Idea’s primary intellectual property is VeggieTales, a faith-based animated series for younger children that retells Biblical tales using dancing, talking vegetables. Though it may sound bizarre on paper, VeggieTales’ charming appeal in addition to its early use of computer animation made it a hit throughout the mid-90’s. Over seven million Veggietales videotapes were sold in 1998 alone. The rapid growth of the company caused Big Idea to relocate to the Chicago area, where they undertook their first feature film, Jonah and the Whale.

Even though Big Idea was experiencing moderate success, a feature film proved to be too large of an undertaking. Many financial and internal problems, coupled with a lawsuit with VeggieTale’s previous distribution company Lyrick Entertainment, marked the beginning of several bleak years for Big Idea. After several years in production, Jonah and the Whale finally hit theaters but did not make enough to bring in any revenue for Big Idea. Lyrick won the lawsuit, and Big Idea, not having enough money to recoup for their losses, went bankrupt..

Classic Media bought Big Idea in a bidding war for 19.3 million, and the company was then moved to the Nashville area, due to cheaper operating costs, a lower cost of living, and a favorable tax environment. Since then, Big Idea has been through several ownership changes, released another feature film, and continues to be successful with it VeggieTales series.

For the foreseeable future, Big Idea will continue to be a valuable asset to the Nashville community.

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Dairy King Drive in

4 May

Diary King

306 E Thompson Lane
Nashville, TN 37211
by Ross Denton!

Not to be confused with Dairy Queen, Dairy King is a local Nashville Meat and three rich in local history and full of quality food. Originally owned by Bubba Hudelston and operated by George Gambell for 50 years, Dairy king has a long and standing history in Nashville. It is estimated to have been around since the late 40’s. Dudly and Thelma Jones bought the business from Bill Harbirson in April 1970.  Originally Dairy King was like any other fast food restaurant during that time in that the food was not home cooked and they only really sold burgers. Dairy King was located next to the Wee Tee mini golf field and it was the ideal hangout for teens and their dates because they could have a good meal and play a game of golf all in one convenient location. Unfortunately the Wee Tee mini golf course closed down and  Dairy King began to lose business. So the Jones’s decided to change a few things and make their restaurant a little different by providing home cooked dishes with the fast food, originally just beans and cornbread, but that grew to more dishes and eventually they stopped selling fast food all together and became a tried and true meat and three style restaurant. This turned out to be a wonderful idea, because they have had excellent business ever since.

Like all things in life, Dairy King has had its downsides, In 1979, flood waters rose up out of Mill Creek and damaged the Dairy King building with six feet of water. but they were able to rebuild and they kept going. At that time it was still legal to build a restaurant in a floodplain. It wasn’t until the may 2010 flood that the building was all but destroyed, and modern building permits wouldn’t allow the restaurant to rebuild in a designated flood plain anymore.

So the Jones’ moved location down the street on Murfreesboro road and are still up and running. Their sign however remains in the original location like a testament to the history of a proud restaurant that once occupied that space for 70 years. Jeff Jones the manager of Dairy King spoke of moving the sign from its original location to their new location but he says, “the public has an attachment to the sign and the original location”. He still intends to move the sign.

The sign itself has seemingly unknown origins “I really don’t have positive proof of the original install date on the sign. I know it was there when we bought the place in 1970. However I am assuming it was there many years before that.”-Jeff Jones . Dairy King had been around for almost 30 years before the Jones family bought the restaurant and the original owners passed away long ago.

The restaurant now is still serving up quality home cooked meals. The employees are all happy, you can tell that they enjoy working there and they enjoy who they work with. Mr.Jones explained that this is because he doesn’t hire employees, he adopts family.

    Also, if you intend to go to Dairy King, I highly suggest a chocolate fried pie, they are quite possibly the best in the land.



The Greatest Escape

3 May

The sighn for what is now The Great Escape Super Store. Located at 5400 Charlotte Avenue
Nashville, TN 37209

My landmark project is on the number one Nashville comic book store, The Great Escape. It was started by Gary Walker and his family in 1977. He got the business idea from his son who loved to read Spider-Mancomics. They started off small with buying comics and selling them in flea markets. Within one month a second store opened in Louisville, Kentucky and became a power-player in Nashville’s collectible community. In 1979, the original shop was moved up two blocks to 1925 Broadway. Last year, after thirty years, the Broadway store closed down and combined with The Great Escape on Charlotte to form The Great Escape Super-Store. The stores combining had to do with the flood two years ago. The Great Escape has been my go-to comic book store for about four years now. There is always a wonderful selection to choose from and the staff is pretty helpful when you need it.

The Great Escape uses two different typefaces, the first is Arial Black. The second, and my favorite, has a bit of an Art Deco look to it. Sadly, it is from the store that use to be on Broadway. Hopefully they kept it for memorabilia or my heart will be torn in two.

 By: Austin Washington

Country Music Hall Of Fame

2 May

Country Music Hall Of Fame

222 5th Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203

by BooMarie

In 1961 the Country Music Association announced the creation of the Country Music Hall of Fame.  They chose an all-star line-up with their first three inductees – Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, and Fred Rose. In the Summer of 1997, fundraising started in order to move, build, and create Nashville’s new tourist destination.  While the Country Music Hall of Fame was in charge of identifying and preserving the evolution of the history and traditions in country music, it’s new “big stars” were technology and design.




In 1998, visions for this new destination started to take shape.  New innovations with technology began to form and the museum was more than willing to make the best of it.  So, what was so intriguing and different about this Nashville landmark?  Will Pinkston from the Tennessean explains, “A person would select a few oldies while walking through exhibits, then pick up a freshly “burned” CD on the way out.” But that is not all! Forty touch-screen panels were stationed throughout the museum, providing easy access to profiles of country personalities, significant dates and other important pieces of facts and data.  These innovations caught the eye of not only the Nashville community and thousands elsewhere, but these innovations were supported by great concept and research.

On April 8, 1998 the Tennessean, a local news source, reported with the headline,”Designer took country crash course.” So what did they mean and who was this designer? Ralph Appelbaum, previously known for his work at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library (2004), the Museum of the Portuguese Language (2006), The National World War I Museum (2006), the London Transport Museum (2007), and the Newseum (2008), rolled up his sleeves and metaphorically put on his cowboy hat to produce the most cutting edge creation Nashville had seen.


Photo by: The Washington Post


If you are familiar with Ralph Appelbaum, you are familiar with his rare ability to draw emotion from the passersby. “He knows, for instance, how to make people cry in public. He is perfectly capable of disarming viewers with displays of poignant beauty and promise, or overpowering them with graphic proof of tragedy and loss,” states Barbara Flanagan (2000). He is known for his consideration and acknowledgment of today’s museums and how they compete with other forms of leisure entertainment. As his reputation speaks for itself, it is understood that he doesn’t work in the field of museum exhibition design. He practically owns it. “By mixing the didactic material of museums with a good story line and a lot of flashy modern hardware, he all but invented ‘edutainment’.” – Bradford A. McKee.


“What’s a Museum: What he says it is. How Ralph Appelbaum built a monopoly in the field of exhibition design.” – Architecture Magazine, 2002


So, where did the inspiration and research for such an innovative museum come from? Of course, the environment surrounding. Researchers looked at a variety of interesting subjects including: country songs, general stores, classic cars, prisons, grain silos, and water towers. Appelbaum initially incorporated many of these elements directly into the design. Hence, the Hall of Fame’s Rotunda. It is shaped and inspired by none other than a grain silo. The signature “radio tower,” which projects from the museum’s top, resembles the WSM radio tower in tribute to the station which launched the one and only Grande Ole Opry.


Photo By: Ralph Appelbaum Associates


It is a simple but important equation. With the addition to the new location, novel design, and ingenious creativity the Country Music Hall of Fame became the new landmark to visit and quickly started to accumulate business, which later led to increased tourism for Nashville. Respectably, the understanding of how much it would produce in profit was secured early on. Many say Nashville needed this change and the community supported it. The Nashville Tourism Commission and the Metropolitan Convention Center Commission even believed in this expansion and approved early on by allocating $2 Million, paid in $500,000 increments to support the construction of Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (Wanda Southerland).


“This is the first tourist-designated facility being built in Nashville in 20 years” – Kyle Young, Director of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.


Photo By: Ralph Appelbaum Associates


Well, how does the Country Music Hall of Fame fare today? Today, the Country Music Holds its own with both tourism and design. New exhibits are being added and innovative design is still being proven. While Nashville has stuck to its tradition of being the home for grand tunes, modernism in design has been and probably always be the key to promoting education – or – edutainment from the Country Music Hall of Fame.



The Arcade

20 Apr

Between 4th and 5th Avenue North

By Tyler Zenk

The Arcade in downtown Nashville is a landmark and has a lot of history inside this sauna like building. This is an old building that has gone through a lot of phases both good and bad.  In 1902 a man by the name of Daniel Buntin returned to Nashville after traveling to Italy. He was amazed by the architecture he saw in Italy and decided that Nashville needed something new and fresh. He formed a small group of private investors and proposed the idea of building an Arcade. Now this is not the Arcade you are thinking of with Pac-Man and other video games. No, this was a structure built with a glass roof. His idea was to rent out spaces to local businesses and it was a grand idea that only cost his $105,000. The 350ft Arcade, located between 4th and 5th Ave N officially opened on May 20, 1903. On the first day it was open nearly 50,000 people visited the new Arcade. Many people consider this to be the first shopping mall, which is a pretty cool fact for Nashville. I don’t know if it actually is the first shopping mall in America but it definitely was one of the first. This was a hopping place for people who worked downtown and wanted a place to hang out and shop and what have you. All of the rented spaces were full with businesses ranging from a hair salon to a roasted peanut shop to a post office, most of them containing awesome little neon signs hanging outside there shops. The vibe of this building was generally on the good side and even in 1970 there was a good atmosphere and people seemed to be happier there. Some customers stated that it gave them a sense of nostalgia of earlier times.

The Arcade's roof

Photo by Derek Bruff

Now these good times can’t always be there, no that is impossible. In 1980 an article in a Nashville newspaper reported that the Arcade’s reputation was decaying like the building itself and wasn’t as nice as it was ten years earlier. Now that’s understandable, a lot of stuff can go down in ten years. But the Arcade was going through a tough time. The floors were dirty and the glass roof wasn’t looking so good the neon signs were taken down in fear of them falling on people’s heads. This place needed a facelift. In fact, in 1987 the dark dingy dirt covered Arcade gets renovated to make it more appealing to the public. It’s about time considering that at that time the building was nearly 85 years old.

It’s crazy but some of the stores that were in there decades ago are still there. Businesses like the roasted peanut shop that has been in business since 1927. This place is important to Nashville I think, because it has stuck around through thick and thin, which is sometimes really hard to do.

outside the Arcade

Photo by Joseph

The Arcade has been through a lot and it is still here although it isn’t as nice as it once was but that is understandable for a building over a century old. A review from stated that,

“I never am sure when I go here when something is going to fall apart, or someone will die of heatstroke, or a car will go through dead center and smack into someone, however I’ve got to say this is a place that must be experienced…The place is in a delicate balance at the moment between decrepit and hipster, between condemned and trend, where you can get pizza, hair ties, art and a cake or hit up by transients who wander through. There’s a charm to this place I’m not conveying, and a warning to stay out when it’s been over 100 degrees out, but I’d advise if you have not been to this little place, go and visit it.  If nothing else, it’s a place you can say you know where it is, and definitively state that it does not have one single Pac-Man machine on premise.”

Quite a few of the rented spaces are used for art galleries and the Art Crawl usually goes through which keeps this building going. It’s definitely not the nicest place but it does have a sense of nostalgia that is still nice to see and is worth going and checking out if you haven’t been.

Inside the Arcade

Photo by Brent Moore

Weiss Liquors

20 Apr

Weiss Liquors

Weiss Liquors Neon Sign

824 Main St in East Nashville

By John Whitman

East Nashville is no stranger to iconic vintage neon, and the long stretch of businesses along Gallatin Road feature some fantastic old signage. From the northern edge of Nashville with Madison Bowling’s giant bowling pin neon, down to Weiss Liquors sitting just across the Cumberland from downtown, vintage signs abound, some in great condition and others rusted into disrepair. Weiss and their massive neon sign featuring an overturned jug pouring neon liquor drops has been at their current location of 824 Main street since 1961. When I lived down in lower East Nashville, Weiss was my liquor store of choice because it was walking distance from my apartment and showcased some of the sweetest staff and craziest clientele of any liquor store ever. Or as Janet S. of Nashville wrote on Weiss’ Yelp Page,

“Ahh, a great place for character observation. If you need book material, hang out in the cluster—k that is Weiss Carpark. Never a dull moment, but watch your fender, its a jigsaw puzzle getting out.”

Weiss has surely created a history for itself at its current location, but what many may not realize is that Weiss and its sign date back to the 1930s and earlier. Nicholas Weiss started his liquor business in downtown Nashville on North First Street in the 1890s. In the 1930s the business moved to 218 Meridian Street near the railroad tracks. It was here that Weiss purchased the neon sign. In the late 1950s Weiss moved to 4th and Main Street, but was quickly forced to relocate due expansion of I-24. As Kenneth Weiss, current owner and grandson of Nicholas, put it, “We didn’t have the asphalt down hardly, before we had to move.” As a result Weiss moved four blocks north to their current location in 1961. From what Kenneth can gather, Cummings Signs made the bulk of the sign in the 1930s, adding the large triangular arrows sometime in the 1940s. After moving to their current location, Weiss expanded by opening a next-door corner market in the fall of 1964. Like the newer market, the “Drive In” neon sign sitting atop that store dates back to 1964.

Weiss’ neon sign has been the backdrop for many a Nashville musician press photos as well as being featured in 2010’s Hollywood film Redemption Road. As Jennifer Justus noted in August 26, 2011’s Tennessean,

“In a scene from the film Redemption Road, actor Luke Perry leans against the hood of a car, channeling James Dean. But behind Perry, it’s not Los Angeles or a Warner Brothers set that we see. It’s the neon lights of the Weiss Liquors sign off Gallatin road in East Nashville.”

After a century, Weiss Liquors continues to thrive alongside its iconic, seventy year old neon.

Weiss Liquors

Weiss Liquors

Weiss Market

Weiss Liquors