Goodbye to the Arcade as We Know It - Nashville’s First Enclosed Mall

Written by Sally Hendrick, Editor in Chief
Photos by John Partipilo Photography

Tourists may not know about it, but they will soon enough as the Arcade in downtown Nashville gets a makeover.

It was first imagined by Daniel Buntin who envisioned it to be a similar structure as the Galleria Vittoria Emanuele II Arcade in Milan, Italy. The grand opening in 1903 brought 40,000 people through this place that went on to be the spot where civil rights protests were staged in the 1960s up and down 5th Avenue North. The street has recently changed names to Rep John Lewis Way North to commemorate the lunch counter sit-ins that John Lewis participated in, a man who went on to serve seventeen (17) terms in the U.S. Congress.

Imagine there’s an alleyway that connects two downtown streets.

A glass ceiling over the second floor hovers over downtown workers as they zip through the restaurants like House of Pizza, get their hair trimmed at the barber shop, drop off a pair of pants to be hemmed by Semra, or to get a shoe shine from Percy. The post office nearly always has a line to the door, but they will soon close their doors permanently since April 1903 when it first opened. Word on the street is that they’re merging with the post office beneath the Frist Museum by the first of the year.

The Pandemic left its mark on these businesses.

Semra had to draw unemployment in 2020. In 2021, she spent half her days reading magazines in her shop. Then only 20% of her clientele came back in 2022 as the pandemic took a downward turn and brought some people back to their downtown offices. She wasn’t asked to stay by the new owners originally, but she let them know she’d been there 30 years, and her business was with the people downtown. They cut her a deal to move upstairs after the renovations are done to what is now Room 75.


Another staple is Percy’s Shoe Shine. Percy isn’t so sure what to do yet, as the pandemic took most of his business away. He said the fellas aren’t dressing the way they used to. Everyone’s more casual after the pandemic, so even though many have returned to their offices, they don’t need to shine their sneakers. The jury is still out on if Percy decides to stay.


The post office is merging with the one at 901 Broadway, so Teresa won’t greet anyone anymore, at least not downtown.


Tony’s Shoe Repair, run by a pair of Koreans after Tony retired, is staying but moving upstairs to a different room.


Manny’s House of Pizza is staying in the same spot it’s always been, serving up homemade pizzas for over 30 years.

What will the Arcade become?

According to Dryden Architecture’s renderings, we’ll see shops and cafes throughout. The area near the post office appears to be an outdoor seating area where postal trucks park today. The buyers have since picked up more properties in the area to add to the renovations, such as the Rymer Gallery.

Robert Lowe, executive managing director of Stream Realty Partners, “said they intend to restore the arcade to its ‘prior glory’.”

Downtown dwellers are eager to know what happens, but we will have to wait and see as progress is made.

At least we know The Peanut Shop is staying. It’s one of the original Planters 2,000 stores that went private in the 1960s.


Sally Hendrick is the editor in chief of Shout Your Cause. Please subscribe to our podcast where you listen, and visit this page for a free chapter of Sally’s upcoming historical fiction novel about the Jim Crow south.

Credit to ©️ John Partipilo Photography for all photos. Thank you time and again for being my partner in crime.


What you don't know about Jim Crow

by Sally Hendrick

Two little girls in rural West Tennessee are best friends but only in secret. Separated by a cotton field, their lives couldn't be any more different. Sudie's and Mabie's friendship, beautiful yet tragic, leaves a mark for generations to come.

Sally takes you on a journey back in time to the early 1900's Jim Crow South, as she imagines what life was like for her grandmother, Sudie, weaving together memories from her own childhood and stories from her family, even the black women who raised her.

Coming someday soon. Please enjoy this chapter for now.

Read a chapter for free