NASHVILLE — When the gavel fell on last week’s auction of much of downtown Nashville, the owners changed, but much of the town likely won’t.
Properties housing the most downtown shops for sale — the Franklin Complex and Antique Alley — went to local buyers.
Barry and Debbie Herring bought the Franklin Square complex at the corner of Van Buren and Franklin streets, home to Rhonda Kay’s, Fearrin’s ice cream, the Lawrence Family’s glassblowing shops and others.
Andi and Lance Bartels bought Antique Alley, home to 15 shops including the Old Ferguson House.
Andi Bartels is the youngest daughter of Andy Rogers, whose estate was being sold.
She said her plan for Antique Alley was for it not to change. “That’ll definitely stay how it is; it just needs some work and stuff. But overall, it’s going to be a good little section of town,” she said.
She and her husband also bought Rogers’ home and the 59.7 acres connected to it. It was where Andi grew up.
“It was hard coming here,” she said, as auction observers found the new owners of properties in the History Center’s Grand Hall and offered their congratulations.
“It’s a hard day for all of us,” added her sister, Debby Rogers, beside her.
Approximately a third of the properties in downtown Nashville were included in this sale, which was organized about a year and half after the death of Andy Rogers, a bedrock of Nashville’s business community.
As he advanced in age, Rogers also had sold some of his other holdings, including two hotels, the Brown County Inn and The Seasons Lodge, and a downtown restaurant, The Ordinary.
One of the three banks Rogers established in town, First Merchants, was sold earlier this fall to Centra Credit Union.
Another major property, The Professional Building in the middle of town, had been listed for several years, but hadn’t found a buyer before the auction. It ended up selling for $785,000 to a phone bidder who was not present in the auction room. The auction company said it could not disclose that person’s name.
Bartels, a teacher, inherited The Nashville House, the landmark restaurant that closed last fall after 91 years of operation. She has plans in the works for it, too, and that it would remain a restaurant and retail space, but she wasn’t ready to share specifics. “We’re not going to tear it down,” she said, in case anyone was concerned about that.
The Herrings, too, planned to make few changes to the Franklin Square complex. The couple bought the Brown County Inn from Andy Rogers in the summer of 2015, and gave it a major facelift the following winter. Debbie Herring also owns a flower and gift shop downtown.
“Everybody we talked to (in Franklin Square) is doing good business, especially since the (Brown County) Music Center (opened),” Barry said.
“And they’ve been there for years,” Debbie added. “We’re not going to mess that up.”
“They should all sleep well tonight,” Barry said.
The Herrings also bid on Antique Alley and on the Bartley House, but were outbid in later rounds.
“Our desire was for us all to live in harmony. We just wanted it to stay local. We wanted all the properties to stay local,” Barry added.
“We don’t want downtown to change. We think it’s nice just the way it is.”
The Bartley House went for $370,000 to Brown County resident Danielle Nolan, who was bidding on behalf of her father. She said he plans to move here to be closer to her young family.
Before the auction started, four properties that had been on the original auction list sold privately: The building housing 58 South women’s clothing shop; the building housing The Totem Post, September Elm and Jack and Jill Nut Shoppe; and two vacant, wooded lots on State Road 135 North.
The names of all those new owners weren’t immediately available; however, Bruce and Rhonda Kay Williams confirmed that they’d bought 58 South, where they’ve been operating a store since 2005.
Bidders’ numbers and the high bids were projected onto a screen at the front of the packed auction room, but the names associated with those bidder numbers were not publicly released. Observers at the auction had to know the people holding up their hands and numbers to determine who was buying what.
Bidding occurred in the “multi-tract format,” whereby the highest starting bidder could pick which property he wanted to put his money on, and bidders could choose multiple properties to bid on at once with one total sum if they wished.
The Herrings started it out with $727,727 on Franklin Square. The Bartelses also were bidding on that property, but dropped out as the total approached $1 million.
The Herrings also were the high bidders for one round on Antique Alley, which the Bartelses ended up winning at $725,000.
Abe Schultz, son of Brown Countian Jim Schultz, also was bidding on Antique Alley, and had been looking at Franklin Square, too.
Abe manages student rentals in Bloomington and was looking for a way to diversify his holdings. He said the properties didn’t go for more than he would have paid for them, but he would have been taking a chance on whether an appraiser could get out here and get information back to his bank within three weeks. If that didn’t work out, he would have lost his earnest money.
“I was looking for something different. … But, oh well. There’s still other options,” he said after it was all over.
In addition to the purchase price, bidders committed to paying a 10% “buyer’s premium” to go to the auction company.
Jane Herr, the oldest of the five Rogers sisters, said that the trustees were happy with what they got out of the auction. She didn’t have a grand total at the time, but the total bid price of all 12 properties auctioned that day — not counting the four advance sales — added up to $3,870,000.
Auction buyers have until Nov. 27 to have the balance of their bids paid.
Rogers’ will specified that his assets would be divided five ways, Herr said. Each sister also had the chance to take properties before the auction as part of their share, she said.
Though this was “the big hump” in settling his estate, Herr said she didn’t think it would be completely over with before the end of the year.
Tenants, residents and visitors had been expressing some anxiety over how the auction would turn out — many hoping that everything would stay the same; others hoping that some positive change would come out of it.
The Nashville Town Council, with support from local preservation advocates, had just passed an update to its “demolition delay” ordinance six days before the auction to protect any buildings from being taken down by a new buyer without an extensive public review.
When auction results were announced on social media, locals expressed support and happiness that “great local families” would be taking care of Rogers’ neighborhood.
“I think with the exception of the Professional Building — and I don’t know the buyer there — I think everything else will be status quo, so that’s good,” said Jim Schultz.