Better Together with Kosta Yepifantsev

Knock Twice with Rachel Smalling

March 27, 2023 Kosta Yepifantsev Season 2 Episode 62
Knock Twice with Rachel Smalling
Better Together with Kosta Yepifantsev
More Info
Better Together with Kosta Yepifantsev
Knock Twice with Rachel Smalling
Mar 27, 2023 Season 2 Episode 62
Kosta Yepifantsev

Join Kosta and his guest: Rachel Smalling, Owner of Lakeside Inn at Dale Hollow, Sportsman's Lodge, and 1854 Cocktail Bar & Lounge.

In this episode: Needless to say, 1854 Cocktail Bar is already taking Cookeville by storm (and we cannot wait to visit)! For any listeners that aren’t familiar with the lounge, will you tell us a bit more about your vision and what visitors can expect? Is the Upper Cumberland ready to invest in a more elevated landscape of hospitality and services? What lessons Rachel is taking from the total renovation and establishment of The Lakeside Inn to the creation of 1854 Cocktail Bar? Is it easier to open your second business?

Better Together with Kosta Yepifantsev is a product of Morgan Franklin Media and recorded in Cookeville, TN.

Get Every Clue and Update at 1854 Cocktail Bar & Lounge:
https://www.facebook.com/1854CocktailBarLounge

Visit Lakeside Inn at Dale Hollow and Sportsman's Lodge:
https://www.lakesideinnatdalehollow.com/
https://sportsmanslodgedalehollow.com/

Show Notes Transcript

Join Kosta and his guest: Rachel Smalling, Owner of Lakeside Inn at Dale Hollow, Sportsman's Lodge, and 1854 Cocktail Bar & Lounge.

In this episode: Needless to say, 1854 Cocktail Bar is already taking Cookeville by storm (and we cannot wait to visit)! For any listeners that aren’t familiar with the lounge, will you tell us a bit more about your vision and what visitors can expect? Is the Upper Cumberland ready to invest in a more elevated landscape of hospitality and services? What lessons Rachel is taking from the total renovation and establishment of The Lakeside Inn to the creation of 1854 Cocktail Bar? Is it easier to open your second business?

Better Together with Kosta Yepifantsev is a product of Morgan Franklin Media and recorded in Cookeville, TN.

Get Every Clue and Update at 1854 Cocktail Bar & Lounge:
https://www.facebook.com/1854CocktailBarLounge

Visit Lakeside Inn at Dale Hollow and Sportsman's Lodge:
https://www.lakesideinnatdalehollow.com/
https://sportsmanslodgedalehollow.com/

Rachel Smalling:

Being a business owner and in charge of organizations now for the past decade, I've just understood that you're always always going to hit roadblocks and you're going to hit bumps and you're going to hit extreme frustrations. And there's going to be weeks where you want to pull your hair out or you know, cry on the way home because things are just not what you expected them to be in reality and that's part of it. And that's okay, and I embrace that.

Morgan Franklin:

Welcome to Better Together with Kosta Yepifantsev, a podcast on parenting business and living life intentionally. We're here every week to bring you thoughtful conversation, making your own path to success, challenging the status quo, and finding all the ways we're better together. Here's your host, Kosta Yepifantsev.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

Hey, y'all, this is Kosta and today I'm here with my guest Rachel Smalling, owner of Lakeside Inn at Dale Hollow Sportsman's Lodge in 1854 Cocktail Bar and Lounge. So Rachel, many of our listeners may know you from your work with the Bryan symphony orchestra as box office manager, cellist and former executive director. You graduated from Tennessee Tech in 2014. But started working for the orchestra in 2013. How did this experience shape you as an artist and now an entrepreneur?

Rachel Smalling:

So essentially growing up my entire life revolved around music. I started piano formally when I was four did competitions all through high school and then I started cello formally when I was nine, taking lessons. So my whole life music was really my outlet. My mom used to say I was either gonna end up in prison or the CEO. I'm not a CEO yet, and I guess there's still time for prison. But yeah, I think music was that outlet that just really redirected me. After I started playing cello. I didn't get suspended again from school. Nice. That's great. But yeah, music was really my outlet growing up, and I kind of naturally fell into it in college, it was something it was kind of like, you know, in high school, you got your friend groups, right. And my friend group was music and that was my whole social circle. So in college, it was pretty natural to obviously major in music and I got a scholarship and you know, it's like, okay, you know, things are falling into place. And then you know, I got into music school, I was actually a chemistry major when I started at Tech sweet Yeah, no organic to made me cry every day. And so I switched to music. So essentially, when you're in music, you kind of have a couple of fields that you have to like, go down, right. I've got my degree in performance, but I knew even as like a sophomore that I was not going to be performing cello professionally. Like it's not what I wanted to do. I love playing. I love playing with my quartet. I have a very active quartet. We do a lot of performances. I love playing gigs. I love playing for myself, but in terms of being locked away in a practice room for four hours a day or doing all day every day, just not my thing. So I found out pretty early on that I really loved the operational side of music and making concert to happen in 2012. So I guess I would have been SOPHOMORE I applied just at recommendation on a friend for an internship at the Swanee summer music festival. I think they're now the Swanee Music Center. I'm correct on that they just rebranded and I got the internship, which is kind of like a combination of luck and timing for me for that internship. And I was an orchestra manager and assistant operations for this big festival. It's festival of 200 students all the way from high school through doctoral and then they have 50 staff and faculty and guest conductors from all over the world and things. So it's a pretty big festival. And then I just kind of wandered into this first operational gig. You know, I'd done some library work at the University and had done some stage management stuff the university so I kind of had a basis and just kind of wandered in and I fell in love. I fell in love with a really fast paced environment. I mean, you're working 12 hours a day 250 people are needing something from you at all times. I loved it. I'm really good in intense pressure situations like that. I really enjoyed it. And then I stayed at the festival. It was just a summer gig, so just six weeks in the summer. But I got hired on as our operations director for the last two years that I was there. And in the same year, I was working box office management for the symphony, my senior year of college, and then stayed on with that with the festival. And then in 2016. So about a year and a half after I graduated, the current Executive Director of the symphony, he left for a job in Nashville. And so the board was kind of looking around and they were like, Well, how about that girl? Yeah, absolutely. And so they gave me an interim and I ended up loving it. And long story short, I've been there for the past 10 years. I just left. Two weeks ago. I was my last week at the sahaya Did my February concert. And so I was you know, in the meantime, obviously starting and managing businesses, I say on the side, because it was on the side for us. It was nights, weekends, early mornings. And then I decided when we started talking about this cocktail bar coming into fruition a couple of years ago that something had to go or I might actually lose my mind because apparently there's this thing called like sleep and like occasional free time that people talk about. Yeah, so I decided that I'm In November that I was going to leave this company this spring. It's a job that I love and a career field that I adore. And I'll always be involved with music and the symphony. But for me, it was kind of that nonprofit field was the kind of the height of my career abilities in our community. And I love our community. And I don't want to leave, I guess the motels gave me some confidence to steer that entrepreneurial and business starting.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

Absolutely. And we're gonna get into all of your businesses, because you have multiple now. But I really want to know, when you were starting out playing piano, because I just want to understand how like how your brain works, I am fascinated by people that can play an instrument and be proficient at it to the point to where you can go to college and actually major in music. Because what a lot of people don't know is when you get a major in music, you actually have to be able to play the music, right? And the instrument, if you can't, then you can't graduate. So it's a very kind of performance oriented type of major, whereas, you know, most majors, kind of like skate by you can't with music. So when you were a kid, and you sat down in front of the piano, did something just click for you? Or did you have to literally sit there for hours and hours and hours in practice?

Rachel Smalling:

Um, it was kind of both for me it was a an

Kosta Yepifantsev:

outlet. Okay. For you enjoyed it? Yeah,

Rachel Smalling:

well, it was an outlet for anytime I was angry, or I'd have a fight with my parents. I go practice the piano. So they're banging away. So it was an outlet, which I think maybe subconsciously maybe clicked in some way in my brain of like, this is a stress relief. This is an outlet for me that I can go and be constructive in a way that is therapeutic for me.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

How many years did it take until you said, Oh, I'm actually good at this.

Rachel Smalling:

I haven't hit that point yet. Okay, well,

Kosta Yepifantsev:

how many years did it take for somebody else to tell you that you're good at it?

Rachel Smalling:

That's the thing about your music teachers. And I think a reason musicians are so multifaceted in their focuses, is I've never been told Good job. Like, I've never been told, like that sounded great. Or I've never been told Good job. Thank you. I appreciate that. That's that was healing. No, it's it's it's a thing that you have to really, I don't know, focus on on so many different elements at once. And piano and cello are totally different fields. piano for me growing up was my primary instrument until I hit late high school. And then I really switched more into a cello focus that I was doing both instruments, you know, from ages nine all the way through high school. But um, yeah, piano for me started out as kind of that outlet, and then through high school and you're doing competitions and stuff, then it gets more into, okay, I have to have my four hours today, just for your muscle memory, you have to do something 11 times ish, to have it in your muscle memory. Yeah, which means you have to play that passage perfectly 11 times.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

So what a lot of people I think don't understand when you're successful at pretty much everything that you attempt. Usually, there is a touch point, or something that you did when you were younger, that showed you that if you take the time, and you put the work in and you commit yourself to the overall objective, eventually you will become good at it. And so like I did that with hockey, like I started out, and it was a lot like you described, it was an outlet for me, because I too, didn't like going to school constantly argued with my parents, and you know, my home life was somewhat dysfunctional. And so I would get my hockey stick, get my net, go to the tennis court and just be out there for six hours shooting pucks, and you know, everything would kind of fade away from me at that point. And the more and more that I did it, the better that I got. And I could see like, okay, through practice, I can become more proficient running those businesses, the same exact thing, running your businesses the same exact thing, like you know that when you start out, you're probably going to know, like, 10% of what you should know. But as you practice, and as you keep doing it, and as you identify new problems and situations, you get really good at running your own business, and then you're not scared to open up more businesses. And you know, in a couple of years, you'd probably have like, 15 establishments. I'm tired. But is it safe to say that you've been working diligently for extended hours and more than most people your entire life?

Rachel Smalling:

Yeah, absolutely. But I love working. I guess this sounds so cliche, I suppose. But like work hard party hard has always been my mentality. Like, I have no problem working seven days a week, 10 hours a day for months on end. I just And fortunately, my partner now is built the same way. But we also when we go on vacation, like we go all out. Yeah, we're gonna go to Yellowstone for two weeks or we're gonna go to Bliss. You and I

Kosta Yepifantsev:

are very similar. You're like my spirit animal. So what inspired your transition from working with the Bryan symphony orchestra to renovating and running a motel?

Rachel Smalling:

Yeah, the motel was kind of an accident that just turned out really well. I think, like timing was Yeah, timing was As in the timing wasn't entirely accidental. The timing was essentially 2020. So we're outside. It's not like we're going out to restaurants or we're traveling or doing anything like that, right? We all remember that trauma. So essentially, we were spending a lot of time on the lake on Dale hollow, we happen to have a boat and my partner had a wake boat. And that was our outlet was we just go out spend all day on the boat. And every day we drive by the sad, cute little rundown property was called the Ob River in just a half mile from sunset Marina. And we drive by it, and for the first year, we saw a for sale sign on it. And then the next year, we didn't see a for sale sign, you know, we just kind of got to talking because it was pandemic, we weren't doing much else. And we're like, we should check into buying that. Yeah. And yeah, we put in an offer on it that honestly, we were kind of like, oh, this is really low. I hope they're not offended or anything like that. And they were it was a situation of children had inherited a motel property that had been loved by their parents and run by their parents. And I think the children had other career focuses and they really just kind of wanted to part ways with that property. My partner's in construction renovation, and he kind of bartered and traded. They were building a house at the time fortunately, actually worked out to somewhere like, well, you know, we'll trade you X amount in addition to the payment for the property. So we bought it and a week later we start doing renovations.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

What was it like when you first bought it? Just like describe the setting for people that are listening to this?

Rachel Smalling:

Yeah, I mean, it's it's definitely a thing of like fear, right? You're just like, Okay, we've done this crazy thing. We bought a motel like I don't know anybody else that's bought a motel like just in his gonna totally renovate it and run it himself. Like, yeah, you hear of corporate and big hotels and people like money that have systems to manage this. And like, it's not really like there's a huge outlet out there of small motel years. Well, and also in Pickett County. Yeah. Ryan, which was actually, I really enjoy that area a lot. As a business owner, it's very easy to run your business out there. They're very supportive. It's very tight knit community. Yeah, it's a beautiful, beautiful part of the state.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

How long did it take you to renovate?

Rachel Smalling:

We started, like I said, a week after we bought it. So I think Labor Day weekend we started and an open we opened in April, April 21 of 2021.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

And I mean, the timing, like I know, you said the timing was really good. So Tennessee, as we talked about earlier, was the most visited state during the pandemic that didn't have an ocean. And so you guys just had a ton of people that were coming to Tennessee that were staying at your motel, and that were, you know, wakeboarding and just visiting the lake, you know, going out and boating has that trend continued.

Rachel Smalling:

Yeah, that trend has continued for the lakeside in property. That's kind of my I say it's my more cutesy motel. It's very kind of trendy, lots of whites and airy paddles and all those decor and things. So we got a lot of weekenders, really 90% of our clientele is from Indiana, Ohio and Michigan. And I'm kind of like Don't you guys have like some lakes up there? Yeah, they all come down and they all love Dale hollow Dale Hall was the cleanest lake in Tennessee. That was one of the cleanest in the world.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

It doesn't have the mud at the bottom it's all rock.

Rachel Smalling:

So it's a rock base. And then also like it's a huge huge deal of no gray water whatsoever is allowed in the lake. So house boats and marinas and things like that have to out pack all of their gray water. What's grey water gray water is what you dump out of your house boats. Oh, okay, so all of your sink water. Okay, sewage. So it's not even that as long as it's a man made lake right. Yeah, it's a TVA project. So most of the lakes in Tennessee, I suppose are that's impressive.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

And so how is the Sportsman's lodge different than the other property?

Rachel Smalling:

Yeah, the Sportsman's lodge so we had been running Lakeside for right at a year. Got this. said we'd spent a year we know everything. No, just kidding. But yeah, it's like I said, my partner and I pretty go go go and if we see an opportunity, we, we do discuss it and we do research so it's not totally off the cuff. In fact, you know, in buying lakeside, we looked around and said we are pretty much the only property within a mile of Sunset Marina, the biggest marina on Dale hollow. And it's also pretty COVID proof to like it's it's a traditional roadside motel so you're not sharing space with anybody else and you're outside. So we felt pretty confident in that decision if COVID continued that we would be insulated from that. The other property is the Sportsman's Lodge. It's twice the size of my Lakeside property, it's 21 rooms. So it's considerably larger and we actually went in on that purchase with my partner's parents. So we are 50% owners with them. However, I am the manager operator and we have a staff of about six people did you have to renovate that as well? It was an operating well run business when we bought it so we literally bought it and closed on the Good Friday of 2022. And the end of the day all of those funds went to the previous owner and the next Saturday we took over office and it was a crazy busy weekend. It was Easter, it was a fishing tournament. It was absolutely bananas.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

Yeah. And well, I mean, we're not done yet, we have two properties. And we also have a cocktail bar. So 1854 cocktail bar is taking Cookeville by storm. And we cannot wait to visit by the way. For our listeners who aren't familiar with the lounge, tell us a bit more about your vision and what visitors can expect.

Rachel Smalling:

So this is an idea, I guess that came into fruition a couple of years ago, we just kind of were talking and I've been doing market research for a couple of years. And like you guys, when I first came in, and we were chatting, we said, you know cocoa has a lot of great spaces, but nothing more elevated, and nothing more a place where you can go and have a date night and converse with your friends and also an elevated space. So I totally imagine this as being something that and a big reason. I don't know if you've noticed this or caught this, but I actually haven't put my name on any social media.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

I had no idea who was opened. Yeah, exactly. I

Rachel Smalling:

wanted to intentionally be hard to find because I want this to be not me, but I want it to be something for the community. Don't get me wrong. It's a for profit business. Like this is my business, my baby. But it is something that I want the community to be able to be proud of and be happy about. And when your friends come in from Nashville or Knoxville be like, Oh my gosh, you have to Oh, yeah, you know, check out this place that you know we're we're happy is in Cookeville.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

And we talked about this earlier. So Nashville, one of the elements of Nashville that I think made it so popular, obviously being Music City is one thing, but like for locals, when people came in visited Nashville, they went to these like speakeasies, either before dinner, or after dinner for a nightcap, whatever it might be. I mean, you're bringing that element to Cookeville. And it's going to make it where people stay downtown longer and spend more money in downtown which brings in more revenue for the city. I mean, it's great. I am curious, though, like how did you come up with an idea for a speakeasy? And more importantly, no one knows, obviously, well, now they'll know you know who started it, but no one knows where it is. Right? So secret door hidden door. Yeah, that's,

Rachel Smalling:

that's intentional. You're probably noticed that my social media manager has been like kind of slow rolling some stuff out. Yeah. But yeah, we are gonna have a it's not a secret entrance, but there will be a secret door within the space. Oh, nice. Yeah. And we're gonna have maybe some charred whiskey barrel ceilings and things like that. And some antique furniture like anybody playing piano, I might or might not have already sourced a piano for the space. Are you ever gonna be playing now? I will happily serve you drinks. But

Kosta Yepifantsev:

I mean, if you do play a piano or a cello, it would be divine.

Rachel Smalling:

Yeah, my quartet is already talking about maybe some wine pairing concert events. So we'll have more to say on that. Sorry, we got off track.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

Okay, really, like what gave you the idea to start the speakeasy one is

Rachel Smalling:

going to all of our wonderful local restaurants and going out with friends in Cookeville. And I love love, love our community. I think it's the perfect size. I always joke that if we get a target and Trader Joe's will never have to leave again. Which the target is coming right Trader Joe's? Yes. Probably far on the horizon. Yeah, exactly. Something you know, specialty. Anyways, my partner Alex and I, we love to travel. And one of our favorite things is just to take a three day weekend and go to New York, New York. I don't know you and we need a spouse's. And yeah, it'll be a good time. But yeah, we love to go to New York. And we love I guess the finer things of life. And I have no qualms spending a lot of money on really good food and really good experience. Absolutely. It's lots of bad experiences. Right. So we went to this little tiny speakeasy, one of our favorite things to do for several years. One of my favorite things for past decade has been cocktails and speakeasies now, because I go out and I get you know, crazy drunk and party and all of that I enjoy the artistic side of it, I suppose. And the capabilities and the flexibility of cocktails and how much you can do with them. But yeah, we went to this tiny little speakeasy called the reigns law room, to the Morgan hotel. But yeah, we went to this tiny little speakeasy. And we're sitting there enjoying our beautiful cocktails. And I'm not kidding this, this whole place probably seats 20 People has a very tiny bar, very dark, lots of curtains and furniture, style seating. And I'm looking around and going, You know what, we could do this. I was like, I think Cookeville within the next year or two is going to be ready for something like this. I think people are really itching all of our friends and us we'd go to Nashville, Chattanooga Knoxville on the weekends to do those kinds of things. So bringing that here again, the target the Trader Joe's right if I don't have to leave now we're gonna have a cocktail bar so I don't have to leave to go to those other places.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

It would be phenomenal to have a real steak house. You know, like,

Rachel Smalling:

I won't cook your steaks because that's not my passion. But I totally agree. A very small intimate,

Kosta Yepifantsev:

yes. And high end steak house where you can get, you know, $120 steak or something like that. And you can have special events and there's restaurants around town that do more higher end serving. It just doesn't quite feel like you would have the type of environment in Nashville. Exactly.

Rachel Smalling:

You've got the maybe the food or the environment, but you don't have anything that you're on behind those elements. No, I totally agree. And again, I love all of our local places and restaurants.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

Yeah, whenever you go to New York again, there is a hotel called the equinox. And Jessica and I we always like to like stay on different hotels around New York, New York's our favorite place. Yeah, I go to different neighborhood every time i My dream is to get a master's degree from Columbia University. I want a JD MBA program. But I actually have to go live and live in New York. And because there is no refrigerator box, right? One day, I hope to have a an apartment in New York. Sorry, I digress. Long story short, when you stay in New York, you should stay at the equinox. It's really nice. With that being said, as you're doing this renovation, and you obviously have this passion for operations, you're gaining confidence as a business owner, what lessons did you learn through all of those experiences? And was it easier for you to pull the trigger on opening up a second and third business,

Rachel Smalling:

I definitely don't think that I would have had the confidence that I have now pre motels to be doing something like this, even though this has been something that we've been discussing since around the time we bought the motel. And honestly, I don't know if it's, you know, a universe thing or a God thing or whatever you believe in. But I am a strong believer, and if it's meant to be it will happen. And I kind of put this idea out there. And we floated around our friends groups and our family groups and my community partners that I worked with Symphony I'm just kind of casually talking about this. And I'm kind of getting a feel for that. First of all, it doesn't get any easier. It gets it gets harder. I think the more difficult thing with this is clearly that it's a restaurant or technically a restaurant categorized or a cocktail bar, but the state recognizes us as a restaurant in the city recognizes us as a restaurant. So no, that's certainly not easier. That's a territory that I am learning a lot about and reading obsessively about and meeting with as many people as I can and relying on as much experience as I can within that field with my friends. Because that is one aspect. I'm confident in my operational and management skills. I am less confident or knowledgeable in the actual restaurant, field and aspect. Are you

Kosta Yepifantsev:

getting advice from like local restaurant tours? Or are you going to like larger markets and saying how does the speakeasy work and what makes it successful stuff like that?

Rachel Smalling:

Yeah, I'm both so I guess you could follow that informal and formal research. My informal research is now every time I go to a beautiful speakeasy in Nashville, or wherever city in the world we're in, that is now a write off and research, right. So we always sit at the bar and we watch I love to watch everything. If I'm on my own, I will go to a bar if I have two hours and just sit and watch them. I'll order a mocktail and just sit and watch. That's kind of my informal research. My formal research more is relying on my people in the community that do have that experience. Chad combs who owns Putnam room, he and I have had several conversations about logistical things and operational potentials and things like that. And we are a cold kitchen only, which we'll get into more if you want to, but um, essentially, we're not going to be doing full meals or hot meals, but we will have like tablets. Yeah, so like breads and dips, hummus plates, probably do svj in the summertime, and things like that things that charcuterie boards, and I'm working with a lot of local people on sourcing and things like that. Okay, you got

Kosta Yepifantsev:

a lot going on. Right?

Rachel Smalling:

How do you find my head?

Kosta Yepifantsev:

I know, right? So how do you find balance in your life? How do you find fulfilment? And would you consider yourself success?

Rachel Smalling:

No, I don't. I'm not a personality that I could be doing that job making$20 million a year like we were talking about earlier, and I would still be like, nope, not there. It's not a matter of happiness. For me, it's a matter of I truly enjoy working and I truly enjoy projects and I enjoy creative collaboration. And my partner is the exact same way he is somebody who is never we're never going to be content to just sit ever so I can read my style. That being said, there is obviously a limit to what one person can do. And I think I've stretched that limit I'm approaching that limit. So this is going to be my my baby and my project I think for definitely the next several years

Kosta Yepifantsev:

and there's going to be more businesses after this or is this gonna be like okay, threes, my cap,

Rachel Smalling:

I have some goals. It all is dependent on what I'm learning with the motels is, how good the people around you are and how much you can rely on them for my motel. As I'm only up there one day a week, managing and catching up on paperwork and doing all that tax stuff that we were talking about earlier, that has to be done by a business owner, but I have a great staff up there that manage and deal with things when I'm not there. And I trust them to make decisions. And I trust them to deal with customers in a way that I would want it. So that's the key there, right? When I looked at 1854, and really dove into this project, my partner and I had to have a serious sit down discussion about I am going to have to commit to two years, essentially, at least minimum, have no trouble working every night weekend. And so and that's just what it takes. And you have to say like I'm willing to put in the 7080 hours a week for this two years, hopefully minimum two years,

Kosta Yepifantsev:

you said two things that I think is really important to reiterate, for anybody that wants to be an entrepreneur, let alone a serial entrepreneur like you are. Number one is your only limitation to building another business or going into another venture are the people that you employ, and how well they manage the business that you've created in. The second thing is you have to and you had you know, you obviously don't know anything about a cocktail bar or speakeasy, you have to spend the time understanding your business. I mean, when I started doing this podcast, I still don't know anything about marketing, of course, but I at least know how to push the button and hit record, you know, and speak into the microphone. Right? And that took at least a year to figure out right, and I mean, if I just like stepped away and said Now I don't want to do this anymore, I'm gonna bring somebody is somebody else to host this show, it wouldn't be as successful because people actually want to know the person that owns a business understands it. Exactly. To be successful.

Rachel Smalling:

Yeah. And I think that's I've always been a big proponent even in, you know, the symphony. Yeah, you're the executive director, but you're the executive director of a small organization. I'm the one there on Saturday night, setting the stage. I'm the one there at seven in the morning, you know, vacuuming the carpets and cleaning the bathrooms. I'm doing all that stuff. So you have to understand every single role within your business, I think to be a successful leader, again, with the research and I just finished bartending school, actually, I think now a professional. Yeah, so I did a Nashville bartending school. It's like two and a half weeks of, you know, coursework every day and all that stuff. And I really enjoyed it. And I learned a lot. I knew a lot already about, you know, flavors and different ingredients and stylings and things like that. But it was great practical knowledge, which, you know, I need to be able to step in, if my bartender calls out, or, you know, I need to be able to serve floor or I need to be in the kitchen, or I need to be the one, you know, cleaning at the end of the night. So I'm fully aware of all those things.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

So you've got this upscale speakeasy, you've got all these kind of higher end establishments. Do you think that the upper Cumberland is ready for this elevated landscape of hospitality and services,

Rachel Smalling:

I absolutely think that the people of the upper Cumberland are ready, I also have to tell myself that our people are going to be our people. And our people that are not our people are not our people. And that's okay, it's not going to be you can't be everybody's cup of tea. It's not going to be everybody's cup of tea. But I think the people that are interested in this kind of venue are going to really love it and bring their friends and family and really be able to share in this business dream.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

So as you're talking and doing your informal research with people that are local business owners who manage restaurants, is there anything that they tell you that they say you have to abide by this rule, or you have to expect that this is going to happen?

Rachel Smalling:

No, I think that being a business owner, and in charge of organizations now for the past decade, I've just understood that you're always always going to hit roadblocks and you're gonna get bumps and you're going to hit extreme frustrations. And there's going to be weeks where you want to pull your hair out or you know, cry on the way home because things are just not what you expected them to be in the reality. And that's part of it. And that's okay. And I embrace that. So no, there's not been anything specific because I think restaurants are also such a niche industry. One thing I will say that is if you go down to successful restaurants in the West End, Putnam room, seven senses Crawdaddy is one thing, if you really notice and watch the owners of those restaurants on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, they're in there. They're working on managing, and those are successful restaurants that have been established for several several years. Now.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

You know, what's interesting about seven senses is when we first moved to Cookeville, we moved about a year before seven senses opened, and there used to be this restaurant downtown called Thomas Andrews, and it closed and so Jessica, when seven senses opened, we were talking about how long it would stick around and we had Jay Albright on the show and talked a lot about how he kind of had impeccable timing as Cookeville was expanding and growing and but you're absolutely right. Like if he wasn't there, and he wasn't kind of plugging in the The gaps as they were coming in for relation like he wouldn't have had this consistent success, essentially, in my opinion, I think seven senses is the greatest restaurant that's currently open right now. Yeah, I

Rachel Smalling:

think their food is incredible and consistent in their bartenders phenomenal on Friday, Saturday nights.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

So Jessica, and I worked side by side for the first six, seven years of owning this business. And you and your partner, Alex have also worked side by side from day one. What's it like working with someone that you also go home and go to sleep with every single day?

Rachel Smalling:

I know that sounds crazy, and maybe not everybody can relate. And that's okay. But honestly, he is the one person I could spend 24/7 with, and would never get sick of absolutely ever. We honestly have maybe had one fight in three years of working together. But I think that was ever a design choice. You know, it was the classic like I'm handling most of the design work. I tell him what needs to happen. And he has to find a way to make it happen. So I think he has the harder end of that job for sure. But he's very skilled in that aspect. But I think our literally our only fight was probably at 7am on a Saturday driving to the motel. And I'm saying it has to be this way. For this reason. He's saying no, we can't do that for this reason, and just back and forth on that, you know, but honestly, I feel like it's gonna sound crazy. I can't believe I'm saying this out loud. But any time not spent with him is almost time wasted. Oh, my he'll, he's pretty incredible. Well,

Kosta Yepifantsev:

and you, you call him your partner. So you guys aren't married?

Rachel Smalling:

Correct. So we've been together for almost four years. Okay, we were both previously married. So we're both divorced. And it really felt like a really strange, like, perfect timing thing. When we met. It felt like our entire previous relationships had just been preparing and teaching us things about our current relationship status. So yeah, we're not married, don't have any plans to be we're really happy. We joke that we're more married than most married couples. Because a separation in our side would be more complicated with all of the assets and doesn't absolutely share kids. So he has an eight year old. Okay, nice. X and his ex and I are wonderful friends.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

Nice.

Rachel Smalling:

All the time.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

You guys can have kids?

Rachel Smalling:

Absolutely not. I have never wanted children. It's never been I think some people feel like I want children to feel fulfilled or to have that family aspect. And I always say that having I say are my stepson is half my child having half a child is perfect.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

Yeah. And plus, I mean, you know, you've got another 15 businesses, like I said that you're going to probably be opening so I mean. Alright, so before we wrap up, do you have any clues you'd like to share with our audience about the location of 1854 cocktail bar? And also, what's your favorite part of the renovation and design so far? Oh,

Rachel Smalling:

gosh, there's so many cool design elements on this project. Mostly because the building that we're in so we're in a building on the square in the same building as poet's Oh, okay, building I will say we're kind of around the side backside of the building I'll leave it at that will be more obvious on our social medias closer to opening and several people have messaged me, it's funny. I don't know if you're familiar with Molly Brown, who runs the upper Cumberland tourism? Dash? Yes. But she messaged me on our social media. And she said, I have this really cool lamp if you want it, I was like, absolutely bring it by, like buy it from you, whatever. And she brings in, I was like, let me tell you where we are. She's like, Oh, I already figured it out. And like stalking our social media, and she like showed up. And she's like, Yeah, I was walking around this building, trying to figure out where you guys were. So it's certainly not going to be difficult to figure out. But in terms of design elements, I think are barback is probably my favorite piece. That's a French hand carved wood piece. It's about nine feet long and eight feet tall. It's late 1700s. I'll show you a picture of it when we're done. But it's stunningly beautiful. And we just again, with the whole if it's meant to be it will be we ended up getting this space because I had worked on boards and been familiar with JT parks for several years, he on several of the buildings down the square. And I just mentioned it to him at a party that we were at. I said, you know, I've got this kind of crazy idea. I'm kind of, you know, almost embarrassed to tell you about it. Because I think I've lost my mind. So this is kind of my idea. And I ran it by him, you know, small, intimate, speakeasy space, but location was really going to make or break this business. And I knew he had property and I said, you know, if anything comes up or anybody moves out or you think you have an idea, just let me know, think and maybe I'd hear in six months, maybe I wouldn't when he calls me the next day. And he says, I got a space I want you to come see. And I said okay, so I showed up and it's got 14 foot ceilings. It's totally insular. There's no exterior doors or windows. So it really we can make this space feel like you've walked back into the 1930s. All of our furniture is sourced from antique stores across the states all repurposed. Even our glassware has been sourced amazing stories. Yeah, so yeah, the bar back is certainly stunning. But the bar back was in the space. It was one of a piece from his house that he was going to auction off, he said, You know what, you you can have it. And I laughed because I thought he was joking. I was like, Oh my gosh, you're so funny. And he was like, no, really like if you want to use it in the space and use it in the space, and then I don't have to move it. So it's gonna be our bar back. And you'll see it on beautiful display in the speakeasy. And then we also have a chandelier that he left for us as well. It's about five feet tall and three feet wide. This beautiful old brass chandelier.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

When is the date that it's supposed to open tentatively. Yeah.

Rachel Smalling:

So we've hit a couple of bumps that I won't get into but we are hoping for it's always construction. Right. And we are hoping for Memorial Day weekend but it looking like early to mid June.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

Okay, great. So my birthday is June 6, and I will just wander around. Oh, it's Intel i can find

Rachel Smalling:

the door to you wander on. And I even if we're not open we want up. Yeah, on up you guys.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

I love that. Well listen, we're really excited about it opening and we can not wait. We always like to end the show on a high note. Who is someone that makes you better when you're together?

Rachel Smalling:

My partner for sure. He probably should say no more often, but he's always just enthusiastically. They're saying like, yes, we can do this and being supportive and he runs his own very large business in Cookeville and still finds time for all of this extra stuff. And my love language is acts of service. So I would definitely say he goes above and beyond for those acts of service for all these crazy projects that I come up with.

Morgan Franklin:

Thank you for joining us on this episode of Better Together with Kosta Yepifantsev. If you've enjoyed listening and you want to hear more, make sure you subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcasts. Leave us a review or better yet, share this episode with a friend. Better Together with Kosta Yepifantsev is a Kosta Yepifantsev Production. Today's episode was written and produced by Morgan Franklin post production mixing and editing by Mike Franklin. Want to know more about Kosta visit us at kostayepifantsev.com We're better together.