Lower Broadway wasn’t always a tourist destination. Even locals wouldn’t be caught there after dark 20 years ago. Today it’s a different story, with the new convention center bringing year-round business to downtown’s many bars and restaurants.
It’s against this backdrop that Ellen Sevier has built a thriving business as the owner and guide of Nashville’s first food tour, Music City Bites & Sites.
In season, Sevier leads visitors around downtown three days a week on the tour that includes stops at some of downtown’s lesser-known eateries as well as a history lesson from Sevier, a descendant of Tennessee’s first and third governor, John Sevier.
For $45 each, about a dozen guests get a two and a-half hour guided tour of downtown with about five stops that could include Pralines by Leon in Butler’s Run, Rocket Fizz candy shop, Past Perfect Restaurant & Infusion Bar and a bar/restaurant like National Underground or Pub 5. (Sevier pays the restaurant partners for the fare.)
The tour also makes a stop at Hatch Show Print, a proven guest favorite.
Sevier started the Music City Bites & Sites tour in the summer of 2012 after moving back home from Seattle, where she spent 10 years working in advertising and experienced her first food tour. Bites & Sites has grown primarily by word of mouth and reviews on TripAdvisor.com, where Sevier gets high scores for her energy and personality.
“The guide really makes the difference,” she says. “I didn’t want it to be stuffy. I wanted it to be fun, something both men and women would enjoy. I call mine a food and cultural tour. It’s a well-rounded everything tour.”
Sevier led her first tour in summer 2012 and served about 125 people in six months. Last season, she tripled the business in the first three months alone and ended up guiding nearly 1,000 people on both public and private tours, including some corporate events.
2014 is shaping up to be another blockbuster for this one-woman business. Sevier has been fielding booking requests by email even though the first tours don’t launch for another month or so and she hasn’t nailed down the full itinerary yet.
“I expect it to be way busier this year,” Sevier says. “I’m shocked, really. I’ve never had interest like this before.”