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Great Escapes

Escape To...Nashville with Pencil & Paper's Gen and Benjamin Sohr

The duo has the ultimate guide for a chic trip to Music City.

There’s a trend of die-hard New Yorkers and Angelinos relocating to Nashville, Tennessee. And with good reason. The capital dubbed Music City for its history of country, blues, and rock talent, is now known as a destination for stylish creatives looking for aesthetics with a relaxed vibe and lots of Southern hospitality. The charming couple behind design firm Pencil & Paper Co., Gen and Benjamin Sohr, are part of an early wave of designers, artists, chefs and makers putting Nashville on the map for more than bluegrass, boots and biscuits.

For the Sohr’s, Pencil & Paper Co., is a culmination of many late nights of “creative conversation” and “dreaming up” projects. After over 20 years of successful retail careers for brands like Gap, Oiliy, and Victoria’s Secret and living in San Francisco, New York and Chicago, they set their sights on a new life and modern lifestyle business in Nashville. “I grew up in Miami, and Benjamin and I met living in San Francisco while working for Gap brands,” says Gen. “Benjamin was born and raised here. He’s the youngest of four boys with a large, extended family that live around Nashville.” It wasn’t long before they decided to take their combined branding talents and get back to family and create their new business. “Nashville felt like the perfect move,” she says.

Along with family ties and fabulous interior opportunities, Gen and Benjamin’s favorite thing about their hometown is the people. “We have such a wonderful and inclusive creative community that truly help one another!” says Gen. “Southern hospitality is alive and well! And you might also be surprised to know we have a great monthly flea market and some wonderful vintage shopping!”

“We have such a wonderful and inclusive creative community that truly help one another!” says Gen. “Southern hospitality is alive and well! And you might also be surprised to know we have a great monthly flea market and some wonderful vintage shopping!”

And that’s just for starters. Below, Gen and Benjamin present a stylish dossier to this Southern hub having a major moment—from dressed-up dive bars to a hotel concept where you can sip, shop and sleep. Before you pack your bags, check out this essential guide to Nashville.

Pencil & Paper’s creative portfolio includes a slew of charmingly chic interiors (left) and working with brands like Draper James (right). Photos: Lauren Bradshaw.

Henrietta Red offers seasonal contemporary dishes and fresh oysters. Photo: Gen Sohr.
Husk serves modern takes on Southern food favorites.

For Brunch…

Henrietta Red (1200 4th Ave N | 615-490-8042)  “This sun-filled space is perfect for a cheerful Sunday! We recommend the quiche—and splurge with a side of fries!”  Barista Parlor (Multiple Locations) “Our go-to for any morning. Exceptional coffee and yummy biscuits (try the moto!) are sure to make any morning start fabulous.”  Biscuit Love (Multiple Locations) “Whenever we have in-town visitors, this is a must stop! It’s the perfect crowd-pleaser for delicious, southern staples.” Husk (37 Rutledge Street | 615-256-6565) “Biscuits and gravy? Mimosas? Bloody Mary’s? Patio dining? Need we say more? This is our Nashville favorite!”

Barcelona Wine Bar is perfect for a “pick-me-up”. Photo: Gen Sohr.
Mas Tacos is often take-out for the Sohrs. Photo: Leslee Mitchell.

For Lunch…

Mas Tacos (732 Mcferrin Ave | 615-543-6271) “One of each, please! If we had to decide, we’d make a meal out of the chicken tortilla soup, pork taco, and have an agua fresca in one hand and a margarita in the other.”  Butchertown Hall (1416 4th Avenue No | 615-454-3634)  “With a vast menu ranging from a burger to tacos, this is an easy lunch destination for tasty food.” Barcelona Wine Bar (1200 Villa Place | 615-327-0600) “With an expansive patio, and light-filled dining room—this is the perfect place for a fun “pick-me-up” during the day! Small bites, delicious drinks, and the most fabulous charcuterie in town.” Hattie B’s (Multiple locations) | This famed hot chicken shop is spreading like wildfire, and with good reason. It's our guilty pleasure to get their hot chicken sandwich and coke float – shh!

Rolf & Daughters gives diners a lovely twist on Italian classic fare. Photo: Gen Sohr.



For Dinner…

Rolf & Daughters (700 Taylor Avenue | 615-866-9897) “Their version of cacio e pepe—cecamariti, cultured butter, and black pepper—is our order each and every time. Benjamin is even more adventurous and likes to mix it up, so I always sneak a bite off of his plate—it never disappoints!” Butcher & Bee (902 Main Street | 615-226-3322) “The whipped feta is reason in itself to visit! But, if you’re looking for another dish we also order the tiger style Brussels.” Windells | Total Old School – a classic meat and three; this is another must when we're craving comfort food or entertaining out of town guests! Dino’s (411 Gallatin Avenue |  615-226-3566) “Classic diner food in an original space—divey, but cleaned up. You’ll find all types of local Nashvillians here.”  


For Antiques…

Wonders on Woodland (1110 Woodland Street| 615-226-5300)Owned by dear friends Wayne and Debbie, this is our go-to for all types of finds—from small treasures to larger scores (like antique Henredon!). They’re only open on the weekends, so make sure to plan a visit around that.” Gas Lamp Antiques (100 Powell Place | 615- 297-2224) “With vendors galore, we could spend days sorting through all of their finds! Our favorite? Gas Lamp Too, just down the road, has larger furniture pieces and free chocolate chip cookies!” 8th Avenue Antique Mall (2015 8th Avenue | 615-279-9922) “The perfect shop to get your hands dirty—we find some of our favorite gems and hidden treasures here.”

Pack an extra bag for shopping at H. Audrey. Photo: H. Audrey.

For Clothing…

UAL West End (2918 West End Avenue | 615-340-9999) “Designer finds at up to 80% off—Gucci, Fendi, Yves Saint Laurent—with new shipments arriving daily! The perfect way to score a splurge-worthy piece at a steal.” Jamie (4317 Harding Pike | 615-292-4188) “One of Nashville’s most upscale women’s stores—with big name designers (Chloe and The Row, to name a few), lively trunk shows, and an overall chic atmosphere—it’s where we go when we’re looking for our most coveted pieces.” H. Audrey (4027 Hillsboro Pike| 615-760-5701) A shop by Nashville-local Holly Williams, this womenswear store features the most sought after contemporary designers like Rag & Bone, Current/Elliot, and more—we love stopping in to pick up new favorite denim!” J. Crew Men’s (1201 Villa Place | 615-320- 3721) “Nestled in the hip Edgehill Village (across from favorite Barcelona Wine Bar), this dedicated men’s shop is Benjamin’s ideal Sunday stop.” Hip Zipper (1008 Forest Avenue | 615-228-1942) “Men’s and women’s vintage clothing in East Nashville—it’s our go-to for vintage finds.”

Nashville music lady Holly Williams owns White Mercantile, a modern-day general store. Photo: Austin Gros.

For Misc…

Lemon Laine (1900 Eastland Avenue | 629-702-6940)  “Easily one of Nashville’s best new arrivals of 2017, Lemon Laine is such a treat! From their holistic approach approach to beauty, adorable branding, and knowledgeable  staff—we could spend hours on end in this shop.” White’s Mercantile (2908 12th Avenue S | 615-750-5379) “From Nashville-guru and longtime friend Holly Williams, this modern day general store features everything from cookbooks to Goop’s skincare line—it’s our go to for specialty goods!” Aesop (1200 Villa Pl Suite 402 | 615-540-0700)  “This skincare line is one of our favorites—the scents are wonderful, and the packaging is perfection!”  Woodland Wine Merchant (1001 Woodland Avenue | 615-228-3311 ) “For fun wine and beer, we shop here! And, when we’re in a rush, they offer 6 bottles for $60 and the selection never disappoints.” Harlan Ruby ( 805 Woodland Street | 615-995-0565)  “This mother-daughter dynamic duo in East Nashville has curated the sweetest party shop! From the cutest cards to paper products and everything in between, they nail it. Another unique service? They offer large-scale balloon installations that are such a showstopper (Vroom Vroom Balloon).” Keep Shop (200 4th Avenue N | 615-610-7840) “This shop breaks the mold for hotel “gift shops”. It’s inside one of Nashville’s chicest hotels, Hotel Noelle, this curated collection of goods are made by some of Nashville’s most talented is pure perfection!”

Enjoy the gourmet nachos with cocktails at Bastion. Photo: Andrew Thomas Lee.


The Fox Bar (2905B Gallatin Avenue | 615- 678-6541) “This moody bar is fun for small groups, and the seasonal cocktails are always a hit.” Attaboy (8 Mcferrin Avenue) “This NYC transplant has no menus, and crafts drinks based on your personal preferences—we love it for a fun date night.” Rarebird at Noelle ( 200 4th Avenue | 615-649-5000)  “This newly opened rooftop bar is our favorite in Nashville! We think we’ll be frequenting it.” Bastion (434 Houston Street | 615-490-8434) “For a vibe that is uber cool yet still somehow relaxed, we choose Bastion for cocktails—and the most delicious gourmet nachos are a must.” Wilburn Street Tavern (302 Wilburn Street) | A new local revival from Nashville favorite and Mas Tacos Owner, Teresa Mason, this watering hole is set to be an homage to the neighborhood. 

The couple, dressed to the nines, for Cheekwood’s Swan Ball.
In between music sets, wander through Cheekwood Botanical Garden. Photo: Gen Sohr.
The Frist Center is an educational, interesting, and must-stop museum in Nashville. Photo: Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp.


Frist Center for the Visual Arts (919 Broadway | 615-244-3340) “Originally Nashville’s main post-office in the 1930s, and now listed on the National Register of Historic Places—the accolades are endless for our favorite art museum in the city—right now we’re loving the Nick Cave exhibit. We think we’ll be visiting a second time! P.S. This museum doesn’t have a permanent collection, rather they continually have different exhibits to keep their perspective fresh and relevant.” Elephant Gallery (1411 Buchanan Street | 917-969-9755) “In North Nashville in the Buchanan Arts District, this new space features primarily the works of local and regional artists. Plus, the branding is just cute as can be.” Cheekwood Botanical Garden (1200 Forest Park Drive | 615-356-8000) “Home to our favorite event of the year, The Swan Ball, this botanical garden is simply stunning year round. We recommend packing a picnic lunch and spending the day!”

Matouk luxury linens


Hotel Noelle (200 4th Avenue | 615-649-5000) “One of the cities most exciting new openings, The Noelle enlisted so many wonderful Nashville creatives—from Libby Callaway, Nick Dryden, and many more—to create a bustling hot spot.” Thompson Hotel (401 11th Ave S | 615-262-6000) “Impeccable design, a mixed crowd from locals to tourists, and a rooftop with the most stunning panoramic view—the Thompson is our go to for out-of-towners.” The Hermitage (231 6th Avenue N | 615-244-3121) “Old-school Nashville luxury—5 stars of pure service, oversized rooms, and the most grand amenities. If you’re looking to splurge, we think this is as classic as it gets.” Blackberry Farm (1471 West Millers Cove Road | 865-984-8166) “So we strayed—sure, not Nashville, but a quick drive in the car and you’re nestled in Walland, TN at one of the most outstanding resorts in the U.S.! Foodies, nature-lovers, and design-aficionados all agree that this is one of Tennessee's brightest gems.”

Photos: beall + thomas photography (Blackberry Farm), Gen Sohr (Thompson Hotel and The Hermitage). 

A must-see is Lower Broadway in Nashville for great music and awesome people watching. Photo: Courtesy of Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation.


Lower Broadway “A prime people-watching opportunity—Broadway is legendary, for the good and the bad, and the one bar we’ll visit when downtown is Robert's Western World. It’s intimate, always features live music, and does double duty as a retail shop and restaurant.” Percy Warner Park (50 Vaughn Road) “Benjamin’s ideal Saturday morning is spent on the trails at this well-kept secret.” Ryman Auditorium | One of Nashville's most famous, honored music venues – and home to the Grand Ole opry – features concerts from names big and small, and makes for a perfect intimate evening.  Station Inn | “A Nashville staple situated right in the Gulch, it's old school feel is perfect to get the ultimate Nashville music experience." Hatch Show Print | Since the late 1800's, they've been making hand-printed wood block and letter press posters for all of our favorite musicians. You can still watch posters roll right off the press! We promise—you won't leave without an amazing Hatch Show Print original!

Five Daughters Bakery is perfect for kids and kids at heart. Photos: Five Daughters Bakery.
Pay a visit to Arcade Shop - a sweet children's store. Photo: Gen Sohr.


Five Daughters Bakery (1110 Caruthers Avenue | 615-490-6554) “A 100 layer donut—not to be missed. We recommend making this your first, and last, stop on your visit.” Hey Rooster (1711 21st Avenue S)  “This small, but darling, gift shop features small finds perfect to take home from your travels.” Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream ( Multiple Locations) “An Ohio crowd pleaser, this where we go on rainy days, sunny days, all the days! We’ll take a scoop of the Salty Peanut Butter with Chocolate Flakes.” Arcade Shop (2106-B Acklen Avenue | 615-928-7660) “The most adorable kids shop nestled away in Hillsboro Village—from toys to games to clothes, if you’d like to outfit your kids in precious, fun, pieces—we recommend paying a visit!” The Sweet Bean (924 McFerrin Avenue |  615-873-0143) “A stone’s throw away from Mas Tacos, this shop offers kids (and adults) the opportunity to spin their own cotton candy.”

Gen meandering through the great spots in East Nashville. Photo: Benjamin Sohr.


“Benjamin makes his famous eggs nearly every Saturday morning. Then, we hop in the car and head to Barista Parlorfor a much needed caffeine run and start thrifting at any of our favorites—from Gas Lamp to 8th Avenue or Wonders on Woodland. If it’s a nice day, we head to Cheekwood Botanical Garden to enjoy lunch by the pond. Otherwise, we pay a visit to Mas Tacos in East Nashville. The afternoon calls for a walk down 12 South—White’s Mercantile , Emerson Grace, and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream—all must-visits. We’ll have dinner at Rolf & Daughters. After dinner, we head to enjoy live music at Station Inn or Robert's Western World.”