How one Tennessee native left for bigger dreams and then came back to start a movement
by Rocky Vy | photo courtesy D’Andrews Bakery
Almost 30% of new businesses close up shop within their first year, according to the Small Business Administration. For new restaurants, the failure rate can be even higher.
For D’Andrews Bakery and Cafe – located in bustling downtown Nashville near the public library – the hard part may be over. As of August 2019, the charming bakery had been open for over one year, and they are still experiencing growth of sales and clientele.
A welcomed edition downtown
Its owner, Nashville native David Andrews, attributes his success to many things, although one reason, in particular, is quite clear: the location.
“There’s nothing like us here in downtown,” he reflects, as we sit inside the clean and crisp decor of the bakery, which – as I am noticing now at this point – offers a stark contrast to the hard and muted palette right outside their windows.
The bakery and cafe serve unique confections, sandwiches, salads and coffee, along with other seasonal items like pizza and soup. But their really notable products? Custom cakes, catering and decorated macarons.
On top of all that, Andrews and his team continually promote the fact that all their food items are made in-house, something you don’t necessarily find in downtown Nashville.
“I wanted to update the classic bakery here in this city and offer something that you might find in New York…something fresh and delicious.”
Andrews often references New York in our conversation because that’s where his culinary training and education happened. He attended the Institute of Culinary Education (the sweeter ICE, I joked), and worked for various restaurants, including Michelin-starred Gotham Bar & Grill and the Kimberly Hotel located in Midtown.
It’s in the DNA
But despite the glory and excitement the New York food scene may have given him, Andrews was still itching to head home for his next chapter.
Maybe being an entrepreneur was always in his blood. Before his culinary goals were realized, Andrews was working for his family, in a clothing retail business that is now no longer in business. In fact, it was a women’s swimwear buying trip in Los Angeles where the sweet spark first hit him.
In 2001, Andrews and his family ate at Spago in Beverly Hills, the celebrated chef Wolfgang Puck’s first restaurant venture. There, he had a dessert that delighted his senses — a medley of tiny sweets that were all cooked and presented differently.
That moment stuck with him, as the family business shut down and Andrews then decided to head to New York for culinary school. He figured he’d get his training and expertise within the food capital of the world, and then head home to restart a new business venture. Along the way, he met his now-husband and business partner, Matt Paco.
“Matt, fortunately, supported my goal of moving back to my hometown ever since the beginning. I don’t think I’d be where I am now without his help.”
Paco — who was working in media production at places like MTV — and Andrews are a kind of personification of “opposites attract.” Even in business, the common piece of advice is to find a business partner who complements your talents and personality.
Andrews is a self-attributed introvert, and though he makes his local media appearances on shows like News Channel 5, most of the outward marketing efforts are helmed by Paco.
A New York state of mind
Paco also helps to run the front of the house, which couldn’t be a better fit seeing how he’s extroverted and relationship-centric. He knows almost every customer that frequents their bakery, and they know him, too. His “New York state of mind” helps drive a lot of his infectious energy, which is a welcome feature in downtown Nashville. The area seems to now be waking up to the flurry of new businesses and residents.
It is Paco’s adventurous spirit that helped him transition to Nashville. It was a new journey, a new challenge, a new opportunity.
“Because I’m such a New Yorker,” says Paco, “people were surprised when I agreed to leave New York City for Nashville, but I love it when people go after their dreams. It’s David’s dream to open his own bakery in his hometown, and I didn’t want to be an obstacle to him achieving that.”
He continues, “Now, it’s wonderful to see his dream come true.”
Moving to Nashville may not have been the most tumultuous part of this new business journey however – it’s the startup. Andrews knew the business climate was not in his favor, but he also knew that big risks can come with big rewards.
Flourishing in a Food Renaissance
Timing, however, may have also played a big role in the bakery’s initial success. Nashville is in the middle of a food renaissance, though a lot of the movement may be helmed by big restaurant groups with a lot of capital. Residents are more willing to try out newer, smaller places and, dare I say, something with more Instagram appeal. D’Andrews Bakery & Cafe has a lot of that, even if Andrews never intended for that in the first place.
There are other factors at play, too, that have supported Andrews’ vision for his bakery. He notes the city’s leadership in helping to bring in big businesses that not only looks to employ local residents but also provide more walk-in traffic for downtown businesses.
Andrews also credits a lot of his success to his family, who have been integral parts of building and operating the bakery. He also mentions that many local government officials come by for a drink or pastry, too. In fact, U.S. Representative Jim Cooper’s office is just a block away.
Andrews and Paco are also members of the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce and mentions that some of the members are frequent customers to the business, and have offered great referrals to the bakery.
But, even with support, the truth remains that you have to be tethered to your fledgling business. “This is a 24/7 job,” he says to me. “But the rewards are great, and the work is worth it. I would recommend to anyone to wants to start a business to just do it.”