My last trip before the pandemic was to Nashville, where I expected to find memorable food and even more memorable music, all of which easily came my way. But I also discovered local businesses that moved me with their missions of empowering disadvantaged employees or helping others through their sales.
Maybe it’s the longtime collaborative vibe that exists between the city’s songwriters and musicians, but whatever it is that’s spawned this welcome trend, a generous feeling was in the city’s air.
While there still may be time to order holiday presents (some offer expedited shipping), keep these companies on your list for year-round gifts — or a feel-good way to shop for yourself and also support their efforts.
Affordable leather goods, casual clothing and delicate jewelry whose proceeds help women break the cycle of poverty.
The Able store is located in The Nations, an emerging, industrial Nashville neighborhood. The sleek modern shop has a well-edited selection merchandise, all with a similar aesthetic. An immediate fan, I soon learned the heartfelt story behind Able, which made me appreciate their offerings all the more.
Able employs women who want to change the course of their lives. Once employed, they’re taught a trade (many have become skilled jewelry artisans), improving their financial situations and their self-esteem. The company’s other ongoing mission is to pay fair living wages to their Nashville employees and worldwide makers, going against the exploitive norms of the fashion industry.
Gold filled or silver wires gently curve through the ear, making a simple standout statement. Lightweight and comfortable, they offer a nice alternative for those (like me) who don’t like heavy earrings. ($44)
This tote is a fine example of Able’s leather expertise. Big enough for a weekend’s worth of stuff, it has special features like a removable crossbody strap, zip pockets inside and out, and a nicely lined interior. ($298)
Anne Raw Edge Tank
The perfect not-too-tight and not-too-loose satin tank in basic black or forest green. Wear it in the winter as a layer and on its own when it's warm. The raw edge detail gives it that special something. ($78)
With a buckle and a strap, here’s an altogether different take on a Chelsea boot. Able calls it “the modern women’s work boot,” combining style with structure. ($178)
Soy candles, body products, home goods, and more that help survivors of trafficking and prostitution find life-changing work.
Their shop is also located in The Nations — and has a spirit you feel as soon as you walk through the door. The women who work here are welcoming, the fragrances are intoxicating, and the product mix is immediately appealing.
Becca Stevens started Thistle Farms as a sanctuary for women like herself who had experienced childhood sexual abuse, leading many to lives of drugs and prostitution. To fund safe living spaces for themselves, they made candles in a church basement. And sales took off.
Today, almost 20 years later, Thistle Farms is a thriving business selling a hard-to-resist array of signature soy candles and so much more. With product sales helping to finance housing and financial independence for their women employees, they call their offerings “products with a purpose.”
Three Trees Candle
Combining the essences of spruce, cedar and fir, the Three Trees Candle also has a touch of lavender. You’ll get 35 hours of winter wonderland, taking you straight through to spring. ($32)
While airline travel may or may not be on your immediate agenda, get ready to fly with this TSA-approved kit that includes lip balm, body lotion, shave gel, and body wash in a handy linen bag. ($25)
Blue Striped Kitchen Towel
It can be surprisingly difficult to find the perfect kitchen towel, and this one has it all. It’s handwoven and generously sized for all manner of kitchen tasks. Order a stack and be ready for anything. ($14)
Eucalyptus Mint Moringa Muscle Bath Soak
This bath soak packs a powerful, therapeutic punch from the moment you open the jar. The bath salts are mixed with herbs you can see, helping you soak your way to happiness. ($12)
Nashville’s hometown cookies contribute to the city’s esteemed institutions.
After shopping around Germantown (another up-and-coming Nashville neighborhood), I wandered into Christie Cookies to sample their famous chocolate chip. It was right up there with the best. Among the rotating cookie varieties are peanut butter, triple chocolate brownie, and Southern butter pecan. A milk machine stands nearby.
Each batch is hand-measured at the Germantown headquarters with premium ingredients that include real butter, Madagascar bourbon vanilla, chocolate chips made from sustainably farmed cocoa beans, and California raisins.
A wide selection is available for shipping — and if you order from the For a Cause section of their website, you’ll be sending something good while doing something good.
The Nutcracker Gift Tin
Sales of this pretty tin help support Nashville Ballet, beloved for their performance of the Nashville Nutcracker. The 18-cookie assortment includes three classics: chocolate chip, white chocolate macadamia nut, and oatmeal raisin. ($40.99)
Make-A-Wish Gift Tin
The same three classic flavors go into this special tin that helps realize the dreams of children with critical illnesses as a portion of the sale goes directly to Make-A-Wish Middle Tennessee. ($43.49)
Perfect Pair Gift Tin
While shopping to help others is satisfying, after the year we’ve had, we also need to help ourselves. Treat yourself to 18 classic Christie cookies — chocolate chip, white chocolate macadamia nut, and oatmeal raisin — plus six incredible triple chocolate brownies. You earned it. ($59.49)