“For a lot of our regulars, we start making their drink when they walk in the door,” Edgefield Sports Bar & Grill manager Patience Schwering says. “It’s like Brian — Four Roses, two ice cubes in it. Dean wants Yazoo Dos Perros — in the summer he likes a lime with it and in the winter he doesn’t like a lime.”
Schwering is sitting at a table by Edgefield’s long and amply stocked bar with owner Charlie “Buzz” Edens and his significant other — both personally and in business — Patty Singer. On a Thursday morning, a few hours before Edgefield opens, the trio chats about the history of one of East Nashville’s favorite neighborhood watering holes.
For over two decades, Edgefield has been greeting regulars with their favorite libations, serving up burgers from their well-seasoned grill, and playing host to a constant parade of old friends, local politicians, musicians, celebrities, and curious visitors to the Music City. First opening in February 1995, Edgefield was the fulfillment of a dream for Edens.
“I’ve lived in East Nashville all my life and went to East High School,” Edens says. “So this was my area. I wanted to open something that was a little better than just a beer tavern.”
After securing a lease on a former bank processing center building, Edens began remaking the over 5,000-foot space into a massive, but ultimately welcoming neighborhood hangout.
“The building hadn’t been anything in years, so it was a total wreck,” he says. “But it was available, it was large, and it was cheap at the time. I had a business partner at the start, and we invested a couple hundred thousand dollars to just open the doors — and that was almost 25 years ago. When we opened, there was us and the Corner Tavern, which is now 3 Crow Bar. That was it in this area.”
‘LEARN FAST OR YOU’RE GONE’
Although some Nashvillians regarded East Nashville as “no man’s land” in the mid-1990s, it was home to a thriving middle-class population, and was attracting a growing number of urban pioneers who were purchasing old, historic, and very affordable homes for renovation. In that atmosphere, many locals eagerly welcomed the arrival of a source for cold beer and great burgers. “Despite my experience in the bar business, I did not know what I was tackling when I opened Edgefield,” Edens says. “But you have to learn fast or you’re gone.”
That education received a significant boost with the arrival of bar manager and now “boss,” Patty Singer.
“I had worked for corporate chain bars and been a trainer, so he was lucky to get me,” Singer says with a smile, as Edens laughs and nods in agreement. “I came in about six months after the place opened, and I had to teach Buzz how to do a lot of stuff. I came in one day to work and they had not stocked the bar from the night before. I wasn’t going for that. Another time I came in the morning and there’s two people still sitting at the bar from the night before!” “That was probably me,” Edens says.
“No, you were in the office asleep,” Singer replies, while Edens and Schwering enjoy a laugh.
THE NEXT EDGEFIELD GENERATION
Although Edens and Singer still oversee all aspects of Edgefield, they’re now happy to turn over the nightly operations to a younger generation of workers, led by the recently promoted Schwering. Although Edgefield has run through a “greatest hits” of bar attractions over the last two decades — live bands, karaoke, trivia, dart leagues, and more — the good drinks and tasty cheeseburgers (named “Nashville’s Best” multiple times by various outlets, and once enjoyed by the late Anthony Bourdain), along with the welcoming vibe for both regulars and the occasional wandering group of tourists, have remained constants.
“I’ve gotten to meet so many different types of people,” Schwering says, “young people and old people and everything in between. I’ve watched them all over the years. I’ve seen people come in here, meet each other and end up getting married. Now they come in and show me pictures of their baby. I might not have ever met them if it wasn’t for this place.”
“Over the time that we’ve been here, we’ve kept it a nice place,” Edens says. “You don’t come in here thinking, ‘Well, is there going to be a fight?’ You don’t come in here wondering if it’s going to be a lot of rude people. It’s just a local, friendly neighborhood bar that’s been here a long, long time.”