As COVID-19 made its presence known in Nashville in March, foot traffic at D’Andrews Bakery and Café began to dwindle. The steady stream of early morning customers in search of a caffeine boost and a farm-fresh egg and bacon sandwich had slowed to a trickle. The faithful lunchtime patrons who queued up for a chicken avocado sandwich and a slice of homemade carrot cake were no more.
Offices and retail businesses all across Nashville, and the country, were closing up shop, and D’Andrews’ chef/owner David Andrews saw the writing on the wall.
“Downtown Nashville was turning into a ghost town,” he said. “I live downtown with my husband, Matt, and it was very sad to see.”
He made the difficult decision to close the café just shy of its second anniversary.
“It was devastating to lock the doors and go dark,” Andrews said, “but we had to think about the safety and wellbeing of our staff. We also needed to preserve cash so we could survive to live another day.”
Not long after shuttering the café he received an email from a loyal customer checking in to see how he was holding up—and offering to help him navigate the application for a federal PPP business loan. That customer happened to be a staff member in Rep. Jim Cooper’s office.
“Jim Cooper’s office is right next door to the café and he and his staff come in all the time,” Andrews said. “I gave them my information and a week later the money was in the bank. I really appreciate that they took the time to reach out and offer support. I’ll always remember that. And I have to give a shout out to both Democrats and Republicans for getting that bill pushed through. It was a Herculean task, but it was the right thing to do.”
Andrews re-opened at partial capacity about two months later, in May. The first order of business was training staff on the new safety protocols, like wearing face masks, wiping down surfaces and social distancing.
“Wearing a face mask was something different for us, especially when you’re working over a hot stove,” Andrews said. “But we got used to it and now it has become second nature.”
He arranged for delivery service via Uber Eats, and curbside pickup was set up at the roundabout in front of the store. And to make social distanced gatherings more fun, Andrews added picnic boxes and pastry boxes to the menu. They can be ordered ahead for pickup or delivery on the weekends.
“The picnic and pastry boxes have been popular,” he said. “You can fill them with croissants, pain au chocolat, fruit tarts—all the French classics. And we have some home-grown favorites as well, like our pimento grilled cheese on homemade focaccia bread, and a Jack Daniel’s honey brownie.”
Andrews has a particular stake in keeping his locally-owned business afloat. The Nashville native flexed his culinary skills in New York City for more than a decade. But what he really wanted was to open a bakery in his hometown. A few years ago he decided it was time to come home.
“I started looking at the landscape of bakeries in Nashville, and saw the opportunity to bring something a bit more upscale in the pastry department, that also provided breakfast and lunch sandwiches and to-go coffee,” he said. “I thought it was a great concept, and I was fortunate to find an incredible location downtown with beautiful windows looking out over a church.”
So far, the pandemic has provided his greatest challenge to date. But there have been positives as well. Quarantining with husband Matt, who is a video producer, has provided a much-needed respite and time of connection.
“Not to diminish the difficulties of a global pandemic, but I found the two months quarantining together quite lovely in terms of spending quality time,” Andrews said. “It was nice to be able to make dinner or get takeout, and just watch a movie. It was just nice to reconnect and to know that there is nothing you can do except stay home and be safe.”
The couple also have gotten lots of quality time with their 11-year-old French bulldog, Miss Dixie, who has made regular appearances at the café. They had planned to adopt a baby sister for Miss Dixie — a cuddly new French bulldog puppy—but once again, the pandemic had other plans.
“The puppy was born in Canada in March, but the border closed and we were unable to travel there,” Andrews said. “We don’t know when we will get her, so we will have to be patient. I guess it’s like everything else right now. You just have to roll with it.”