Columbia, Tennessee, sits less than an hour south of Nashville but feels worlds away from the chaos of Broadway. Centered around the historic courthouse, Columbia’s downtown seems straight out of a Hallmark movie with art galleries, boutiques, and restaurants.
This charm is one of many things that attracted Mike Wolfe of American Pickers, now in its twenty-third season. The Iowa native has traveled the country’s small towns for the last decade in search of treasures, both objects like vintage signs and stories from locals.
Wolfe opened the second location of his store, Antique Archaeology, in Nashville’s Marathon Village in 2011 and has lived in nearby Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee, for the past few years. When he’s not filming, he enjoys riding his motorcycle down the backroads through the communities around the state. That’s how he decided to open Two Lanes Guesthouse, an 1857 building turned rental in Columbia, decked out in “picked” decor.
“We spent the money and did a mind-blowing Airbnb because of the views and the history. I wanted a place that was completely unique to the experience, like what people were going to experience in Columbia, and I wanted it to be right downtown,” Wolfe says. “We’re forty minutes out of Music City, so I wanted some old instruments in there, old microphones. We’re above a bicycle shop, so there’s turn-of-the-century bicycles in there. I wanted a really good vinyl selection, and I just so happen to have a record store. When you look out the front window, you can see it.”
Here are a few more of Wolfe’s favorite spots in Columbia:
History Around Every Corner
Columbia boasts one of Tennessee’s first designated Main Street communities and has taken great strides to protect these historic spaces. “It’s a very walkable city,” Wolfe says. “We have the Arts District. We have West 6th Street, West 7th Street, those historic districts. We have President Polk’s house.” (The home was where the future Commander in Chief lived following his graduation from university and later where he’d begin his political career.)
The eleventh president’s home also serves as a venue for Bloodies and Biscuits, a bluegrass and brunch event that’s part of the annual Mule Days festival, which started as a livestock show in the 1800s. Bands play in the courtyard as guests chow down on biscuits and Bloody Marys.
Although it’s small, Columbia’s downtown scene is hopping. “On the square, for example, on our town square, we have a bicycle shop. We have a bookstore. We have a music venue that’s a restaurant. We have a record store. We have a coffee house. We have a family-owned health food store that’s been there for thirty years,” says Wolfe of the downtown shopping scene. “There’s a great place called Bleu 32. I guess you’d call it an antique mall, but there’s charcuterie boards served upstairs there. How many antique malls do that? You can walk into Ted’s Sporting Goods store… You think you’re back in 1940. It’s still family-owned.”
Columbia also has a growing music scene and is home to a handful of venues including Puckett’s Grocery and Homestead Hall, opened by the country singer Rory Feek on his farm in honor of his late wife.
“Another thing that was just created in Columbia in the last probably two years is The Mulehouse, which is a really next-level music venue [set in a historic church],” Wolfe says. “They have a cocktail lounge that’s open on the weekends below them that’s really nice.”
Variety of Flavors
“The Thai restaurant has a rooftop deck connected to a bourbon bar, [Vanh Dy’s Restaurant & Lounge]. There’s a little place [called River Terrace] that’s been there forever along the Duck River. It’s part log cabin.”
“We have Asgard Brewery, which is along the Duck River. We have Buck and Board, which has charcuterie and wine… We have Taps Off Main, which serves fifty beers. Briarworks is a really interesting place.” Briarworks is one of the only American-made tobacco pipe-making factories, with a lounge space up front with beer, cigars, and darts for anyone who plans to stay awhile.