A Day in Bell Buckle, Tennessee

After our eclipse chasing in Arkansas, we headed back to Tennessee. I’m fortunate that Mike has dear friends who have become family through the years that live there. We always stay with them. It was my third trek there to visit and we know how much I love any chance to be in the south. I have recaps to come on Memphis but in the meantime, another town got my heart while away. 

Mabel and I took a girl’s day trip to Chattanooga to check out the Tennessee Aquarium. We went through a town called Bell Buckle on our way and I was instantly intrigued. The name is just what you’d expect in Tennessee and its main drag had adorable window fronts, antiques, and cafes. Since we were driving a lot that week, the thought of a day more local to our home base (Murfreesboro), sounded like a plan. 

We returned the next day. It was rainy but set the mood perfectly. Before we parked I took my time driving some random roads. Many of the homes, perched in the center of a huge stretch of land, were fun and colorful. I loved how artistically forward Bell Buckle was already seeming as front yards had murals, statues, and just odds and ends. 

Signs around promoted quilts, arts, and crafts, and the Moon Pie Festival that happens every June. Despite a population of around four hundred and twenty, the locals clearly have an artistic flare which shows in this welcoming community. 

An Afternoon in Bell Buckle

We parked at Railroad Square, the “hub” of Bell Buckle’s activity and where the locals go. It seemed fitting to begin at the Welcome Corner, an adorable boutique of nic-nacs. In the back is the good-sized Bell Buckle Coffee Shop and Book Swap. Mabel and I spent a good amount of time here. The baubles we admired in the Welcome Corner kept us busy for quite a while. Especially since they have a plethora of tees in their shirt cubbies with slogans like “Bell Buckle is my Stars Hollow” and “Easily Distracted by Goats.”

When we made our way to the coffee house, I truly felt like I was in Stars Hollow (of Gilmore Girls pop culture). A green couch sits in the center with a TV of cartoons playing. It looked just like a movie night Kirk would be hosting that Lorelai and Luke would be at. I got to speak with the shop owner’s daughter; she and her mom are avid Gilmore Girls and Friends fans. Thus, visitors will get a kick out of this nook should they also be fans of either series. 

The menu has coffee, espresso drinks, tea, pastries, and lunch items. I appreciated the barista who asked me if the coffee-to-milk “shade” was right for me. Speaking of coffee, I didn’t get to inquire, but it was for sale by the pound under the shop’s name. I’m wondering if Bell Buckle roasts their own coffee beans, maybe? The walls are filled with shelves of books to read and swap or be like Mabel and enjoy some Tom and Jerry while eating a muffin. 

The main drag of Bell Buckle. (c) Mary Farah

Music, Antiques and Moon Pies

Just across the street from the back-end entrance to the coffee shop is Sweet Strings Music. When we walked in, I couldn’t help but think of Negri’s Music Shop in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. They sell instruments, records, gifts, and even candy in barrels. The walls are adorned with artwork by Tennessee artist, Laurie Giesen.

My favorite element in Sweet Strings is the guitar on top of the door that acts as a doorbell. When we opened the door, it literally played! The store ties into Bell Buckle’s rich love of music. Bell Buckle Records has been producing music in town since 1997 and the annual summer concert series draws crowds. 

Next up we continued down Railroad Square. Bell Buckle and its neighbor town, Wartrace, are known as antique havens so of course we wanted to check that out. A handful of stores are filled to the brim with an eclectic blend of vintage memorabilia, toys, kitchenware, comic books, you name it. Each time Mabel screamed “Toys?!” I told her more would be ahead. 

Since Bell Buckle shares the spotlight with Chattanooga as the founding city of Moon Pies, we saw quite a few. Although they aren’t gluten-free, I couldn’t resist buying a few just because. Each year the state famous RC Cola and Moon Pie Festival takes place right in Bell Buckle. They’ also have one of the state’s biggest craft fairs each year. 

Learn more about this little town that captivated me HERE.