Local Focus: CJ's Off The Square + The Showroom

October 26, 2015

I always love the opportunity to share Nashville's hidden gems, but creating a collaboration between a historic oasis and a high-end rental boutique elevates the concept of a Local Focus to a completely different level. John and I took a sunny afternoon to photograph one of our largest shoots to date. I'm still dreaming of this day. Take a peek inside CJ's Off The Square with wardrobe and accessories provided by The Showroom Nashville.

CJ's Off The Square is absolutely breathtaking. Filled with love from years of special evenings, this elegant southern home was built in 1911 and is nestled in the historic square in downtown Franklin, Tennessee. This charming abode hides a delightful little secret. Behind the house is an enormous white-washed pavilion and a lush garden complete with gazebo, koi pond, and tree-lined winding walkways. Enjoy a Q&A with owner CJ Dickson below.

The Showroom Nashville is the lovechild of my favorite design sisters. Ani & Ari found a special bond with veteran stylist Kristin and together they founded the brand new high-end rental boutique on 8th Avenue. Floor-length gowns and avant-garde cocktail couture line this beautiful boutique with their design studio in the back. It's any girl's dream come true, and every single item is the store is available for rent. Enjoy a Q&A about this new addition to Nashville's fashion community below.

John Branam Photography

CJ's Off The Square

CA: Tell me about CJ's Off The Square.

CJ: When I got engaged in the summer of 2003, I found it incredibly difficult to plan a wedding on my own. I had a demanding career, and both my family and my now husband’s family lived out of state. I had plenty of ideas for how I wanted things to look and feel, but a really hard time finding vendors and a venue to match my vision. It was also a very difficult time for me personally. Not only was I planning a wedding, but I was preparing for marriage…preparing to align my mind, body and spirit with another human being. Forever. Big stuff! Additionally, my sister and my husband’s mother were both battling what would turn out to be terminal cancer. There was a lot of very real stuff happening in our lives, and I just wanted to be able to focus on something positive, beautiful and fun – like a wedding! So, it was through that lens that I starting to think of how the entire wedding planning process could be better. Easier. More fun. Less drama. And the idea of an all-inclusive venue, and what would soon be called CJ’s Off the Square started to take shape.  

CA: Why did you choose Franklin, Tennessee as the location?  What do you love most about this specific property?

CJ: For the setting I had in mind, I wanted something with a warm, cozy feel and lots of vintage details. I also loved the idea of being located in a small town, but close to the city. Historic downtown Franklin perfectly fit the bill, so when this property became available...I pounced!

CA: What is your hope for the success of CJ's Off The Square?

CJ: Being a part one of the best days in a client’s life is an tremendous blessing and something that we don’t take for granted. I hope that CJ’s Off the Square will continue to play such a positive role in the lives of our clients as well as in our community.  

CA: What has been your favorite part of being located in Nashville?

CJ: I would say that music is what drew me to this city, but the natural beauty of Tennessee is a huge part of why I have loved living here. Nashville as a community is also really supportive of artists, musicians and entrepreneurs which has made it an excellent place to start and grow my business.

CA: Any exciting upcoming plans for your space?

CJ: We just completed an interior remodel of the first floor of the historic home this spring which was a big undertaking, but totally worth it. Over the winter, we plan to give our ladies dressing room (the bridal suite) a sexy vintage-boudoir inspired update.  All of us here at the office are really looking forward to that, and we know our brides are going to LOVE it. We are also working on a completely new menu for our event catering that is more focused on fresh, local ingredients. One of the best parts of developing a new menu is tasting everything…I can’t wait!

The Showroom Nashville

CA: Tell me about the transformation into The Showroom Nashville.

A&A: It’s actually been almost a year since we decided to open the showroom! We had been running ani&ari ourselves for the last 4 years and through a client, we met Kristin. She is a veteran stylist from Los Angeles and has worked in fashion and retail her whole life. She had always wanted to open a store in Nashville, and it was the perfect fit. Both having worked with a variety of artist and stylists, we understood the need for a high end rental boutique in Nashville. So one night over multiple titos + sodas, we decided to team up and bring the showroom to life. 

CA: Why did you decide to transition from the Edgehill boutique to this new business style and location?

A&A: Leaving Edgehill was bitter sweet. We loved that space, but with all the development and changes going on, we really didn’t see a future there. It was such a great space for us when we started ani&ari, but moving forward, we needed something bigger. We found that on 8th Avenue. It also allowed us to build out our own custom sewing studio in the back so people weren’t forced to stare at our mess all the time.

CA: What is your hope for the success of The Showroom Nashville?

A&A: We are beyond thrilled with the feedback that we’ve gotten so far considering we’ve done zero advertising or marketing. We honestly just want to be a resource for everyone from designers to stylists to college girls.

CA: What has been your favorite part of being located in Nashville?

A&A: Nashville is the most welcoming city for opening a business. I think the best part is that there is a little bit of everything going on all the time. We get to see high school girls looking for dresses for homecoming and major celebrities searching for red carpet dresses and music video attire. Events in Nashville are not limited to one time of year, and that alone will keep us alive.