Fort Louise in East Nashville
Marrying her love of all things lifestyle, Jessica Bower is upping the game for food and style Inglewood.
Written By: Nancy Vienneau
Photographers: Nathan Zucker
Food, fashion, art, and culture: For lifestyle expert Jessica Bower, there’s a beautiful thread connecting them all. And she is bringing those connections to the Inglewood community two-fold. Last fall, she introduced fashion lines and accessories new to the Nashville market at her chic boutique, Steluta. And, this summer, she’s expanding her brand to Fort Louise, a chef-driven, neighborhood-focused eatery.
How the Alabama native landed in Inglewood is a globe-trekking tale with stops in Pittsburgh; Bologna, Italy; Paris, France; the French Riviera; and Charleston, South Carolina. But a seed was planted when she was still a child.
“Growing up in Florence, which is only two hours away, we always regarded Nashville as ‘the big city,’” Bower recalls. “I loved it when we’d pile in the car and drive up for a visit.”
These family trips instilled her with a sense that Nashville would some day have a place for her. “It was something I always knew,” she says. “It was a matter of the universe showing me when.” Years passed before that “when” moment presented itself. Bower’s progression of studies, travels, and internships laid the groundwork for her Nashville debut.
Bower attended Carnegie Mellon’s College of Fine Arts, majoring in Arts and Cultural Management, which she continued on the graduate level at the University of Bologna in order to learn the business side of the arts. Learning how to educate, promote, collaborate, fundraise, and sustain gave her the needed acumen for her enterprises.
She worked as an editorial assistant for an arts magazine in Paris. She plunged into a French language-immersion program, and she took intensive classes at a pastry school in the south of France. She moved to Charleston, where she taught arts management at the College of Charleston. But she also learned the art of hospitality at the city’s renowned restaurant, F.I.G., where she landed a front-of-the-house gig.
In 2015, she returned home to Alabama to help run a family business. It was then that she had a sense that the timing was right for her own business in Nashville, and Inglewood had an edginess and openness that appealed to her. While readying her fashion boutique, Steluta, she met her future business partner, Greg Biggers. It was serendipity: The respected Chicago chef also hails from Florence, Alabama. The two immediately clicked, as they shared ideas about food and hospitality—unfussy, creative, welcoming.
The concept for their restaurant is to offer American comfort cuisine in a neighborhood setting. Bower found the right spot in the former site of Perk and Cork.
“We want Fort Louise to feel like a cozy dinner party,” she says. “A fun place that works for families as well as date night.”
And the name? It combines Bower’s notion of sanctuary—she calls her home Fort Bower—with an homage to Bigger’s mom, Louise.
The house has been undergoing renovation to express Bower’s vision of that artful, hospitable fort, with an emphasis on a convivial al fresco-dining patio in the back. “I feel like I’ve been building my sense of style for years,” she says. “I’ve been lucky to live in many metropolitan areas, where I could absorb these rich experiences. And I’m excited to be able to share all the good things I’ve come to love.”
1304 McGavock Pk, 615-730-6273; hungrylikeafort.com