Passing the Baton in Five Points
Matt Charette sells restaurant empire to longtime lieutenant Josef Gutzmirtl
Share this story!
There’s a new owner at the helm of Five Points mainstays Beyond The Edge, Drifters, and Boston Commons, which may come as bittersweet news for longtime lovers of those bars and restaurants. This is especially so since Matt Charette — the founder of all three restaurants and a Five Points pathfinder — will be leaving for new adventures.
But he didn’t need to look far in choosing his successor, longtime director of operations Josef Gutzmirtl. The other side of the bittersweet is Gutzmirtl’s 17-year tenure with Charette, which bodes well for the transition.
Charette still owns the property on which Boston Commons and Drifters sit, but as of January 26, Gutzmirtl owns the businesses. The decision to sell them to someone with a deep history and personal connection was purposeful.
The handoff has been in the works for more than three years, but the combination of a devastating tornado in 2020 that badly damaged the properties, immediately followed by the COVID-19 pandemic, slowed everything down.
“You know, owning this property in the heart of Five Points, I get a lot of offers,” Charette says. “And yeah, some offers might have been better, but I really wanted Josef to have (the restaurants), and I wanted our staff to still be able to come to work and enjoy serving our neighborhood. I wanted our community to still be able to come and enjoy what they do there. I hope people will come out and support Josef, now and into the future.
“Obviously, this is my community,” Charette adds. “This is where I live. And obviously, Josef has been with me for many, many years. I want to see him and our staff continue to succeed, and I want to see our community continue to flourish. I have an interest in it all being amazing! It’s not like I’m just walking away — I don’t think that’s in my personality anyway.”
Indeed, Charette’s restaurant empire has been part and parcel of East Nashville’s growth and development since 2003, when he opened Beyond The Edge as a neighborhood sports bar.
“I'd been a customer here from almost Day One at Beyond The Edge,” Gutzmirtl says. “I moved to East Nashville in 2003, and this was one of the only places over here. … Matt was the bartender, the cook, the server, the manager — he was the only employee at the time. And I got to know him by coming in and having a few beers in the afternoon.”
Gutzmirtl started managing Beyond The Edge in October 2005, just a few months before what was then Batter’d & Fried (now Boston Commons) opened on Woodland Street. Sushi restaurant Watanabe followed in 2007. “I think it was a little ahead of its time for the location,” Gutzmirtl says of the Inglewood restaurant, which sat at the corner of McGavock Pike and Riverside Drive for six years. “And then Drifters came along and is going on almost 10 years now. We had a little hiccup there when a little thing called a tornado came through here, but it’s been a wonderful 17 years, and I’m looking forward to the future of what’s to come here.”
As for what that future will look like? Don’t expect too many significant changes any time soon. Gutzmirtl doesn’t want to “fix” what isn’t broken.
“I think that is a question I’m going to get a lot,” he muses. “ ‘What are you initially going to do now that you’re the new owner?’ I’m going to go to work every day, and I’m gonna make sure these places are doing a great job with the high quality of service, the quality of food and presentation, and the cleanliness, and making sure the atmosphere continues to just kill it.
“The tornado — and being smacked with a pandemic at the same time — really killed a lot of that momentum. But we are seeing a major uptick in the neighborhood, and people are finding us. People are telling their friends. So as far as (post-tornado) repair and maintenance, we are definitely moved on from that, but we are still building our clientele base as we just continue to try to get the word out that hey, we’re back, we’re here, East Nashville is back, Five Points is back, come on over and see us!”
Although Charette is happy to leave the businesses in capable and experienced hands, it’s back to the bittersweet part, and he tears up for a moment when reflecting on his legacy.
“I appreciate this community and all the love and support,” he says. “Not just when the tornado destroyed our businesses, but years and years of hard work and love and sweat and tears — the whole 20 years. I’m so thankful for East Nashville and Nashville and all the folks who have supported us through the years. It’s just amazing, you know? I’ll probably miss that the most. It’s my honor and privilege to have been a part of it.”