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Spread Market & Larder: Embracing the Good Life, Chad & Alex Kelly Share Their Favorites

Jul 30, 2023

The white clapboard house, a vintage 1920s bungalow with a perennial herb- and flower-terraced walkway, beckons you to the front door; step inside and you are welcomed into a world of beautiful foods and beverages. Purveying natural wines, freshly baked sourdough loaves, tinned fish, cured meats and cheeses, and specialty pantry items, Chad and Alex Kelly’s Spread Market & Larder is a feast for the senses. The husband-and-wife duo opened this Germantown gem a year ago, inspired by their time living in the historic community.

“When we lived in Werthan [Mills] Lofts, we would often walk the neighborhood,” Alex recalled. “We’d lament the closure of Lazzaroli Pasta and would say things like, ‘I wish we had a little place to get a bottle of wine, a baguette or a few grocery items.’”

“We started a mental list of things we’d like this shop to have,” said Chad. “‘Wouldn’t it be nice to have a place to grab a bottle of water and a cookie?’ We’d say. The list grew!”

“Our concept was born of selfish reasons,” Alex said with a laugh. “We are our own best customers!” The concept, too, is born of their collective talents. Chad is an accomplished chef whose delectable fare you may have enjoyed during his tenure as chef de cuisine for cocktail bar and restaurant Black Rabbit. As a writer with a keen eye for food, travel and interior design, Alex is drawn to stories about people and culture — the intersection of food and community.

When the couple began searching for the right location, they stumbled onto the then-vacant bungalow. They could envision the interiors transformed into the larder and market. Spread reflects their strengths in three separate-but-related components: pantry, bakery and bottle shop.

Whether it’s olive oils, chili crisps, dried heirloom beans, die-cut pastas, mustards or hot sauces, Alex takes pleasure in researching and procuring uncommon pantry items. Her criteria go beyond the quality of the product itself, encompassing branding and the story behind a business. In that regard, she supports many local producers. You might see Javaneh Hemmat — founder and CEO of Hummus Chick — delivering her Classic, Roasted Garlic & Cilantro, and Smoked Chipotle Hummus blends to the store. Alex loves the varieties, presentation and history of this woman-owned company.

This is not reserved solely for local products. Part of Alex’s mission is to introduce her customers to extraordinary items not readily found in the Nashville area. For instance, tinned fish is a delicacy in Portugal, and its packaging is nearly an art form. Gaze along one room’s fireplace mantle at the colorful array assembled: smoked rainbow trout, razor clams in brine, sauced baby scallops and wild sardines packed with peri-peri peppers. Many of Alex’s fishy finds are sustainably sourced — seasoned and preserved by Fishwife, another woman-owned operation.

Moreover, there’s the story you make for yourself at Spread. Are you looking to create a scrumptious picnic that highlights cured meats and cheeses? Easily done. Would you like to host a paella party? Alex has the elements, from proper Spanish rices and broths, down to the paella pan.

“Chad and I love the conversation that surrounds food and drink,” she said. “We enjoy sharing the stories behind our choices — the how and the why. It is educational and fun.”

Your eyes will widen at the shelves laden with baked goods, loaves of rustic sourdough, demi-baguettes, sandwich-style bread and a special combination bread of the week, which could be jalapeño-cheddar or leek-bleu cheese. Two different leavening agents form the foundation of each loaf: a sourdough starter that Chad has nurtured for over 15 years, plus a starter that he makes daily, using dough scraps and water.

“We use them in equal parts,” he explained, “and we use heritage wheat flour from Kentucky. All our doughs go through a 4-day fermentation process before baking.” The result: distinctive, airy, toothsome, crusty breads to savor on their own, to spread simply with Chad’s own cultured butter or herbed butter-cheese blend, or to pile high with meats and cheeses — whatever you desire. He noted that the sandwich loaf is dairy-based, producing a soft-crumbed, barely sweetened bread which is also ideal for French toast.

Chad uses his baguettes to make daily grab-and-go sandwiches every day, offering one meat-based and one vegetarian option in creative combinations. On a given Thursday, it could be brisket and marinated artichokes; on Friday, enjoy a turkey sandwich with cherry-tomato jam and Brie. Check out the refrigerated display for the selection. There you’ll also find savory sides like pickled vegetables, marinated olives, dill pickle spears and pimento cheese.

There are sweet things too. Throughout the weekend, you’ll find assorted scones, cookies, galettes and Danish. You can count on the phenomenal sourdough cinnamon roll, though — available Wednesday through Sunday. Slathered in cream cheese icing, this multilayered spin of tender, uber-thin pastry is one of the best in the city.

The Kellys welcome you to sit at any of the tables throughout the house to enjoy your sandwiches and sweet treats, along with a soft beverage, beer or cider. Wines are reserved for retail sales in the bottle shop, not in-house consumption.

In recent years, natural wines have gained popularity for their minimal manipulation, often-lower alcohol content, lack of additives, and bold, juicy tastes. Chad refers to these as low-intervention wines, and a room in the market is dedicated to a festive array of bottles. Whether it’s for a picnic, a paella party, or a simple meal of charcuterie, bread, cheese and spreads, one of these wines would make the perfect accompaniment.

“Some are funky; some are traditional,” said Chad. “We love to talk about their tasting notes, the kinds of foods they would best pair with.”

To further that conversation, the Kellys have launched the “Spread Things Wine Club.” Available with one-, three- or six-month subscriptions, members enjoy a 10-percent discount on all in-store purchases and may choose from a variety of membership levels. At $45, the “Pairing Pack” includes one wine of the month and its flavor profiles, as well as a pantry item and serving suggestions. “Try Me” offers two bottles of white, red or bubbly — but never two of the same — for $50. Though “Try Me Double” is similar to Try Me — doubled for a $100 total and four bottles — at least one will be a wine that’s rarely or never seen at Spread.

“Our first year has been exciting and we look forward to growing our base,” Alex said. “We have learned so much, listening to our customers’ recommendations to give them what they want.”

Chad agreed, “We want to be the kind of market that really services the neighborhood.”

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