For Charlotte Avenue's Auto Shops, A Choice Between Continuing On And Cashing Out | Nashville Public Radio

For Charlotte Avenue's Auto Shops, A Choice Between Continuing On And Cashing Out

May 6, 2015

The small metal building set back from the corner at 36th and Charlotte is where Perry Auto Sales moved to in 1972. It sits on a big parking lot full of used cars.

Stan Perry's father started the business. Stan started working as soon as he could wash cars.

“I’m 60 years old," he says, "and I’ve been here 40.”

Perry’s office is filled with model cars and pictures of Little League teams he’s sponsored throughout the decades. He knew development was heading his way after a climbing gym opened next door last summer. Then in December, he got a call: A real estate investor wanted to buy his lot. The property is valued at $225,000, according to the county assessor's office. The investor offered $2.2 million.

He couldn't say no.

“Hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life," he says. "I hate to say this, but I actually cried. It’s not like a working place. It’s like home.”

One can learn a lot about the rapid development along Nashville’s corridors just from driving west from downtown down a two-mile stretch of Charlotte Avenue. Big lots that once held auto shops and surplus stores are turning into boutiques, yoga studios and apartment complexes. 

Inside Wilkie's Fast Lane, several blocks west of Perry Auto Sales, owner Steve Wilkerson isn't too fazed by the development. He's seen a lot of changes since the car repair shop moved here in 1960, he says. He remembers every iteration of the properties in this area — this house became an auto shop, that house became a church, this auto shop became a bar.  

“It’s just a way of life," he says. "That’s just the way West Nashville has always been.”

Wilkie's Fast Lane still has its original 50-plus-year-old vending machine and cash register. But now its neighbors are a craft beer bar and a luxury condo development. Wilkerson says he won’t have trouble selling the place when he decides to retire.

“Oh, I’ve had dozens of offers," he says.

He isn't willing to part with the place yet. But he’s 67 years old, and being a mechanic doesn’t come with a pension. He’ll sell, he says, when the price is right.