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Nashville bombing hits home for Parkersburg native

The explosion on Christmas Day left storefronts obliterated, including Ensemble Nashville Boutique, pictured here. (Photo provided by Lauren Farrar)

NASHVILLE — It has been a hard year for Ensemble Nashville Boutique, a store that is proudly managed in Nashville, Tenn., by Parkersburg native and Ritchie County High School graduate Lauren Farrar.

Farrar, who attended Belmont University in Nashville, worked for Ensemble Nashville Boutique for several years during college as a part-time sales associate and eventually stepped into a manager position upon graduation.

However, Ensemble Nashville Boutique was previously located in a different part of the city, and the owners had decided they would let the lease run up on the previous storefront as they neared retirement age.

“I approached the owners after we had closed and told them it was a dream of mine to have my own store,” Farrar said. “I told them if they were interested in re-opening Ensemble, I would run it and they could teach me the behind-the-scenes aspects and in our agreement I had the hopes of taking over and possibly owning it myself.”

Then, as Farrar’s dreams were finally coming to fruition, hardships began to pile up unexpectedly.

Ensemble Nashville Boutique opened on Second Avenue North in Nashville, Tenn., in March of 2020. Photo provided by Lauren Farrar. Parkersburg native Lauren Farrar was the manager at the time it was damaged by the Christmas morning bomb blast in Nashville. (Photo provided by Lauren Farrar)

A tornado barely missed the storefront on March 3 of last year, which had been newly reopened and relocated to Second Avenue North in downtown Nashville at the start of 2020. It officially opened for business at that new location just two days before the tornado ripped through the city.

Roughly a month later, Ensemble Nashville Boutique had to temporarily close its doors per state orders at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, according to Farrar.

“It was really rough,” Farrar said. “Downtown Nashville is really tourist-based, so being shut down all summer we were really struggling.”

At the end of May and into June, protesters and rioters participating in a nationwide movement for the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis poured down Second Avenue North, causing damage to storefronts and businesses, according to multiple media outlets.

Ensemble Nashville’s business neighbor, Pride and Glory Tattoo Shop, came to the rescue during the protests.

“The tattoo guys were there and they all stood out in front of our stores and protected them,” Farrar said. “So that is really the only reason we did not get hit for the riots and that was a blessing.”

According to Farrar, fear continued to clench Ensemble Nashville’s owners and staff as the pandemic continued, but they were able to continue to survive when they were allowed to re-open and business began to improve in the early fall.

“Our slow season is usually November through January, so we ended up slowing down again but it was fine because it was predictable and we expected it to happen,” Farrar said. “We thought we were seeing the end of everything with the vaccine starting to come out and things starting to open back up again.”

However, all of the disasters of 2020 culminated into complete heartbreak in the early hours of Christmas Day, when members of the Nashville Police Department responded to a report of potential shots fired on Second Avenue North downtown. Upon arrival, they encountered an RV that made an announcement that a bomb would detonate, according to coverage from NPR on Dec. 25.

A bomb squad was requested and the area was evacuated, but the bomb detonated at approximately 6:30 a.m., shattering and destroying many storefronts and vehicles in the area and injuring three individuals, according to NPR.

It was said that the explosion was heard and felt for miles. Both physical and emotional damage were palpable.

In the beginning, news about the specific location of the bombing was relatively vague, according to Farrar. However, as more information began to come out, panic began to set in and Farrar and her family and coworkers began to desperately scour social media for answers.

The FBI still has not allowed anyone in the area as they wrap up their investigation, according to Farrar, but helicopter footage from a news station confirmed the worst case scenario.

Among the storefronts greatly damaged or completely obliterated was Ensemble Nashville Boutique, which was located directly across the street from the RV, according to Farrar.

Simply The Best $10 Boutique, which is next door and also owned by the owners of Ensemble Nashville, was destroyed. Pride and Glory Tattoo Shop was reduced to nothing as well.

“I am still numb and in shock and I can’t believe something like this happened,” Farrar said. “…To see everything that I have put together in a pile of rubble is insane to me and I still cannot believe it.”

Ensemble Boutique Nashville rented the space in the building that it was located in, which was built in the pre-Civil War era, according to Farrar. The building still had its original 20-foot high doors, which opened to reveal a warm and inviting atmosphere showcasing clothing, jewelry and accessories amongst original brick.

Now, the livelihood of Ensemble Nashville lies in shambles and the future is uncertain.

“There are just so many moving aspects right now and we just don’t know,” Farrar said. “It is going to take time.”

Farrar described both the staff at Ensemble Nashville Boutique and other businesses on the street as a “family.”

“We knew everybody,” Farrar said. “Everyone talked to everybody and everybody was friendly … I think that was my favorite part … we really cared about each other and took care of each other.”

Although Farrar is heartbroken, she is also thankful that nobody from Ensemble Nashville was there when the explosion occurred.

“He (the bomber) chose a time when I was not down there,” Farrar said. “I am there five to six days out of the week, so just the chance that he chose one day at a time that I wasn’t there … I am so lucky and blessed. You can replace buildings and things, but the people who could have been hurt down there? You can’t rebuild that.”

A GoFundMe has been established for the three storefronts mentioned, and it can be found by searching “Support for 3 Nashville Businesses #nashvillebomb” at gofundme.com.

Ensemble Nashville Boutique is also selling Nashville Support Bracelets for $20 on its website at www.ensemblenashville.com, with all the proceeds going towards the owners and staff.

“This is my new reality, and I don’t get to walk into the place I have worked for years,” Farrar said. “It’s gone.”

Jenna Pierson can be reached at jpierson@newsandsentinel.com

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