Everything fun there is for the family, since 1953
By Hollie Deese
Photography by Reeves Smith
Before Ray Gilchrist moved to Nashville from New Orleans in 1953 to work at a glass plate company, he had spent some time in the 1940s working at the Saunier-Wilhelm pool table plant in Alabama. So when he wasn’t at his day job, Gilchrist began traveling to the surrounding towns to recovering the tables at pool halls.
His side hustle grew, and soon Ray’s Billiard Supply was in business — a small shop at 51st and Charlotte, with a pool room upstairs and a little showroom down below, where he displayed new pool tables.
In 1982 Ray bought the old Steepleton store on Eighth Avenue, and the business has been in the same location ever since. And it was there his three sons — Ronnie, Cliff and Glenn — practically grew up.
“We’d go out on the weekends, help him work on pool tables, refelting them, delivering them, whatever,” Glenn says.
Slowly the inventory built. First there were a few pool tables. Then they added some card tables, and then bar and kitchen stools — which exploded for them. At one point they had about 250 on display.
“We had the largest selection in the state,” Ronnie says.
Ray retired in 1997 and passed away in 2002, but his sons have carried on the business and the mission to help create spaces for whole families to gather and enjoy each other.
And now their 10,000-square-foot showroom is filled with items their father never would have dreamed they would stock, including theater seating, arcade games, patio furniture and music-synchronized fire pits.
The brothers say Nashvillians’ needs go way beyond pool tables now, too, and include arcade games, skee-ball, pingpong, golf games, theater seating and shuffleboard.
“The game room has really evolved because there are so many options to use that entertainment space,” Glennn says. “And it’s a family decision.”
Pool tables have evolved in the past 60 years, too, transitioning from a somewhat taboo parlor game to a fine piece of furniture that can be done in most any size, shape and style to fit any home.
“We pretty much do any kind of custom wood, finish and style that somebody wants,” Cliff says.
In fact, the experience of shopping as a family for entertainment space items is unique, since kids aren’t typically engaged in the sale of other big-ticket items — like appliances.
“Kids don’t care what washer and dryer or refrigerator you buy. But when they come in here, you’ll see the kids get involved,” Ronnie says. “Everybody uses that space differently now.”
And, they are embracing outdoor living, thanks to Nashville’s distinct, yet mild, change in seasons.
“We see a lot of people coming from up north, New York and Chicago, excited to get some patio furniture now because they are in an environment where they can use it,” Ronnie says.
Shoppers stopping in will most likely dealing with one of the three brothers. They try to stock only American-made products, and they work closely with Olhausen Billiards. Olhausen, which touts itself as the largest billiard company in the world, is just a few miles north in Portland, Tennessee.
A few of Ray’s grandchildren now work at the business he started decades ago, too, and he would likely be proud of what his sons have done with his legacy of Nashville Billiard & Patio.
“I think he’d really like what’s transpired in these walls,” Cliff says.
Nashville Billiard & Patio
927 Eighth Ave. S.