story and photo by Jeff Tryon
Somethin’ Else, the Southwestern/Native American themed shop in the Back-to-Back complex downtown Nashville, has once again expanded, adding a furniture room featuring large, comfy overstuffed, chairs, sofas, and other furnishings.
Plopping down on a large-pillowed couch with owners Gail and Susie Raehn as evocative flute music floated in the background, you get that “living room” feeling.
“When people come in here we want them to feel like they’re coming home,” Mrs. Raehn said. “That was our intent, that when they buy pieces from here they can put them into their home and feel very comfortable with it.”
The shop is stuffed with an amazing variety of art, furnishings and objects, most with a Native American theme.
“Its Native American, Southwestern, Western,” said Mr. Raehn. “And we throw a few other pieces in here and there.”
Music, clothing, windchimes, incense and herbs, art, objects and artifacts, pottery, greeting cards, sculpture, candles, Native American books and prints, dishes, collectible wool blankets, pillows, rugs, runners and fabrics—even big cans of beeswax—there’s literally somethin’ for everyone at Somethin’ Else.
“Our customers consider us very unique,” Mr. Raehn said. “They know when they come in here they’re going to find things they won’t see anyplace else.”
The shop is called Somethin’ Else because the owners hope you’ll find items there that you won’t find in any other shop, anywhere.
“We go out west and seek out artists,” he said. “We try to deal with artists mostly. A lot of our pieces are, we think, some of the most unique pieces in town.
Mr. Raehn is cagey about his methods in finding one-of a kind Southwestern art and furnishings.
“We do a lot of things to seek out the artists, which isn’t easy to do,” he said. “We have a lot of competitors who would like to know how we do it. In fact, we have a lot of customers that come in from Arizona and New Mexico who say they can’t find this out west.”
“We have fun,” Mrs. Raehn said. “It’s business and pleasure both when we go out West.”
The Raehn’s respectful, admiring approach to all things southwestern and Native American infuses their store with an authentic feel.
He said many Native Americans have visited the shop and have always had very positive reactions.
The couple had traveled out West and liked what they saw there in the way of art and collectibles before they opened the successful shop in September of 1992. The business was popular from the start.
“Amazingly, it was not a struggle,” Mr. Raehn recalls. “We did not start with Native American. We had an eclectic mix of gifts. We were talking about this the other day—we cannot remember how we got into the Native American items. It just happened.”
“We had a friend down here who had a business and he convinced us to open a business here,” Mr. Raehn said. “We actually did it as something to do when I retired, not knowing that a year later I would be on disability. We had thought retirement was at least 10 years out.”
Over the past decade, the shop has expanded twice into adjoining spaces previously occupied by other shops. The latest expansion provided room to expand into home furnishings and the room built to display them has proved to be a people-magnet since it was added.
“We have a lot of fabrics to choose from and several styles of upholstered furniture. We have recliners, sleepers, apartment size furniture,” Mr. Raehn said. “This (furniture) room has just knocked everybody over.” he said.
There are also high quality mission style and western inspired tables, hutches, armoires, and tons of decorative items and objects.
The unusual shop draws customers from all over the country—and even the world. And, best of all, it draws them back again.
“A lot of our customer base is repeat customers,” Mr. Raehn said. “Then again, we get a lot of new customers who come in, and don’t have any idea what it is.”
“We have customers from all over the United States,” Mrs. Raehn said. “We have customers from Europe and China—everywhere.”
Along with the smells of incense and scented candles, customers are always greeted by the soothing sounds of Native American or relaxation-inspired music piping through the store.
“People buy it to go to sleep by or just for relaxing,” said Mrs. Raehn. “We have a lot of Native American music.”
Another unusual item is wallpaper designed to make any interior look like a log cabin. “The log wallpaper is great for anybody who’s ever wanted a log cabin but doesn’t want to go to the trouble of maintaining one,” Mr. Raehn said. “This way you can be in an apartment, or home, anywhere, and have the interior of a log cabin.”
Somethin’ Else is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. or “whenever.” “We’re usually one of the last shops to close,” Mr. Raehn said. “If there are people coming in, we’re open.”