Midtown coffee house to close after 27-year run

Cafe Coco, a Midtown institution of sorts popular with Vanderbilt students, health care workers and random bohemians and hipsters, will close and be reinvented with an Italian market.

The concept is expected to complement Cafe Coco sister businesses Coco’s Italian Market and Restaurant (Sylvan Park), Coco’s West Italian Restaurant (near West Meade and Belle Meade), Coco’s at Green Hills Mall and Coco’s Event Center.

The transition will end a 27-year run for the venerable business, known for its coffees, teas and pastries and located at 210 Louise Ave. just off the area’s famed Rock Block on Elliston Place. 

Chuck Cinelli, owner of the entity that oversees the various Coco businesses, told the Post that customers have “embraced” the café but that COVID-19 measures impacting sit-down restaurants and bars were a factor in the looming change.

“With the new normal that we are all facing, we in the restaurant industry are being forced to take a hard look at our business and see how we can adapt successfully for that new era,” he said. “That, combined with the changing landscape of Nashville, has given me an opportunity to evolve this business."

Cinelli said the future business will focus on packaged products, takeaway, fresh produce, house-ground coffee, delivery, Italian catering trays and “recipes that go back in my family for generations.” A name has not yet been finalized. Of note, live music and open-mic comedy — a semi-staple at Cafe Coco — will not be part of the mix at the future business.

No reopening date is noted in the social media post. The business officially closed Thursday and Cinelli hopes to reopen in mid-May with the new business. The vibe will remain very similar to that of Cafe Coco. The menu will be similar to that of Coco’s Italian Market and Restaurant .

The effort to transition the space (the property owners, who seemingly are unrelated to Cinelli, acquired the building in 1994 for $700,000, according to Metro records) comes about a year and a half after Cinelli and his mother, Joan Cinelli, began operations in the West Nashville building previously home to Finezza (read more about that here).

Cinelli, a native New Yorker, opened Cafe Coco (named for his grandmother) in 1993. At one time, it was one of Nashville’s only 24-hour food and beverage businesses, although that model was scrapped years ago (with only weekends days kept as 24-hours).

The reinvention of the Cafe Coco space comes as the aforementioned Rock Block continues to undergo changes of its own. A Holiday Inn Express and an eight-story apartment building (the latter via Tony Giarratana) are planned for the iconic segment of Elliston Place, with which Louise Avenue intersects.

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