In the Black: The Johnny Cash Museum Anticipates a Rockin’ Debut at CMA Music Fest

In the Black: The Johnny Cash Museum Anticipates a Rockin’ Debut at CMA Music Fest

What could be more challenging, exhilarating, maybe intimidating and ultimately triumphant than to open a business catering to Country Music fans in Downtown Nashville days before CMA Music Fest?

If that’s how Bill Miller feels, he’s not letting on. As Founder of the brand-new Johnny Cash Museum at 119 Third Ave. S., he shows a cool composure that recalls that of his late friend, the Man in Black. But he’s also aware that thousands of Cash fanatics from around the world are about to discover his archive of memorabilia and store full of souvenirs. It takes someone with a steady temperament to be ready, and Miller is the right person for the job.

Was it your plan to open your business on Thursday, May 30, exactly one week before the first day of CMA Music Festival?

It didn’t really factor in to our plans. We’re just lucky or unlucky, depending on how many visitors we get. We got a little taste of it with the grand opening (on May 30), because the place was filled all day, from open to close. But obviously we’re also very blessed in that we open the business just as the town is inundated with Country Music fans. So not having had a history of having the store and museum open, it’s a double whammy: We’re blessed and at the same time we’re a little bit nervous – not nervous about not having anyone come in, but nervous about that opposite problem, which for any business is a blessing.

You may have lines going out into the street all day.

There was one at the grand opening, so I would anticipate that. But we’ll take care of the people. When we see people out there, whether elderly or young, we’re going to be out there, giving away bottles of water.

Have you done any kind of outreach or advertising, particularly to fans coming into Nashville for the week?

We had a booth at Fan Fair Hall last year. Basically, we gave out information and free gifts to people. We have a booth there this year too, and we’re going to be giving away what we call our Cash Money, which is a collectible $1 bill they can bring to the museum for a dollar off the admission. We’ve done extensive promotion through our Facebook page, which grew from 1,300 Likes to nearly 13,000 in about a month, after we hired our social marketing person. What’s interesting is that I asked people at the grand opening how they heard about this. It was either through the Facebook page or through “The Johnny Cash Radio Show,” which we’ve been doing for six years on Johnny Cash Radio at www.JohnnyCash.com. And we’ve gotten amazing press the last few days. We’re also doing rack cards locally in probably every hotel, visitor centers and commercial entities that have racks in them. We’ve also started advertising in a couple of local publications.

Did you increase the stock of items in the museum store?

Yes, we let all of our suppliers know that we need to have them on call. We’ve also ordered a ton of merchandise in anticipation of this.

Would you say that you’ve doubled the amount of stock you would normally carry?

I would say we probably quadrupled. My hands were trembling when I pressed the Send button on the e-bills [laughs].

What kind of hours will you keep during Festival Week?

Our hours are already later than the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Ryman Auditorium. We’re going to be 11 to 7, seven days a week, as our normal operating hours. If we determine that people are out in the streets in great numbers at 9, that would make it easier on us to extend the hours so we could control the flow a little bit more instead of getting pounded by limiting those hours to what we’re doing currently.

There will be lots of fans Downtown, even after the LP Field concerts start.

Well, the thing is, when they come back from LP Field, that pedestrian bridge (across the Cumberland River) opens right at our location. We’ve seen 30,000 people literally being dumped on our front door after (Tennessee) Titans games. So we may have to rethink that strategy [laughs].