In The Kitchen With An Original: Mark & Amy Goodson

Mark and Amy GoodsonNo one forgets The Bunganut Pig. It’s one of those names that just sticks.

From Hendersonville to East Nashville to Brentwood, it seems like everyone in the area knows the pub and eatery with the juicy burgers on Columbia Avenue in Downtown Franklin.

But it’s not just the name or the burgers that hit the spot. For Mark and Amy Goodson, it was the atmosphere that kept the pair coming back to the place. Before long, they were the owners.

The Bunganut Pig had been a local landmark for 20 years when the Goodsons purchased it in 2005. They were a newly married couple, both successful healthcare executives who were tired of the grind and the transient world of big business. They were ready for a change, and they found it in Franklin.

“We wanted to do something creative together,” Amy says. “Every time we came in here we had fun because of the type of crowd, the area, the music.”

While neither had owned a restaurant before, the Goodsons jumped in feet first. They applied the skills gleaned from successful careers – “we treat this little place like a big business” – and transformed what they considered a “diamond in the rough.”  Now, it’s a place where the fried bologna wedges are every bit as mouth-watering as the Caesar salad topped with salmon.

They cook a mean filet mignon, too, but it’s another staple that they hear about over and over again from the customers.

“We guarantee the best burger in town,” Mark says. “And we’ve added a lot of other healthy options.”

At first, the downtown Franklin bar and restaurant comprised the large basement room that feels like something out of a European village. Over the years, due to popular demand, they’ve added three expansions: the outside patio, a sports bar and a lounge.

There’s a smooth transition from the traditional underground pub atmosphere to the more sophisticated upstairs lounge that compliments a wide array of food choices and a diverse crowd. A person can guzzle a heavy beer while shooting pool in the billiards room or sip a martini in the lounge next door, moving back and forth without ever feeling out of place.

In early 2012, Mark and Amy purchased bought the Pig’s Murfreesboro namesake and reopened the W. Northfield Boulevard location after extensive renovations. The Goodson’s say that the second restaurant closely follows the markings of its Franklin predecessor: a neighborhood English pub that boasts fish & chips next to Ahi Tuna, and offers a killer happy hour.

“The thing that guides us is great food, music and cheer,” Mark says.

The Pig, as it’s known among locals, was a sentimental investment for the Goodsons. Mark and Amy began their long-distance relationship after meeting through their work with McKesson Corporation, the healthcare technology giant. Amy was living in Atlanta when they met.

“I traveled there a lot, but I lived here in Franklin. She used to ignore me,” Mark laughs, and Amy good-naturedly rolls her eyes.

The Pig was the couple’s hangout when Amy came to Franklin. Back then they were drawn to the live music, dancing and the friendly locals, elements the pair has made sure to maintain.

In both the Franklin and Murfreesboro locations, the Goodsons have incorporated trivia on Tuesdays and Texas Hold ‘Em on Mondays and Tuesdays. But they also make sure that live music is available every weekend, and most weekdays too.

For both spots, Amy researches the bands and handles the booking—looking for a variety of well-known Middle Tennessee musicians as well as up-and-coming new acts—and says it’s a part of the job that she loves.

“To me, owning this is like having guests every day, or a party in your home,” Amy says.

It’s a family affair for the Goodson family – with four children between them, all have helped around the restaurant. And their 25-person staff, many of whom have been there for years, is a key ingredient.

“They’re like family,” Mark says. “They’ve allowed us to become ingrained in the community.”

While Mark and Amy stay busy running The Pig, they also own an art gallery. After they took over the pub, they also opened the space upstairs as the Music City Gallery of Fine Art. Their art is now on display at the Bridgestone Arena in Downtown Nashville, where they feature eight or nine different artists at any given time.

Both are collectors, and Mark is a painter himself, working mostly with oils. They’ve found a way to make a living, abandoning the corporate world to pursue their true passions.

“We really just ended up doing what we love,” Mark says.

The two big-city natives say that the small-town feel of Middle Tennessee is a welcome change from the fast-paced life style they were used to. A life of frequent transfers and weeks on the road has been replaced by one with roots, and a place they can call home.

The Pig is open from 11 a.m.  to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. For more information, visit its website.