College Crib Celebrates 50 Years

NASHVILLE, TN — The College Crib, a Jefferson Street store serving Greeks at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, has been celebrating 50 years of service for months. Sept. 15 is its birthday.

Blue banners are on display and plans are in place for the anniversary of when Hortense Price, now Jones, and her husband, Earl Price, became retailers.

“It was my idea all along, with my late husband,” Hortense said, recalling years with her son, T.O. Price, and husband, Fred Jones.

The men spoke of the future.

“As far as growth for the next 50 years,” T.O. said, “we look for it to be more vibrant for North Nashville as far as the business and the students in the community.”

Fred added, “We have witnessed tremendous change in the students and the entire clientele over the years.”

Celebration plans grew tremendously. Few venues hold all Crib patrons, friends, associates and luminaries, so a private celebration is set. College Crib Community Scholarship Fund beneficiaries will be announced in the Cal Turner Family Center for Student Education. The family is giving back to the community that’s overcome challenges, including events the Prices faced 47-48 years ago.

Earl owned and operated Price’s Dinner Club. He sold it to the state to expand Tennessee State University. Earl and Hortense then bought what’s remembered by long-time Nashvillians as The Spat restaurant and lounge.

Hortense remembers renovating it into a clothing store.

Retail business is hard and the Crib faced extraordinary challenges a year after opening; a great time to sell clothes to students making Civil Rights history throughout the South.

However, Interstate 40 construction started in 1967 toward the Meharry community neighborhood. African American resistance lost to the highway department which resumed construction in 1968. It took a year to finish. Housing values dropped over 30 percent, Hortense said. The Joneses paid a premium for The Spat. Had they known, the College Crib wouldn’t be where it is today.

Still, the location is good to sell Greek clothing and merchandise bearing colors, letters, and traditions. With her artistic skills, Hortense became a silk screener, seamstress and designer.

Students “made it into a Greek store,” Hortense said. “We gave them that service.”

The store’s reputation grew. Students from Alabama A&M, and HBCUs in Kentucky started coming to the Crib. Now, it’s known across the Internet.

In the store’s 10th year, Earl Price died. T.O. Price has been at the store “from the beginning,” and Hortense persevered. On Valentine’s Day 1987, she met Fred Jones at First Baptist Church, Capitol Hill. They’ve been married nearly 30 years.

“I couldn’t do without him,” Hortense says of Fred. She and her first husband had three sons, T.O., Earl Jr., and Elmer Marlow Price.

Well-known customers include: the late Hortense Canady, a civil rights leader elected to Lansing’s school board and a former national Delta Sigma Theta president; Bishop Joseph Walker, pastor of the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship; Earl Graves, founder and publisher of Black Enterprise magazine; Penny Hardaway, retired 6’-7” NBA point guard; the late Steve McNair, Price Plaza tenant; many of McNair’s fellow Titans; attorney Joseph “Judge Joe” Brown, former criminal court judge and TV show arbiter; Rickey Smiley, comedian, TV host, actor and radio personality known for prank calls; the late trial attorney Johnny Cochran; TSU presidents past and present; and MTSU’s current president.

Some of them and others — including the Crib’s major vendors, insurance agent, CPA, financial advisors, banker, attorney, friends, Greek association representatives, ministers, and business leaders — are invited to the Sept. 24 program.

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