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Keeping it Small: Hutchmoot and Tacos

There’s this restaurant in East Nashville called Mas Tacos, right down the road from Cason Cooley’s home studio. Ben, Gully, Cason, and I walked there for lunch several times during the Light for the Lost Boy sessions, and I can tell you it’s some of the best Mexican food in Nashville. I can also tell you it annoyed me, for a couple of reasons.

First, they don’t take credit cards. These days—when even Waffle House takes credit/debit cards, when most folks I know don’t bother to bring much cash, when even regular dudes like me can take credit cards at my merch table—why in the world wouldn’t Mas Tacos? There are fees associated with it, sure, but isn’t it an inconvenience to the customers? Several times we wanted to eat there but couldn’t because I was footing the bill and didn’t have the cash. Your loss, Mas Tacos.

Secondly, their hours are a little weird. Like many of the restaurants in East Nashville, they’re closed on Sunday and Mondays. Due to invisible forces in the universe, this creates a fierce craving for Mas Tacos on Sundays and Mondays. Almost every Sunday after church I find myself thinking, “Oh! We should totally go to Mas Tacos—ugh. Nevermind.” There have also been several times when I wanted to take Jamie out to a simple, small dinner and headed towards Mas Tacos before I remembered that they’re only open for lunch (except on Fridays).

Because I’m a spouter, I spouted off about it to Cason. “Why wouldn’t they want to take credit cards and make it easier on me, the Almighty Customer, to pay for my food? If there’s a demand for business, why on earth wouldn’t they add to their hours?” Cason gently pushed back, as is his way, and said, “But the owners are interested in keeping their food local, in having their own lives, in keeping their business simple. What’s so wrong with being small?” Mas Tacos serves excellent food. Maybe part of the way they keep their food great, not to mention part of the way they maintain good customer service, is by virtue of their simplicity. Maybe their commitment to buying local vegetables and meats requires that they resist the American urge to grow, grow, grow, GROW. Maybe the very thing I like about that place would disappear if they gave in to my grumpiness, at which point I would be the first guy to say, “It’s too bad. Mas Tacos used to be great.”

I tell you this story in order to apologize to the many of you who didn’t get into Hutchmoot this year. As you may have read, we’ve determined over the last three years that part of what makes the weekend special is its smallness. If we grew too much we would forfeit the peaceful location at Church of the Redeemer in that leafy Nashville neighborhood, not to mention the potential for real, unhurried conversations to take place. “So why not do two?” some of you have asked. Good question. The truth is, Hutchmoot is an exhausting weekend for us. It’s all we can do to plan one a year, and the thought of doing it all twice might make Pete’s beard fall out. Doing a second one in a different city doesn’t work either, because so many of the speakers and artists live (literally) just down the road that it’s the only way we can afford to have the roster we do.

All that to say, we’ve thought about this quite a bit and have decided that, as with Mas Tacos, there are more important things than growth, more important things than profit. (Of course, there are Biblical principles such as tithing, sabbath, and jubilee which back up this idea.) I used to be irritated at Mas Tacos, but now I admire them for it. With every delicious bite I reap the benefits of their unconventional values. So as for Hutchmoot, we’re keeping it small. That doesn’t mean we don’t care about the good folks who couldn’t get in. We do, trust me. We’re excited and grateful that Hutchmoot and the Rabbit Room has resonated with so many, and we’re trying to sort out ways to serve everyone. But in the meantime, I want to preserve what makes Hutchmoot special. The Shire wouldn’t be the Shire anymore if they put in a McDonald’s. The last thing I want is for us to change everything to accommodate more people, then to read a comment card that says, “It’s too bad. Hutchmoot used to be great.”

Thanks for being patient with us. The Rabbit Room has been such a pleasant surprise at every turn, and we realize that none of this would be happening if not for you, dear readers. Thank you. God bless us, every one.

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In the meantime, there are areas where we hope to grow. We have some fun stuff in the pipeline, which we hope will be a blessing to you and us both. If you wanted to come to Hutchmoot this year but didn’t get a ticket, don’t forget to sign up for the waiting list (by sending an email to orders@rabbitroom.com); every year there were enough cancellations that quite a few on the list made it in.

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