6 minute read

The Iris Garden Grays

Family Business that Rocks

“Smack dab” in the heart of Nashville lies a not so hidden gem. Matt and Amy Gray are the proprietors of two businesses: Iris Garden Cottages & Suites, and the Brown County Rock Shop. Both are located next to each other on North Van Buren Street, in the middle of Nashville’s shopping district. Along with their offspring, Josie and Tanner Gray, Matt and Amy specialize in creating memorable experiences for guests visiting our one-of-akind town.

Matt and Josie run the lodging accommodations, and Amy and Tanner run the rock shop. This is true for the most part, but everyone in the family is interchangeable. Together, with side-by-side encouragement, they go above and beyond for their guests.

After owning and operating several art galleries across the country, Matt and Amy Gray moved to Brown County with their kids in 2003. That is when they bought the complex and opened the Iris Garden Art Gallery. They also offered lodging on their property.

As Nashville changed over the years, so did the Gray’s business. In 2007, they opened Copperhead Creek Gem Mine, and in 2008, they opened the Brown County Rock Shop to accompany it.

After managing art for more than a decade, the Gray’s closed down the gallery in 2016. They then transitioned the gallery into lodging and an office space for Iris Garden Cottages & Suites.

While Matt and Amy are still heavily involved in the businesses, Josie and Tanner are “paving the way” towards their parents’ retirement. The Grays have been in business here for almost twenty years and hope to see the legacy potentially last another twenty.

With a little less responsibility, Matt has been able to improve the aesthetics and atmosphere of the property.

Growing up in this beautiful place, you either take it for granted, or you have an overwhelming appreciation for it. Josie, age 26, and Tanner, age 24, belong to the latter camp.

Tanner and Josie feel the best part of the job is getting to know their customers. They get travelers from all different walks of life and everyday is different. From repeats to new faces, the diversity of conversation keeps every day interesting.

Josie graduated from Brown County High School, and then Indiana Wesleyan University. After college, she worked in the corporate world, traveling out of state as a marketer for an RV dealership for several years, before returning home to help run the business.

She is knowledgeable about the area and her recommendations are golden. You can ask her about anything, and she can find an answer. Josie is reliable, relatable, and always smiling. Repeat customers remember her kindness and care, and she remembers them right back.

Josie is an avid traveler and when she’s not working, you can find her out on Sweetwater Lake, or kicking someone’s butt on the tennis courts.

Tanner also graduated from Brown County High School and went on to be a white-water rafting guide in Kentucky for several years. He has experience in the food service industry, and has worked in art studios in D.C. and Gatlinburg before returning to Brown County.

Tanner is laid back and outdoorsy. He has an extensive knowledge of geology and searches for geodes in local creeks. He is funny and is always striking up an interesting conversation. When Tanner is not in the shops, he can be found hiking, longboarding, or making jewelry. If you visit the shop at the right time, you might get to meet his dog, Guide.

Iris Garden Cottages & Suites offers accommodations for visitors wanting to be as close to heart of Nashville as possible. All the shops, restaurants, and art galleries are within walking distance, allowing travelers the chance to ditch their cars for their entire stay. If lodgers do wish to do a little driving, Brown County State Park, the Brown County Music Center, and Bill Monroe’s Music Park are short drives away. Guests can expect clean, cozy rooms, and kind, caring staff.

The Gray’s own eight different lodging locations, all within their complex’s vicinity. Prices are dynamic and seasonal, but generally range from $99-160 a night. Most of them can house two to five people, but one sleeps up to seven. Twenty-six people is max capacity for their lodging.

More information can be found at <irisgardenlodging.com>. You can contact them anytime at 812-988-2422. The best way to book is directly through them.

I had the pleasure of staying in the “Chipmunk Junction” cottage with my significant other for our “first date” anniversary, and it was one of the best getaways I have experienced.

The Brown County Rock Shop sells a variety of rocks, fossils, and gemstones. Matt and Amy have been hand picking minerals from venders across the world for over a decade. This has allowed them to build up one of the most unique inventories of rocks and minerals in all of Indiana. Pieces range from large, rare, expensive gemstones, to cool rocks kids can spend their allowance on. Everything in the shop is fun to look at and you’ll want to come back again to see it all.

Along with all the beautiful items for sale, the Brown County Rock Shop also sells mining bags. Visitors can pan for gems and fossils themselves with these bags at the Copperhead Creek Gem Mine located right outside the shop. There’s a process to mining for gems: place only a handful from the bag at a time in the pan, then dunk the pan in the water and wash the sand away, and lastly pick out the gems that are left.

Families have a blast in the summer panning away in the cool water, finding surprises along the way. Bags range from $9–$50 depending on the size and contents of the bag. The most popular is the “Motherload” bag at $30, but no matter the bag, the gems inside collectively will be worth more than the purchase price of the bag. You can find more information on the rock shop at <browncountyrockshop.com>.

Guests keep coming back year after year to the Iris Garden complex because of the family that runs the place. You can follow the Grays on social media on Instagram and Facebook through their business names. They sometimes offer giveaways and announce sales.