Christmas Wish List for Memphis

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

While we are in the midst of our buying frenzy and list making for the holidays, I thought I would present a different list, my Christmas wish list for Memphis. Now, a disclosure.

This isn't some warm fuzzy do-gooder wish list, like I wish we could all get along and eradicate crime and get a new mayor (hey - some wishes DO come true!), this is a selfish, completely arbitrary list of things I would love to see happen in this city, hopefully created by someone with more time and disposable income than myself. So, here's today's wish.

The old Tennessee Brewery as a gourmet market.

Memphis Brewery

In what used to be the National Biscuit Company headquarters, home of the Nilla Wafer, Barnum Animal Crackers and mmmOreos, the old factory in Chelsea was transformed into a marketplace that includes restaurants, bakeries, candy stores, a wine shop, a kitchen supply store, a grocery and retail...the present day Chelsea Market


After returning home from NYC, Caleb and I looked at the old, abandoned Brewery building next door, and the answer just seemed obvious. Most likely insanely expensive, but obvious. Turn it into a gourmet market! A green grocer, a knife sharpener, cooking classes - a cooking school! - a bakery, a cheese shop - the possibilities seem endless. With the brewery just mere blocks from the Memphis Farmers Market, its transformation into a foodie destination could really transform a quiet, deserted corner of downtown into a destination. The trolley tracks pass right in front of the building, and speaking of right in front of the building, there is a huge empty lot that would be ideal for parking.

Look at that courtyard space!


Photo by Bob Guthridge

Outdoor dining. Live music. Available for party rentals like the Ferry Building in San Francisco.

A market would create hundreds of jobs. Residents of South Bluffs could walk to their grocery store. Employees of Memphis Magazine/Flyer, Emerge Memphis and numerous other businesses would have more options beyond a soul burger or the Arcade for lunch. Tourists wouldn't have to consider Beale Street the city's ulitimate tourist attraction. The existing wine shop, the Corkscrew, would have complimentary businesses and perhaps the Blue Monkey would be forced to abandon their smoking policy so my family could actually eat there.

So what if the Brewery is considered to be one of the most haunted properties in Memphis? I think that fact alone would bring even more hungry tourists.

So there's my wish.

Any granters?


  1. genius idea! i'm wishing it too, as hard as i can.

  2. We need something like Philly's Reading Terminal market here, and this sounds like it might work.

  3. While a gourmet market would be nice, what would be even better is to see it producing beer again.

  4. I love this idea! How can we make it a realty?

  5. Well a cool $5 mill should do it. Thats if the building is stabilized, but the demand is not there. Just a fews years ago Belz's market that he had over in the peabody stuff went belly up. Grocery stores even the size of the midtown schnucks have to have sale's of 6 figure size each week. Selling $1k of wine and brie a week is not going to do it. Chelsea has a little bit bigger pool of demand than down town memphis. Half of the Orgill building is either empty or apartments for rent. A high end market needs six figure pay check home owners. Just because a 2 day a week farmers market does well, doesn't mean a 7 day a week store can make it.

  6. The title of this post was a "wish" list. All ideas, crazy or not, start with a wish. Just putting it out into the ether...

  7. Steve: I've heard great things about the Philly market; it's very similar to Grand Central market in LA. It's all the same idea - creatively adapting a historically significant building for a 21st century audience.