JACK PIRTLE'S CHICKEN

Jack Pirtle’s Chicken

Made in Memphis                                                 

By Jim Walker (with assistance from Marcy Siebert)                          

 

photo from the Southern Hot Wing Festival this year. John Hudson, Lorie Hudson, Hot Wing Artist (don't know his name), Tawanda Pirtle an (1).JPG

Deliciously on the menu in Memphis for 60 years, and with eight, bright blue and yellow, immediately recognizable restaurants around town, Jack Pirtle’s Chicken has become a celebrated symbol of both the city’s cuisine and its panorama. And, as you can imagine, there’s a lot of history behind those six decades of success. We’ll offer just a little bit of that here, along with a few thoughts from Tawanda Pirtle. She and her husband, Cordell Pirtle (Jack’s son), are the current owners/operators of this truly made-in-Memphis business.

  

With previous restaurant experience under his belt, Jack Pirtle opened his first chicken restaurant in Memphis in 1957, and the menu has always emphasized tasty fried chicken and down-home fixin’s at family-affordable prices. There are also burgers, hot dogs, sausages and sandwiches, three kinds of tea, and even hot peppers. But chicken is the hallmark...

 

“And, of course our Original Steak Sandwich, that makes everyone’s mouth water when they talk about it,” Tawanda noted.

 

“Honestly, we’ve had basically the same menu all these years, with the exception that we added hot wings a few years ago,” Tawanda said. “As the old saying goes, if it’s not broken, why change it? We serve good Southern food and there is only one way to fix it ... and for us it’s Jack Pirtle's way.”

                                                       

The restaurants include two dine-in/drive-in and six drive-in/or take-out, but Jack Pirtle’s caters, too. Tawanda said there are really no limits on that. “If we can do it, it’s always our pleasure. Most of our orders are pickup at one of the eight stores, but we can deliver, setup and serve if needed.”


Tawanda explained that Jack Pirtle was one of the first franchise owners of Kentucky Fried Chicken. “He signed his contract directly with Colonel Sanders right here in Memphis,” she said. “And, at that time, the name was ‘Jack Pirtle's featuring Kentucky Fried Chicken.’ He opened his first chicken store in 1957, which is still open today on South Bellevue.”

Cordell Pirtle took over the business in 1979, when Jack retired. But Tawanda said he started with the business in 1957, at the very beginning. “He was 13 years old. He worked alongside his parents and when he graduated from Central in 1962, he took over the management of Jack Pirtle's Highland Store. He stayed in that position until he took over the company in 1979,” she said.


Tawanda went on to say, “Cordell and I met on Friday, March 13, 1992. We dated for 13 years. On March 13, 2005 he proposed and we married on May 27, 2005. I started working directly with the business in 2007 and took over the day-to-day management in April of 2008.”


She added that, “In the beginning, Mr. and Mrs. Jack Pirtle had several family members working at the stores – bothers, sisters, sister-in-laws, etc. And, our daughter, Penny Pirtle Robertson, worked for the company. She is now disabled due to fighting a long battle with cancer.”

Tawanda said they have many devoted, longtime employees. “At the present time, our oldest is Ms. Shirley Benson, manager at our Bellevue Store. Shirley was hired by Mr. Jack in December 1970, when she was a young girl. Throughout the years many of her family members have worked for us and still work for us today.”

When asked how long they might continue to run the business, Tawanda said, “At the present time, our plans are to continue doing what we both love to do, in the place that we love – Memphis. We are very fortunate to have my sister, Lorie Hudson, as our general manager. She handles all operations of the business and is very capable of carrying forward the success of Jack Pirtle's Chicken ... along with our four children, 11 grandchildren, soon to be seven great grandchildren, and then add in the in-laws.”

Pirtle’s involvement with people goes beyond its staff and customers. For example, Cordell received the 2014 Restaurateur of the Year award from the Memphis Restaurant Association.


“We have lived Downtown for many years and we work hard trying to give love back and pay it forward,” Tawanda said. “We are active in too many programs to list, but our life goal is to just be happy, laugh a lot, show everyone love and be able to continue to live in the city we love.”


“We feel very blessed to be able to do the things we do for our community, and it’s all because we have wonderful, devoted employees and have had the support of all the great folks in Memphis and the surrounding area since the beginning,” Tawanda said. “Jack Pirtle's Chicken will be celebrating its 60th year on Feb. 14, 2017, and still serves the original recipes that were created by Mr. and Mrs. Jack Pirtle after leaving Kentucky Fried Chicken in the ’60s.”

Jack Pirtle’s Chicken restaurants are located at: 1217 S. Bellevue Blvd., 4349 Elvis Presley Blvd., 811 S. Highland St., 2484 Jackson Ave., 3571 Lamar Ave., 2520 Mt. Moriah Rd., 1370 Poplar Ave., and 890 Thomas St. For more information and for the full and fascinating story of Jack Pirtle and his restaurants, visit the company website at www.jackpirtleschicken.com.

ST JUDE MARATHON ACHIEVES IMPRESSIVE NUMBERS

23,000 runners hit the pavement on December 3rd for the annual St. Jude’s Marathon.  In attendance was an audience of 40,000 fans from all across the U.S. and some from abroad.

There were 5 different races this year.  The full marathon, half marathon, 10k, 5k, and kids marathon. 

In all, $10 million was raised for the hospital.  Money from this fundraiser will assist families whose children are suffering from catastrophic diseases.  The money will go towards treatment and research.  What is special about St. Jude is that no child is ever denied treatment based on the ability to pay.  

This was St. Jude’s 15th year hosting the event in Downtown Memphis.  Many local businesses supported the event through various discounts for the runners and the St. Jude Heroes.  There was even a St. Jude Heroes Pasta Party the night before the marathon.  2,400 St. Jude Heroes attended and filled up on some much needed carbs for the big race.  

This was by far, the biggest St. Jude Marathon here in Memphis. The number of participants and the money raised for this worthy charity exceeded expectations.  Even the downtown businesses saw a boost to the economy on this busy weekend.  It is estimated that there was a $20 million impact in Memphis.  But the greatest impact this year will be for all of the children that will be affected by this event. 

Thank you to everyone who supported St. Jude.  It is amazing what we can accomplish when our Memphis community comes together to support a cause.   Let’s see what we can do next year!

SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW, SOMETHING BORROWED, SOMETHING BLUE

Downtown Memphis Neighborhood's Grand Openings, Re-Openings, New Additions and Congratulations

Something Old...

Can’t afford a luxurious trip to Italy? Neither can we! So how about an alternative suggestion? Catherine and Mary’s, a restaurant with a menu chock full of old world yums from Tuscany and Sicily. 

The newest addition to Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman's family of restaurants, located in the newly renovated Chisca Apartments, will not disappoint. From carefully crafted cocktails to outstanding service and superior Italian inspired dishes - Catherine and Mary's is EXACTLY what downtown Memphis was missing! Whether you're wanting to indulge with a post-work cocktail, celebrate a milestone or need a venue that exudes ambiance, Catherine and Mary's has it all. 

The folks behind the scenes at Catherine and Mary's do a fantastic job posting upcoming wine dinners, specials and monthly menu items so be sure to follow them on their social media channels. Enjoy and Mangiamo!

https://catherineandmarys.com/


Something New...

"Eat Fresh" at the brand spanking new Subway restaurant located at the corner of 2nd Street and Union downtown. 

The grand opening took place on Wednesday, November 30th. The store opens at 7 a.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

 


Something Borrowed...

The Grand Re-Opening of Kooky Canuck’s is now underway! The restaurant moved down a few doors from its former location on 2nd Street and boasts the same great food with a gorgeous new bar and handsome interior features, some features borrowed from the old location. 

Happy hour specials include $2.50 well drinks, domestic bottles and wine Monday-Friday from 3-7 p.m., $.75 wings and draft specials on NFL Mondays and Thursdays and $5 - 34 oz Specialty Cocktails on Tuesdays. Be sure not to miss their annual New Year's Eve Party and to find out more about Kooky's upcoming events visit www.kookycanuck.com.


Something Blue...

As you’re cruising down Union Avenue you can’t help but notice the blazing blue “Belle A Southern Bistro” sign atop the venue…And in case you missed it, the restaurant has a new reason to visit - Belle Tavern! 

Not only does Belle Tavern showcase a full bar with thirst quenching cocktails, but a food menu featuring bar bites, salads and sandwiches. Check out the modern styled Memphis speakeasy from 4 p.m.-1 a.m. Monday-Saturday and 12-10 p.m. on Sundays.

Though the Tavern's website is "under construction," their cocktail, food menu and photos are available here: www.belletavern.com.


And Congratulations!

Last but certainly not least, a big CONGRATULATIONS to McEwen’s on Monroe who recently made OpenTable’s “Top 10 Diners' Choice Winners” list! 

Check out who else made the list here: http://tinyurl.com/j37qczz.

STUMBLING SANTA PUB CRAWL CELEBRATES 12 YEARS

Prepare for thousands of Santa look-alikes, elves and reindeer to descend upon downtown, carrying unwrapped toys in one hand, and a festive beverage in the other. This Saturday, December 3rd will mark the 12th anniversary of Memphis' largest pub crawl, the Stumbling Santa. 

The pub crawl starts at 7pm at the Flying Saucer, and proceeds to a different, undisclosed location every hour, on the hour. The thousands of participants dress as their favorite holiday characters, and bring unwrapped gifts donated to Porter-Leath. Last year, the event collected over 6,000 toys for Porter-Leath children.

The Stumbling Santa event started thanks to Bob Burdett and Roland Shapley. It started in an apartment with 20 or so people "looking to spread cheer and run around in Santa costumes," says Burditt.

"We thought it would be hysterical. I think it was our second year or so when we thought it would be good to do something charitable with all of this." They found the perfect match in Porter-Leath, who needed toys at Christmas.

The participation basically doubled each year to more than ~3,000 attendees now.  "It was quite amazing how fast it grew," says Burditt. "In the beginning, we started at Ernestine's and rode the trollies to the Flying Saucer. That was the fun part about a small group is that we were nimble and could go wherever we wanted to.  Eventually, it became too large to manage and only a small number of venues could hold us."

He recalls one of the years walking through the Peabody mall and the hotel lobby.  "Everyone was sort of in shock back then to see about 200 Santas marching through the mall together. The security guards at the mall weren't happy that we showed up and started to keep us out but there were too many of us."

Advise for newcomers from Stumbling Santa organizer Kirk Caliendo is "Pay as you go at the pubs. Starting and closing tabs in a crowd of thousands gets cumbersome at all locations."

To celebrate the 12th year of the event, they will be tenting the street on Second and Peabody place. DJ Superman will be hosting a pre- and post-party. They are also giving away two bikes and a canoe this year to pub crawl finishers at the end of the event in front of the Flying Saucer.

So come to the Flying Saucer at 7pm this Saturday, Dec 3rd dressed as Santa or a North Pole helper. There is no cost to participate, but please bring a new, unwrapped toy to donate to Porter-Leath (or make a $20 donation).

stumbling santa.jpg

Porter-Leath has an overwhelming need for Preschooler toys (ages 3-5) and for infants (birth to age 2). No toy weapons, items with small parts, stuffed animals (unless they're bagged/sealed). If you need ideas, check out this "Toy Ideas" page- http://www.porterleath.org/toy-truck-toy-ideas

See you there!

 

 

"DID" GOOD WITH FOOD: ANNUAL CHARITY BASH A HUGE SUCCESS

By Jim Walker

Clockwise -- Joan Robinson, Anna Grehan, Barbara Standing, Ken Hudson, past DNA president, Terry Woodard and Marcy Siebert

Clockwise -- Joan Robinson, Anna Grehan, Barbara Standing, Ken Hudson, past DNA president, Terry Woodard and Marcy Siebert

Downtown Memphis’ Bleu Restaurant was the destination for big hearts and good times on Sunday, Nov. 13, as the annual Do Good With Food fund-and-food-raiser brought in 212 pounds of protein and nearly $1,400 for the Mid-South Food Bank. And, at this writing, money was still coming in.

“I received a check just this morning,” organizer Marcy Siebert said on Nov. 20, a full week after the event.

Gorgeous weather and a giving spirit brought out nearly 60 guests for the noon-to-3 p.m. brunch, where they enjoyed great food and fine hospitality at Bleu, enlivened by the excellent music of local favorites Pam and Terry. A good time was had by all, with several of the attendees, including Siebert, unwilling to give up the party until after the sun went down.

World's best champagne servers

World's best champagne servers

“Many bottles of champagne were consumed,” Siebert noted proudly. And she added, “Bleu was such a generous host, and the entertaining was easy, which made for a delightful afternoon for all – and it was all for a good cause.”

She pointed out that both the Downtown Neighborhood Association and the South Main Association generously donated funds to the food bank, as organizations, and that numerous individuals from both associations, and their friends, did likewise. And, of course, the monetary donations were accompanied by heavyweight donations of nonperishable food.

Pam and Terry

Pam and Terry

David Stephens, the Mid-South Food Bank’s Community Relations Manager, said that the 212 pounds of food brought in through the event translates into 177 meals, and that the $1,400 raised translates into another 4,200 meals. In thanking Siebert, he said, “So, your efforts so far are that 4,377 people will receive their next meal. What a blessing!”

“Look for this event to be even better next year,” Siebert said.

For more information on the Mid-South Food Bank visit www.midsouthfoodbank.org.

HOLIDAY HAPPINESS: DNA/SMA PARTY-OF-THE-SEASON SET FOR DEC 13

The date for the DNA/SMA combined year-ending and season-celebrating holiday party has been set for Tuesday, Dec. 13, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Jack Robinson Gallery will be the setting and all DNA and SMA members and their friends are invited.

The festivities will include catering by Rizzo’s, featuring heavy hors d'oeuvres, and there will be a cash bar for wine and beer. Live music will be provided by Eddie Harrison, with a leaning toward jazz and blues. Come as you are or dress up in your colorful, merry best.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the year is winding down, and this will be your last opportunity to gather with all your association friends in such a fun atmosphere.

Marcy Siebert, president of the Downtown Neighborhood Association for 2017, said, “Last year was an absolute blast. So come celebrate the holidays with your neighbors. Be there or be square.”

Jack Robinson Gallery is located at 400 South Front Street (enter off Huling). Visit http://robinsongallery.com/ for gallery information.

2017 DNA Board

President - Marcy Siebert

Marcy retired from Northwest Airlines with 36 years in Customer Service. She is looking forward to leading the DNA in 2017. She lives in the South End.

President Elect - Will Norris

Will is an Assistant Branch Manager for Bank Tennessee. He lives in a totally cool apartment close to the Redbirds ball Park.

Treasurer - Jeff Zapatos

Jeff has been involved with downtown since birth thanks to his family’s history with the Arcade Restaurant. He lives in the South End.

Secretary - Lisa Brumleve

Lisa is known for her work with the DMC and is currently using her Graduate Gemologist degree at Sissy’s Log Cabin. She lives in the South Main area.

Communications Chair - Holly Townsend

Holly has worked communications for the casinos in Tunica and is currently employed by the CVB as a Small Events Sales Manager. She lives in the Center District.

Business Representative - Kelly Smith

Visit Kelly at Life is Good which she owns. She lives on Mud Island.

Membership Co Representative - Terre Gorham

Terre is the Editor for The Downtowner Magazine and works for Leo Events as well. She lives in the South Main Area.

Membership Co Representative - Peggy Williams

Peggy, a native Memphian, left for 40 years and wanted to come back home. She has served on the DNA Board as Secretary and co-chair of the Membership committee. She lives in South Main.

Mud Island District Representative - Sylvie Le Bouthillier

Sylvie, originally from Canada, moved to Mud Island in 2013. She is currently a business consultant for Shelby County.

North District Representative - BLANK

We are still looking for a North District Representative. If you are interested in serving, please email Marcy Siebert (marcysiebert@bellsouth.net)

Central District Representative - Denise Brittenum

Denise has lived downtown for 26 years and has worked with the Memphis Police for 23 years. She lives in the Center District.

South District Representative - Stacy Dietzler

Stacy is the current Secretary for DNA and serves on the Advisory Board for the YMCA. She lives in the South Main area.

Immediate Past President - Mickell Lowery

HEADLINES FROM THE DOWNTOWN SAFETY MEETING

 

On Thursday, October 27th downtown residents gathered for the monthly safety meeting at the Halloran Center. Guest speakers included Harold Collins- Vice President For Community Engagement Memphis/ Shelby County Crime Commission, Bill Gibbons -President & CEO Memphis/Shelby County Crime Commission, North Main Station Colonel Gloria Bullock and LTC Keith Watson. Here are some headlines from the meeting:

  • Colonel Bullock of North Main Police Precinct advises to keep calling with anything suspicious. We are the eyes and ears of the community. They made 2 serious arrests this past week. One was a drug dealer and the other was the man stealing and breaking into several condo buildings in the South Main area.
  • Harold Collins and Bill Gibbons are working on a new Operation: Safe Community action plan. Priorities include strengthen community engagement in crime prevention, reduce violent street crime, reduce number of juveniles committing delinquent acts, reduce domestic violence, and reduce the number of repeat offenders. You can learn more here.
  • Linda Granell of the South Main Association is chairing a committee to write grants to Neighborhood Watch for cameras and lighting in the South Main Area.
  • The next Downtown Safety Meeting will be Thursday December 1, 2016 6pm-7:15pm.

DO GOOD WITH FOOD: DNA'S ANNUAL BASH SUPPORTS MID-SOUTH FOOD BANK

David Stephens and Marcy Siebert

David Stephens and Marcy Siebert

By Jim Walker & Marcy Siebert

Mark your wall calendars, set your e-events or put a sticky-note on the bathroom mirror. However you block out the day, save Sunday, Nov. 13 for the DNA-hosted Do Good With Food party. This year’s edition of the annual funtime fundraiser will be held at Downtown’s stylish Bleu Restaurant from noon to 3 p.m.– and so is titled Brunch at Bleu. As always, all proceeds go to the Mid-South Food Bank.

The Mid-South Food Bank is a not-for-profit organization that serves more than 300 charitable feeding programs in 31 counties in west Tennessee, north Mississippi and east Arkansas. These agencies include food pantries, youth programs, soup kitchens, shelters, day care centers, residential programs, senior programs and rehabilitation programs.

In the Mid-South Food Bank’s service area, more than 26 percent of children are “food insecure.” There is a critical connection between childhood nutrition and cognitive and physical development. Even short-term nutritional deficiency can impact a child’s health and ability to learn. Consequently, the Mid-South Food Bank also has two childhood feeding programs: Kids Cafe and the Food for Kids Backpack Program.

The Mid-South Food Bank distributes about one million pounds of food a month, and almost ten percent of that food comes from community food drives.

Ten years ago, our own Marcy Siebert saw a need to help fill the Mid-South Food Bank’s shelves.

“Seeing empty food bank shelves on the TV news struck a chord with me,” Siebert said. “It reminded me that, at Northwest Airlines Cargo, where I worked, empty shelves in our warehouse meant no business was being done. I felt that was a tragedy for a food bank, for the people who need the food.”

So, doing what she does best, she threw a party. Sponsored by the DNA, the event was initially titled The Power of Protein, as the DNA realized early-on that protein items are the least-donated to the food bank, and so decided to step up and donate them.

“I was blown away by the success of the first party,” Siebert said, “how that tremendously fun event brought in so much money and food for the food bank.”

The event has been held every year since. And, over those years, given generously to by DNA members and Siebert’s airline friends, the food and fundraisers have brought in more than $10,000 and more than 4,000 pounds of provisions for the Mid-South Food Bank.

David Stephens, the Mid-South Food Bank’s Community Relations Manager, said, “The DNA has been a wonderful partner in the fight to end food insecurity. For many years they have provided hundreds of dollars and pounds food to help the Mid-South Food Bank feed families, seniors and children throughout the 31 counties. Marcy has been a true champion in her fight to bring awareness to hunger in the Mid-South.”

Your admission to this year’s Do Good With Food festivities includes an expansive breakfast buffet and cash bar. Ensuring the good times will roll, live music will be provided by local favorites Pam and Terry. There will also be a drawing for a Bleu dinner for two.

Tickets for the Do Good With Food party are $30 per person, which includes your meal, tax and tip. Please purchase your tickets ahead of time through Eventbrite at Brunch at Bleu.

Most Important: Along with your admission, please bring several non-perishable “protein” food items, such as canned meats and fish, peanut butter or other nut butters, dried beans, Spam and soups.

Cash donations are also welcome, and if you can’t attend the party, please send a check payable to the Mid-South Food Bank to the attention of Marcy Siebert, 648 Riverside Drive, Unit 418, Memphis, TN 38103.

Oh, and one more thing. Siebert says that, if you impress her with your donation, she will buy you a drink. While that leaves her a lot of wiggle-room, let’s all load up and see if we can make her regret that offer. Cheers!

Bleu Restaurant & Lounge is located directly across from the FedEx Forum in Downtown Memphis at the corner of S. Third Street and Lt. George W. Lee Avenue, at 221 South 3rd Street. Enjoy complimentary valet parking provided by The Westin Memphis Beale Street, located at 170 Lt. George W. Lee Avenue. (The parking is free, but don’t forget to tip the valets!) For further details on Bleu Restaurant & Lounge visit www.downtownbleu.com.

For more information on the Mid-South Food Bank visit www.midsouthfoodbank.org.

CONGRESSMAN COHEN SPEAKS TO THE DNA

This month the DNA was privileged to hear from Congressman Steve Cohen at The Arcade Restaurant. "There is no more vigorous supporter or fighter for Memphis than Congressman Cohen," said DNA President Mickell Lowery in his introductory remarks.

Congressman Cohen is finishing up his 10th year representing Tennessee in the US House of Representatives. He is on the ballot for re-election on November 8.

A fourth-generation Memphian, Cohen says "Downtown has been the center of my life." He spoke of his grandfather who operated a curbside news stand for 52 years in front of what is now the Residence Inn downtown.

"This is the center where people come together - black and white, young and old. Downtown is so important. Downtown is it. Downtown is for everybody," said Cohen to a crowd of nodding DNA-ers.

Cohen discussed the exciting opening of Big River Crossing this month, and what it took to secure federal funding for the multi-modal, Main to Main project.  "Now it's a bridge for the 21st century. Best view of the river. Best view of the city. Views that no one but a locomotive engineer has seen in 70 years."

Cohen is optimistic about the continued progress of Downtown. He attributes much of that progress to big thinkers like Fred Smith, Kemmons Wilson, Sam Phillips, Abe Plough, and Henry Turley. "Mud Island was a bunch of trees and vermin. No one did anything over there until Henry had the idea of making it like Seaside resort."

He mentioned other priorities and issues he's supported - restoring the historic Clayburn temple, developing the Foote Homes, preserving the greensward and MidSouth Coliseum, and supporting the city council ordinance to lessen punishment for marijuana.

Cohen reiterated his commitment to continuing to fight for Memphis and for Downtown. "Downtown is happening, there are so many good things…Keep goin' with Cohen!"

RIVER INN IS A TOP 100 HOTEL ON EARTH!

Room at the River Inn

Room at the River Inn

Did you know Harbor Town is home to one of the best hotels in the WORLD as rated by the readers of Travel and Leisure Magazine?! It came in at #93, ahead of fabulous hotels in Barbados, South Africa, and even Cabo San Lucas!

That's an incredible honor, and we spoke with the River Inn's general manager, Karl Friedrich to get an inside look at what's behind the hotel's success.

What does it mean to you & your team to be a top 100 hotel? 

We are very proud of being in the 100 top hotels in the world, and the River Inn Team is working hard to keep it this way.

How does the ranking system work? What does your score mean? 

The score is done annually by readers’ survey worldwide and is based on the total points given by the readers.

Have you earned this or similar accolades before? 

General manager Karl Friedrich

General manager Karl Friedrich

Yes, we have by Conde Nast Magazine – Top 25 Hotels in the USA, and US News & World Report voted #1 Best Hotel in Memphis for 2011 - 2016

What do you attribute this success to? What differentiates the River Inn?

The success is due to the continued drive of excellence in service, comfort and Southern Hospitality. We are different in being a true European Style Boutique Hotel with traditional charm and ambiance and a great location on the Mississippi River, and being in a resort area of downtown Memphis.

How long have you been general manager? What's your philosophy or approach to managing the hotel?

After graduating from Hotel School in Austria I have been in the Hotel business for 45 years and have managed resort hotels for the past 40 years (mostly in the Caribbean and USA). My approach of managing a hotel is to surround yourself with the best people in the business, be detailed orientated, give the best personal service to our patrons and treat the guest like king and queen of the hotel. The guest must leave with a feeling of having been treated special and have had a great experience staying at River Inn.

How many staff do you have? 

We have about 100 team members between the hotel and our 3 restaurants (Paulette’s, Tug’s, and the Terrace) and banquet facilities (River Hall)

What's the history of the River Inn? 

The vision of the owners was to create a European Style Boutique Hotel with Southern Hospitality, and I believe we achieved that vision. River Inn was opened at the end of October 2007.

FOOD COURT COMING TO SOUTH MAIN

September South Main Meeting Recap

By Nancy Lubioni & Cyndy Grivich

Justin Dyer, and his wife, Kim, were inspired by a trip to Chelsea Market in NYC, and dreamed of finding a way to bring the feel of a similar large food market to Memphis. 

Dyer, a lifetime Memphian, and no stranger to the food service business, having worked for D. Canale and Red Bull, notes that many food magazines are featuring good southern food and he believes that Memphis is ready for this. He researched possible sites and determined that Downtown and Midtown were the places in the city where the concept was most likely to work because of the demographics of the neighborhoods. After looking around, he chose the Puck Building at 409 S. Main Street. 

Downtown loves to see new businesses start in the neighborhood, especially when an old space is being renovated for a new purpose, which is the case for the “old” Jay Etkins Art Gallery. The gallery was just the latest in a history of uses for the gallery on South Main street which started out as a wholesale, then retail grocery before becoming a beauty salon, and then art gallery and event space. (There is a rumor that some of the space was used to film a Larry Flynt movie, but that’s another story.) The space is circling back to its food-roots, this time as a large food court, also with a market space where you can purchase some seasonal items. Adult beverages? Hello – this is Downtown! Yes to cocktails, wine & beer. 

The area will be divided into a Hot Side, with active cooking, and a Cold Side, no gas or cooking required. There will be a variety of foods, all high end, so far including food trucks, Cajun boil, catfish, hot dogs, tacos, Asian food - if he finds a vendor - coffee, cupcakes and other confections, cheeses, and Hawaiian Shaved Ice with true adult flavors. Dyer is also looking to add food/market related “concepts” such as a florist. Takeout will be available as well as seating at each vendor to provide a more urban, cozy and restaurant feel, and the opportunity to meet your neighbors – the ones you know and perhaps even some that you do not know – yet.

Of course, the expectation is there will be a good deal of local foot traffic. Downtowners are used to parking and walking so there are no plans to provide parking. Negotiations are, however, in-work to lease a corner lot close-by for the Saturday crowd that is often downtown for the Farmer’s market, and perhaps even a valet. How about that - valet to grocery shop! Are we uptown or what!

Plans are to place the food court and market on the first level, with elevator access to offices and event spaces, respectively, on the second and third floors. The event space will provide support revenue while the food market is under construction, and will open January 1, 2017. The target date to open the market is May 1, 2017. Tentatively, the plan is to be open every day, up to 12 -14 hours.

THE DEAD SOLDIERS BAND

Making darkness fun in Memphis

By Jim Walker

THE DEAD SOLDIERS CORE MEMBERS: (BACK ROW, L TO R) CLAY QUALLS, BENJAMIN AVIOTTI, NATHAN RAAB; (FRONT ROW, L TO R) PAUL GILLIAM, KRISTA WROTEN-COMBEST, MICHAEL JASUD.

THE DEAD SOLDIERS CORE MEMBERS: (BACK ROW, L TO R) CLAY QUALLS, BENJAMIN AVIOTTI, NATHAN RAAB; (FRONT ROW, L TO R) PAUL GILLIAM, KRISTA WROTEN-COMBEST, MICHAEL JASUD.

As a writer, I’m going to do something a little different here, and start things off with a Facebook post I put up on June 10. It pretty much says what I would intro with anyway, and these days, well, there are no rules:

“If I take nothing else away from Memphis, I will take the Dead Soldiers band. They found us at the 901 Fest on May 28, on stage down by the river at sunset. Any band that employs guitars, banjos, fiddles and a brass section would win me, of course, but these people are magnificently lively and dark. As the name indicates, they often have a Rebel Civil War bent, with songs such as ‘Tennessee Quickstep’ and ‘Ironclad.’ And they are proof that Steve Martin was wrong when he said: ‘The banjo is such a happy instrument - you can’t play a sad song on the banjo – it always comes out so cheerful.’ Not so. But it does make death and darkness fun, haha. Spread the word. These people are fantastic!”

That being said, I will add that the Soldiers have a very diverse musical repertoire, including classics, such as “Sixteen Tons,” that can get the audience singing loudly along with them. It’s all done in a very unique style that no one else comes close to. They perform at various venues in Memphis and nearby states, but it’s all Memphis-made.

I’ll let their band bio explain: “Dead Soldiers is an American Roots Rock Band from Memphis, Tennessee. Much like The Band and Tom Waits, they draw deeply from influences ranging from Rock, Soul, Outlaw Country, and Bluegrass to Blues to carve out their own dark perspective on what it means to live and die in the American South. Songs about anxiety, poverty, politics, history and death, are lifted by three and four part vocal harmonies, and paired with detailed instrumentation to create a dynamic musical identity with an energy and irreverence that sets them apart.

The Dead Soldiers playing at this year's 901 Fest at Tom Lee Park

The Dead Soldiers playing at this year's 901 Fest at Tom Lee Park

“The band began writing and performing in 2011 and consists of core members Michael Jasud (lead vocals/guitar), Benjamin Aviotti (vocals/banjo/guitar), Clay Qualls (vocals/bass/mandolin), Krista Wroten-Combest (vocals/violin/keys), Nathan Raab (guitar/mandolin/bass/keys), and Paul Gilliam (drums). But the band also employs an array of personnel from the Memphis music scene whenever there is space on the stage – most notably in the form of the modern-day Memphis Horns style attack of Nahshon Benford (trumpet) and Victor Sawyer (trombone).”

To give you a bit more of a look inside the band, and to emphasize its Downtown Memphis connections, I asked four of the band members a few questions. Here are their responses:

(1) How long with the band? 

Benjamin Aviotti and Michael Jasud are co-founders and members since the band’s inception in 2011.

Krista: “Four years.”

Paul: “I've been with the band since September of 2012.”

(2) Instruments you play for the band? Sing? Write songs?

Ben: “I play guitar and provide some lead vocals and some backing vocals. I initially write some of our songs but writing, for us, is a highly collaborative process.”

Krista: “Violin/keys/yes/assist with arrangements.”

Paul: “I play drums. I do not sing. I help write the songs along with everyone else.”

Michael: “Guitar, sing, write. Yes. I’m the one who digs us into a hole that everyone else inevitably has to dig us out of; personally, musically, professionally, you name it. I play the guitar, but I like to think of myself as playing the ‘difficult personality.’ I believe that’s an absolute necessity in every band.”

(3) What are your connections to Downtown Memphis or greater Memphis?

Ben: “I grew up cutting my teeth playing in bands at the New Daisy and sitting in with bands on Beale St. I’ve worked a few restaurant jobs Downtown over the years as well.”

Krista: “Born in Texas, moved during elementary school, graduated from Cordova High, went to Boston University, moved back 2008. Worked at A Schwab and now Loflin Yard.”

Paul: “I currently live Downtown with my girlfriend on Front St. I also work at Loflin Yard. I thoroughly enjoy taking my son, John, down to Tom Lee Park to ride bikes, or to hang at the Splash Park. I’ve been going to BBQ Fest for years, and have played the Beale Street Music Festival for the past two years (once with Dead Soldiers and once with The Memphis Dawls).”

Michael: “I’ve spent years wandering around Downtown Memphis befriending the drunk and mentally ill. It turns out we have a lot in common. My spiritual home is under the old bridge. I like listening to the trains overhead and watching the pollution from President’s Island float by. Once I saw a guy float by on a homemade raft and nearly panicked, convinced for a moment that he was a pirate. It turns out he was a piece of driftwood.”

(4) What is your favorite type of venue and why?

Ben: “I prefer mid-size 300 to 500 capacity venues for performing and attending. Plenty of people to have good energy but still maintain some intimacy with your audience.”

Krista: “Variety is the spice of life.”

Paul: “My favorite type of venue is one that has great on-stage sound and enough room for everyone to move around and be comfortable. Minglewood has the space, of course, but Lafayette’s has great sound. There are so many variables that go into it, it’s hard for any venue to get all of them right.”

Michael: “Anywhere with a hostile audience and cheap beer.”

(5) What’s the best part about being a “Memphis” band? And, related, what is the best part about playing in Memphis?

Ben: “Being a ‘Memphis’ band is a privilege. Wonderful cultural diversity, a seemingly endless talent pool, and a sense of community that you don’t often find in other music towns. I like playing in Memphis because it’s a challenge. Folks here know their music and are quick to recognize a lack of sincerity. It makes you want to stand up straight and do things right.”

Paul: “Being a ‘Memphis’ band definitely has its pros and cons. On one hand, this city’s storied musical past makes it hard for people to pay attention to new bands with newer ideas. But, on the other hand, that sets the standard really high for everyone involved. This city is full of so many incredible musicians. Many will never get a fraction of the recognition they deserve. I’m just lucky to be playing with/around the caliber of musical talent that constantly surrounds me.”

Michael: “Low expectations and cheap rent. Exploiting our rich and diverse past. Enjoying all the benefits of cultural appropriation somebody already did all of the hard work appropriating.”

(6) Where do you hope it's all going?

Ben: “I just want to keep our nose to the grindstone, trying to be better than we were yesterday.”

Krista: “To be able to travel and play music. Pretty much what we’re doing now.”

Paul: “All of us have been playing music for longer than we’d like to admit. Most of it has gone nowhere. There are a lot of embarrassing bands that litter my past. But, I’ve never been more proud of the work that I’ve put out than in this group. These guys push me creatively (and sometimes emotionally) more than any group of fellow musicians, or friends, that I’ve ever had. I hope that one day I’ll be able to take this silly pipe dream of mine and make it into a career that will not only support me (and my family) financially, but also keep me feeling fulfilled creatively.”

Michael: “I’m trying to blow up and act like I don’t know nobody.”

The Dead Soldiers October tour dates include: (10/1) Rum Boogie Cafe, Memphis; (10/23) River Arts Fest, Memphis; and (10/29) Sinners for Saints Halloween Ball at Stop 345, Memphis. The band is working on its second full-length album, which is scheduled for release in March of 2017 on American Grapefruit. For more visit www.www.deadsoldierstn.com, and there you can sample their music, such as Wicked River

NEW SAFETY IMPROVEMENTS IN SOUTH DISTRICT

Enhancements made to lighting and pedestrian crosswalks

By Stacy Dietzler

In an ongoing effort to keep our community safe, recently several enhancements have been made in the South District which we are excited to share with you. Below a list of the new improvements:

1. Lights under the bridge at Central Station on G.E.Patterson are operational
2. Street light at the Central Station Powerhouse is operational
3. Newly painted pedestrian crosswalk striping at GE Patterson & South Front
4. Newly painted pedestrian crosswalk striping at G.E. Patterson and Tennessee Avenue
5. Newly painted pedestrian crosswalk striping at Georgia at Florida and Tennessee.
6. The post top lights on South Front by the Central Station Pavilion have been cleaned and some of the older bulbs have been changed out.
7. A damaged storm drain on South Front across from the Memphis Farmers Market has been repaired.

Newly painted pedestrian crosswalk striping at GE Patterson & South Front

Newly painted pedestrian crosswalk striping at GE Patterson & South Front

The City of Memphis Public Works Division is responsible for the operation and maintenance of the City's infrastructure which includes streets, sanitary sewers, storm drains, bridges and flood control. In addition, the Division is responsible for the collection and disposal of the City's Solid Waste and the transport and treatment of both domestic and industrial wastewater for the metropolitan area.

 Lights under the bridge at Central Station on G.E.Patterson are operational

 Lights under the bridge at Central Station on G.E.Patterson are operational

Maintenance is responsible for repair and maintenance, including asphalt overlay and pothole repairs on more than 3,400 miles of roadway within the City; routine maintenance and emergency repair service to existing drainage systems within the City's right-of-way to minimize flooding and property damage; street lighting to increase the visibility and safety of roadway users during nighttime hours; and heavy equipment services to support City maintenance and emergency activities.

Newly painted pedestrian crosswalk striping at G.E. Patterson and Tennessee Avenue

Newly painted pedestrian crosswalk striping at G.E. Patterson and Tennessee Avenue

Some helpful tips when reporting issues:
•    Should you see a street light out, please contact Memphis Light, Gas and Water (MLGW) at (901-320-1497 and include the number on the street light post as a reference for MLGW. 

•    Should you need to report a pothole, you can only report two pot holes per phone call.  (901) 636-6500 (or dial 3-1-1)

Below are some important phone numbers for your reference:
Services Provided by Public Works

  • Flooding Drain Maintenance    (901) 357-0100
  • Damaged Storm Water Inlet or Channel Drain Maintenance    (901) 357-0100
  • Overflowing Manhole Environmental    (901) 529-8025
  • Sewer Backup Environmental    (901) 529-8025
  • Sewer Billing Environmental Engineering    (901) 636-6757
  • Household/commercial solid waste collection    (901) 636-6851 or 636-6500
  • City Issued Garbage Carts and Recycling Containers    (901) 636-6851 or 636-6500
  • Curbside and Public Drop-off Recycling    (901) 636-6851 or 636-6500
  • Street Paving Street Maintenance    (901) 636-7127
  • Pothole Repair Street Maintenance    (901) 636-6500 (or dial 3-1-1)
  • Street Light Outage - MLGW    (901) 320-1497
  • Dumping in street - Storm Drain Environmental    (901) 636-434

For additional information or assistance, Maintenance can be reached at the following numbers: 

  • Street Maintenance    (901) 636-7127
  • Drain Maintenance & Heavy Equipment    (901) 357-0100
  • Street Lighting    (901) 636-7113

YOUTH FILM FEST PUTS YOUNG ARTISTS ON THE BIG SCREEN

On September 24 the first Memphis film festival for youth will be hosted by Indie Memphis at the Halloran Centre for Performing Arts & Education downtown. The event is Youth Film Fest and will be a one-of-a-kind opportunity for young artists to see the work of other young filmmakers and to learn from experienced film professionals.

The Indie Memphis Youth Film Fest is a full-day event for students grades 7 - 12. Young artists will see their work on the big screen, attend workshops and talks from experienced filmmakers, and compete for prizes. The purpose of the festival is for students to learn and be inspired by alumni filmmakers, while enjoying a fun event that is made just for them. The public is invited towards the end of the day to attend the screenings of the youth films to support these future filmmakers.

The Theater at the Halloran Centre

The Theater at the Halloran Centre

Indie Memphis received 38 submissions from Memphis-area youth and over 300 from across the world. The finalists will compete for the grand prize of a full-day production package from VIA Productions with equipment and crew, valued at $4,000, plus $500 of cash and an invitation to screen at the Indie Memphis Film Festival.

The man behind Youth Film Fest is Indie Memphis Executive Director Ryan Watt. "I have been pleasantly surprised with how many films were made after we made the announcement in May," says Watt. "We only had four months to organize this first event, so it was great to see so many teenagers inspired to make short films in time for the submission deadline."

Indie Memphis Executive Director Ryan Watt

Indie Memphis Executive Director Ryan Watt

According to Watt, the biggest challenge has been organizing the event for the first time and getting the word out across the city. They are hoping for as much participation as possible from a wide variety of schools.

On what he's most looking forward to, Watt says, "I'm most excited about being in the theater with a room full of students to see their reactions to watching each other's films. I know it will be an eye-opening experience for the filmmakers and will motivate other students to make films for next year's festival."

Ultimately, Indie Memphis hopes that the event provides the foundation for their Youth Program to build year-over-year. Their next plan is for a mentorship program, where students are paired with alumni filmmakers to guide them as they work on their next films. In the future, they would love to have a summer camp where students work in teams to make short films.

Thanks to a grant awarded from GiVE365 at the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis and a grant from the Downtown Memphis Commission, the Youth Film Fest passes are FREE to all students while space is available. However, space is limited so students are asked to apply in advance at indiememphis.com. General public tickets will be available to purchase to the Youth Screenings pending availability after student registrations. 

To learn more about Youth Film Fest and to register a student visit Indie Memphis' website.

HOTEL NAPOLEON IS LATEST ADDITION OF BOUTIQUE HOTELS

By Nancy Lubiani

Hotel Napoleon is the latest addition to a growing list of historic properties being dusted off and refitted from the original use for a new purpose. Accepting reservations as soon as mid-September, the hotel features a 58-room boutique along with a restaurant, bar and fitness center.

The building at 179 Madison, on one of the four corners at Madison Avenue and B.B. King Boulevard – the one with curved glass windows - was built in 1902 and originally housed Memphis’ afternoon newspaper, The Press Scimitar. In 1983, under its name at the time, The Winchester Building, the property was added to the National Register of Historic places.

Photo of construction (July 2016)

Photo of construction (July 2016)

Although a new, traditional travel hotel may be less expensive to build, boutique hotels draw a traveler with interest in historic properties and neighborhoods, much of which Memphis has to offer between the River Museum, Beale Street, the Orpheum, Victorian Village, the Pinch and so much more.

Although the Peabody is not a boutique hotel, its historic presence has the same characteristics that draw the discriminating traveler. Other boutiques are doing well in Memphis: The River Inn, The Madison to name just a couple – and more are planned. For more information on Hotel Napoleon, and other developments planned for the future, check out the source for this article and more in The Daily News. You can also visit the Hotel Napoleon's website here.

A look inside one of the hotel rooms

A look inside one of the hotel rooms

WE'RE READY TO BE GREAT: TOM BOWEN ON TIGER ATHLETICS

UofM Athletics Director Tom Bowen speaks to DNA members at the Memphis Chamber

UofM Athletics Director Tom Bowen speaks to DNA members at the Memphis Chamber

The monthly DNA meeting started off on a fun note at the Memphis Chamber, with free Nike hats in Tiger blue! It only got better from there, as Tom Bowen was our September speaker.

Tom Bowen took over as Athletic Director for the University of Memphis in 2012. "Memphis was an amazing moment for me," recalls Bowen, referring to the buzz around Memphis potentially joining the Big East at the time of his hire (ultimately UofM joined the American Athletic Conference).

Since taking the helm of the Athletic Department, Bowen has led Tiger athletics to success both on and off the field. In 2014, the football program won its first conference championship in more than 40 years. Men's basketball has advanced to the NCAA tournament third round twice. Tennis and golf have also seen national success.

Off the field (or court), Bowen's 377 Tiger athletes are showing strong academic achievement. The UofM has a 92% graduation rate for student athletes. The athletic program has 12 consecutive trimesters of a cumulative 3.0 GPA for athletes. There are dozens of freshman on the Dean's list and 62 athletes with a 4.0 GPA. "This is a school that cares about the student athlete," says Bowen. In addition to impressive academic numbers, last year athletes logged 2,200 community service hours!

In reference to the secret of his success, Bowen discussed hiring great talent. "I am the most unimportant person by myself. I hire great people." He also discussed the importance of a "culture of greatness and a standard of excellence" that has taken years to build. "We teach our athletes not to wait for the storm to pass, but to learn to dance in the rain," says Bowen ,"and now, the future is unstoppable. My student athletes want to be champions. They fear no one. We're ready to be great."

This year will be the most exciting year yet, predicts Bowen. It's not just the exciting new football and basketball coaches that will help drive success. Bowen also expects greatness in volleyball, softball, baseball, cross country, and track & field, among others. "We had a pole vaulter in the Rio Olympics….the recruiting class in football is ranked in the top 20. We recruited the #4 kicker in the country. This year could be extraordinary."

The program is also building a new athletic facility on Park Avenue, in response to a comprehensive 2012 assessment of facilities and a $40M capital campaign Bowen led. Half of the facility will be for the community, including a tribute to Tiger basketball history. "We need to better articulate the championships, the great seasons, the great games," says Bowen. The second half will be a state-of-the-art training center.

On whether the UofM will be invited to join the Big 12 this year, Bowen is feeling optimistic. Joining the Big 12 - one of the Power Five conferences - would be a big boost for the University. Even Justin Timberlake tweeted support for Memphis' bid to his 56M followers. Ultimately, Bowen expects a decision to be made Oct 18.

"The ceiling has been lifted," boasts Bowen. "This is the best time to be a Tiger. These are the days when we become very good at what we do."

THE STORY BEHIND THE RIVERBOAT CRUISE

This month the DNA's 2016 Riverboat Cruise sets sail down the Mississippi. What's the story behind this annual tradition?

The event dates back to 2011, when then DNA President Ken Hudson suggested sponsoring a riverboat cruise fundraiser to enable the DNA to fund its charitable contributions. The DNA worked with Memphis Riverboats Captain Dale Lozier to offer discounted trip tickets to DNA-ers. The event was a big hit from the beginning, giving DNA members and friends the opportunity to enjoy an "Old Man River" experience.

If you've never been on the cruise before, here's what you can expect. You'll spend the Sunday afternoon on a two-decked riverboat propelled by a paddle wheel (called a "sternwheeler"). You'll take in the beautiful and unique vantage point of Memphis and its skyline from the river. You'll likely hear the stories of Memphis and the Mississippi River from historian Jimmy Ogle while sipping your favorite beverage and enjoying music from the on-deck DJ with your friends and neighbors. If you stay after for the raffle, you might win a Memphis-themed gift!

"My favorite part is being on the river," says downtowner Sharon Leicham, "I imagine I could be in a Mark Twain story. To me, it's magical."

This is an event you don't want to miss, so mark your calendars for the event and purchase your tickets here

DNA Riverboat Cruise

  • 4pm - Pre-party at Beale Street Landing's Riverfront Grill
  • 5pm - Board the Boat!
  • 5:30pm - Set Sail...and raffle when we get back!
  • Tickets are $15 online, $20 at the door

 

 

 

THE LEGEND OF BUDDY LOFLIN

Learn the story behind the name.

buddy loflin and marcy siebert at loflin yard

buddy loflin and marcy siebert at loflin yard

By Kelcie Beharelle

Loflin Yard is one of the hottest new spots in the city of Memphis – but who is Loflin? The name comes from Buddy Loflin, a Memphis locksmith with a long and rich legacy in the downtown area. Last year he retired his shop which became a central part of Loflin Yard's bar.

Growing up in the downtown community, he learned his trade from his father. After years of honing his skill, he took over running his father’s shop in 1962 with a vision to not only craft keys, but to also create a space where people from the community could come to relax and talk about the affairs of the town. Through the years Buddy has worked with all types of people, hotels, and businesses across Memphis. In the past, he would routinely make up to 40 keys a week for the old Arcade Hotel. Now, even still, he helps friends and other businesses that call on his expertise privately.

Since opening, Loflin Yard has seen a tremendous amount of support from the community who have longed for a fresh outdoor venue with live music. If you are looking for an outdoor spot to enjoy a beautiful downtown evening, this is the place. During the day, Loflin Yard offers lunch specials and seasonal salads using locally sourced ingredients, including those found at the Downtown Farmer’s Market. With all the attention, there are plans in place to add more to their cocktail and food menu including a sausage and cheese plate, as well as smoked wings.

To keep guests entertained, there are numerous games and activities located throughout the Yard. With summer in full effect, keeping cool is a must and Loflin’s helps accommodate its guests with waterslides and sprinklers, adding to the backyard feeling. There is even a mention of the possibility of boozy popsicles! In order to keep their patrons cozy in the coming Fall season they are adding gas lines to run heaters along with fire pits throughout the backyard. Also, keep an eye on their social media. They have all sorts of ideas in mind ranging from football watch parties to movie nights. In honor of Buddy, his family, and his craft, the first safe he ever worked on has been retrofitted into the counter within the main bar. Think about that the next time you are ordering a refreshing beverage from Loflin Yard.

THREE SPEAKERS FOR THE PRICE OF ONE

Presenters at July DNA member meeting laud benefits to Downtown of both filmmaking and county government

By Jim Walker

August member meeting at spindini

August member meeting at spindini

DNA President Mickell Lowery quipped that those in attendance at the July DNA member meeting got three great speakers for the “price” of one. And all three of them focused on successful efforts to create a better Memphis, whether it be through bringing filmmaking to the area, or through the efforts of our county government.

First up was Film Commissioner Linn Sitler of the Memphis & Shelby County Film and Television Commission, whom Lowery noted was “The longest-serving film commissioner in the world.”

Sitler said that the commission began in 1985, and that she joined it in 1987, thinking she’d serve one year. “But it’s been a lot longer than a year, more like 30,” she said.

Sitler said their very first client was attracted to Downtown in 1988, and the result was the film “Mystery Train.” “That’s why we have the movie marker outside the Arcade Restaurant, because that is where the modern wave of Memphis movie making began, on that corner,” she noted. “And right on its heels came ‘Great Balls of Fire.’”

Sitler described the upward and downward trends in Memphis filmmaking and noted that the city provided her with a lobbyist in 2006 to help. Film incentives totaling millions of dollars followed. However, circumstances turned and she said from 2007 to 2016 “all the major (incentivized) movies were filmed in Middle Tennessee.”

The commission and Shelby County power brokers got together in 2015 and were able to get a total of $4 million for film incentives. Eventually, this led to the television series “The Million Dollar Quartet” being filmed in Memphis. Sitler explained that Christina Varotsis, the series’ production manager, was invaluable in making this happen. And she listed the benefits of the production being local.

Christina varotsis (Right), Mickell lowery (center), Linn sitler (right)

Christina varotsis (Right), Mickell lowery (center), Linn sitler (right)

“They are leaving more money here than ‘The Firm’...sixty percent of the highly paid union crew jobs went to residents of Memphis and Shelby County...over 43 speaking roles went to residents of Memphis and Shelby county...and over $17 million was spent in the State of Tennessee...”

Sitler then introduced Varotsis, who said the show began shooting in early April and finished July 9. She then presented an enticing promotional clip from the series, which she said was, “our first trailer.”

After the presentation Varotsis explained that CMT is licensing the show, and that the eight, one-hour episodes of the first season should begin airing in March of 2017. They won’t know until next year whether or not the show will get picked up for a second season.

Regarding the production, Varotsis said, “We tried to hire as many crew members and cast members (as possible) from the area and from Memphis, itself,” she said, “and we are very proud that we succeeded. Everyone has been a tremendous asset to us, every step of the way.” She went on to add that she believes that the heart of a downtown is the heart of a city. In closing, she thanked the people and businesses of Memphis who facilitated shooting the episodes.

Lowery then introduced Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell. However, before he spoke, Sitler presented Luttrell with an “Honorary Crewmember” award from “Million Dollar Quartet” for his assistance.

Luttrell noted that the filming of “Quartet” in Memphis is a great accomplishment for the city and for Shelby County and the entire state.

He then explained that county “mayor” is just a title, and he described the structure and purpose of county government, while lauding such developments as the arrival of Bass Pro, the St. Jude expansion, redevelopment of the Hotel Chisca, the Civil Rights Museum and the FedEx Forum.

“Vibrant communities have vibrant downtowns,” he said. “With all those projects that I just mentioned, we’re looking at roughly a $5 billion investment in the downtown area.”

Luttrell noted that, in Tennessee, the primary responsibilities of county government are public education, public health and public safety. But he added, “Our overarching responsibility is economic development.”

In describing Shelby County, he said, “Our most valuable asset is our diversity.” He then praised, among other assets, the low cost of living here, the low real estate prices and the low tax rates.

During the question/answer period after he spoke, Luttrell was asked how things would play out if he gets elected to Congress. He explained that the chairman of the Shelby County Commission would serve in his position for the first 45 days and then the commission would choose a replacement to serve the rest of the term.