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Move to Crosstown area on the way for brg3s Architects

Following the sale of its current leased space downtown, brg3s architects is planning to make a move to the revitalized Crosstown area by the end of the year. The firm has secured a 4,200-square-foot ground floor and basement space at the former White Way Pharmacy building at the northeast corner of Cleveland and Overton Park, one block away from the new Crosstown Concourse redevelopment.

“We loved being downtown but also recognize that Crosstown is an up-and-coming area,” said brg3s principal Steve Berger.

Brg3s formed originally in 1900 and has occupied multiple locations around town. The firm specializes in health care, retail and office space design.

The firm’s new space is actually smaller than the its current downtown location at the old Nabisco Biscuit Company building at 11 Huling St., which is actually larger than what the company needs for its 16 employees.

At the new Crosstown location, work space will be on the ground floor of the building, with printing and storage in the basement.

“We’re in the middle of a culture shift in office organization trends, and we’re going to use the layout of our new office space to explore that,” said Jason Jackson, brg3s lead design architect. ‘We’re seeing a trend where offices are almost designed like a home environment, and we’re trying to create a space where people are comfortable and they are their most productive.”

Gone are the days of individual offices or cubicles where people work in isolation, replaced instead by an emphasis on collaboration space and flexibility.

The old pharmacy had a soda fountain, and the terrazzo floor still contains the design where that fountain bar sat.

‘We’re going to use that to build a new collaboration bar poetically in the same location,” said Jackson. “Our materials library will be there, and our kitchen will be part of it.”

Smaller desks and private conference areas will be available for use by anyone.

A large outdoor plaza entry is still being designed with the goal of opening up towards the resurgent Crosstown Concourse area.

Demolition of the building’s interior is underway now, and buildout of the new space is likely to get underway in the next two months. The new office layout will have enough extra space to allow for the firm to expand some in the future.

DSG plans to transform Edge District with live-work-play concept

New life is on the way for 10 acres within the Edge District as Development Services Group (DSG) has announced plans for $73 million in redevelopment along Madison and Monroe Avenues, that will include historic properties like the former Wonder Bread factory.

The project will feature a variety of new residential, office and retail space, as well as public greenspace. Plans include the adaptive reuse of more than 150,000 square feet of existing structures, some of which are more than 100 years old, as well as ground-up construction.

“The Edge District has experienced a gradual decline over the past two decades,” said DSG Vice President of Development Ethan Knight, who cites the fact that the area was originally known as “Auto Row” because many early auto dealerships were located there. “As the dealerships and maintenance shops moved to much larger lots further and further east, there’s been this hole between Downtown Memphis and the Medical Center area that’s really had trouble recovering.”

The last straw that dealt a major blow to the area was the Wonder Bread bakery closing several years ago.

“We view the Edge District as that next big opportunity for downtown to begin its expansion,” said Knight. “Connecting the solid downtown core with the Medical Center through a great live-work-play neighborhood is a strong move for the future of Downtown Memphis.”

DSG is seeking a 20-year PILOT incentive from the Downtown Memphis Commission (DMC) for the project. If approved, construction could get underway as soon as September, and the overall project is expected to be completed in less than two years.

PGK Properties owns all of the parcels under redevelopment, and DSG is the master developer (with SWH Partners co-developing the apartments at 400 Monroe Avenue). Worthington Hyde is the project’s investment partner. Looney Ricks Kiss assisted DSG with master planning.

The eastern section of the former Wonder Bread bakery at 400 Monroe Avenue will be torn down and converted into 286 market-rate, class-A apartments and a 480-space parking garage, while the more culturally-significant western section will be preserved and adapted into 75,000 square feet of new class-A office and retail space (possibly for a restaurant or grocery). The office space is expected to become the headquarters for a 120-employee financial services firm currently located outside of Memphis.

“The Cycle Shop” at 421 Monroe Avenue will be renovated for mixed-use that will include a new location for City & State and the offices of the Memphis Medical District Collaborative, among others. A2H is the architect and engineer, and ViktorHall Construction will be the contractor.

The 35,000-square-foot former glass factory at 435 Madison Avenue will be adapted into office and recreational space, and 411 Monroe Avenue will be restored into 17,000 square feet of class-A office space.

A second phase of the project will include the redevelopment of an abandoned rail spur, known as “The Ravine,” into new public greenspace, adaptive reuse conversions of 484 Union Avenue, 571 Marshall Avenue, 603 Monroe Avenue (formerly Kudzus) and 620 Monroe Avenue into new mixed-use properties, along with new construction on the surface parking lot next to 603 Monroe Avenue.

Rapid expansion underway for Buff City Soap

When former Memphis firefighter Brad Kellum turned 40 four years ago, he decided to make a career change. He and his girlfriend Jennifer Ziemianin began experimenting with different ways to make soap from plant oils in their garage in Bartlett.

“We came up with a recipe that we felt worked really well,” said Kellum. “Our neighbors could smell the soap and liked it, so we started a website and sold it online for a few months before opening our first brick-and-mortar store in Bartlett in December of 2013.”

They opened their second store in Olive Branch in 2015 and completed a rebranding (they were formerly known as The Bartlett Soap Co.) along with a new website.

Since then, Buff City Soap’s expansion has included a new factory location in Bartlett that opened last fall and new stores this year in Tupelo; Castle Rock, Colo.; Birmingham, Ala.; and an upcoming spot in Covington, Tenn.; as well as a pop-up location in Downtown Memphis on North Main Street.

“We’re kind of like a soap bakery. We make soap in the store so customers can see the process and see what’s in it, but even making it in the store we couldn’t keep up with the demand. So we opened the factory to supplement the local stores and for our website sales,” explained Kellum.

The stores carry 33 varieties of soap that are considered staples and are in stock all the time, and they have carried as many as 100 different varieties at various times.

“The one thing we encourage is experimentation in the store within our brand standards,” said Kellum. “We don’t use any animal products or preservatives. All of the soap makers at this point are artists because they are dealing with different colors and smell combinations. It’s almost the same satisfaction that a chef would get.”

The company’s best seller is its Tea Tree with oatmeal, and it also sells a variety of different bath products.

“A big part of our customer base are people who use it because other soap is harsh on them,” said Kellum.

More growth for Buff City is likely on the way, as the company is getting requests for stores in Jackson, Tenn.; Nashville, Niagara Falls, N.Y.; Ocean Springs, Miss.; and more.

Kellum is hoping to turn the Downtown Memphis pop-up location, which will be open until the end of September, into a permanent location. The company also will need to double its 1,700-square-foot factory space in Bartlett by the first of next year in order to expand production.

“We can put out about 10,000 bars of soap per week right now,” said Kellum.

Buff City products can also be found at Miss Cordelia’s Market in Downtown Memphis, Miss Lucille’s Marketplace in Clarksville, Tenn. and Domestic Divas in Tupelo. The company also accepts custom orders.

BLDG Memphis spearheads city’s MEMFix efforts

The benefits of the local MEMFix program, which helps to reinvigorate underutilized areas around the city by redesigning and temporarily activating specific city blocks, have been multifaceted over the past five years. In late September, the MEMFix: Madison + Cleveland event will celebrate the program’s anniversary and highlight an area that connects Midtown to the Medical District and into Downtown.

“When the Innovate Memphis Innovation Delivery Team was initially formed under former Memphis Mayor AC Wharton, its mission was to create programs that would then be spun off to community partners like MEMFix,” said John Paul Shaffer, BLDG Memphis executive director.

The Innovation Delivery Team handled the Crosstown MEMFix event in November 2012 and the Highland & Walker event in April 2013 before BLDG Memphis (then called Livable Memphis) came in to assist on the next two events: South MEMFix in October 2013 and the EDGE District MEMFix event in October 2014.

After that, the program was handed off to BLDG Memphis as the community partner/lead organization, including for last fall’s MEMFix: Film Row event and 2015’s MEMFix: The Pinch event.

“The type of success varies by project, but I think overall MEMFix has a great following and people recognize what it is,” said Shaffer. “I think it’s had value for the public and people who show up for the day, as well as people who show to volunteer leading up to the events. It’s also helped to change how we work with city agencies.”

He cites developing new and innovative relationships with nonprofits along with engineering, public works, MLGW and others.

“There are big financial and development impacts as well, getting out ahead of redevelopment efforts that are coming in and injecting a little more people-centered, street-oriented approaches,” he said.

MEMFix events, based on the Better Block concept, are community-driven and involve tactical urbanism, creative placemaking, and urban prototyping, with neighborhood stakeholders envisioning and recreating livable streets, vibrant public spaces and reinvigorated commercial areas.

“A couple of years ago we started looking at other potential locations, and we came up with a matrix for how we collect them,” said Shaffer. “Having a really strong community partner rose to the top of the list, so when the chance to work with the Memphis Medical District Collaborative came about we thought it would be a good fit for this next MEMFix project.”

The new event will take place on the block of Madison Avenue just west of Cleveland.

“The more focused geographically you can be, the bigger impact you can have,” said Shaffer. “The point of it is to really meet the needs of the people and businesses that are in that space while drawing more attention to the space itself.”

Because of the existing trolley infrastructure in the area, BLDG wants to take a temporary, pop-up approach to street changes for the one-day event.

“There’s a lack of shade and seating - there’s not even seating for people waiting for the bus,” said Shaffer. “There’s a lot of people coming through that space that could use some transit-oriented amenities like phone charging stations or water fountains.”

Art installations or new greenery could be left behind as more permanent changes, and BLDG is partnering with Urban Art Commission, which is working through the Urban Land Institute.

Shaffer points out that new businesses have moved into the area over the past two years, but there are still underutilized storefronts and upstairs living and office space.

City unveils early plans for riverfront redevelopment

Ideas for possible, future redevelopment of the Memphis riverfront were on display recently, as the City of Memphis and Chicago-based architecture and urban design firm Studio Gang presented concepts that would transform six miles along the Mississippi River.

“These are concepts that we will use in our continuing development of the riverfront,” said Alan Crone, special counsel to Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and chairman of the Mayor’s Riverfront Task Force. “It’s not a static project in that there’s going to be one riverfront project that is going to accomplish our community’s goals on the river. It’s an ongoing process.”

Studio Gang’s work was informed by more than 4,500 survey responses from Memphians and multiple public events. It was commissioned for the Mayor’s Riverfront Task Force by the Riverfront Development Corp. (RDC), with the support of the Hyde Family Foundations and the Kresge Foundation.

Mayor Strickland and Riverfront Task Force members will now evaluate the concept, seek additional public consultation and determine which ideas are best for Memphis and feasible to execute.

“There are some things that are already underway. For example, the RDC is working on the cobblestone project to stabilize and restore the historic cobblestone field at the base of the bluffs,” said Crone. “The Hyde Family Foundations and the city are in the process of funding connections to make sure the various river walks, pedestrian and bicycle paths and trails are all connected, with the goal being to be able to walk or ride a bicycle from the Great River Crossing all the way to the Wolf River Greenway at the northern end of Greenway Park. Eventually we would like to extend those bike and pedestrian connections all the way to Martin Luther King Park on the south.”

The Civic Commons project, also known as the Fourth Bluff, to modernize and reinvigorate the Cossitt Library and Mississippi River Park is also underway. Improvements at Tom Lee Park and Mud Island are being considered but are still early in their formation according to Crone.

Activating parks and open spaces with pavilions, playgrounds, plantings and street-level retail are key components to invigorating less-used areas of the riverfront - making them more fun, exciting and interesting for users.

Studio Gang’s concept presents short-, medium-, and long-term investment ideas focused around three principles: 1) fostering positive encounters, civic pride and identity, and new understanding of the Mississippi River; 2) restoring natural conditions, native ecology, and a more dynamic relationship between people and the river; and 3) connecting assets along the river, the riverfront to the city (downtown and the neighborhoods beyond), and people with each other.

“We’ve been working on the riverfront for 200 years, and we’ll be working on the riverfront for well into the future,” Crone said.

The Truffle Pig unearths treasures with new store in Germantown

Entrepreneurs Tara Gorman and Tricia Atkins opened The Truffle Pig in Germantown because they wanted to do their own thing after operating online and trekking regularly to Oxford, Miss. to antique stores to sell their wares. They had a vision for what they wanted their space to look like and had talked about it for years, and then retail space became available at Poplar Pike and Forest Hill-Irene near where they live in Germantown.

The Truffle Pig recently celebrated its opening with a ribbon-cutting event.

“It’s exactly the layout that we wanted,” said Gorman of their 3,600-square-foot space. “Our vision is to have treasures that are different from what you can find anywhere else, hence the truffle pig. We have vendors who bring in their own products in about half the rooms, and the rest of the store is ours.”

Truffle mushrooms grow underground, making it hard for humans to find them. Certain pigs are trained to find the rare truffles.

Many of store’s products are home décor and gift items. The art sold is all local, as well as the jewelry, which is all hand-made.

“It’s important for us to carry merchandise that gives back in some form. For example, we have headbands where if you buy one we donate one to St. Jude for a child with cancer and we have baby clothes where 10 percent of the proceeds go to foster children in Africa,” said Gorman.

The Truffle Pig features some products that are bought for resale and others that are there on consignment.

“Many consignment items are switched out if they haven’t sold in 30 days, so we’re constantly getting new merchandise. There’s something new in here almost every day,” said Gorman.

All items sold are new, with the only exception being refinished furniture.

“We chose to open in Germantown because we felt like there was a need for this kind of store here, and we like to be close to home because we both have a family,” said Gorman, who has hired 10 part-time employees thus far.

Gorman and Atkins might open more locations in the Memphis area in the future, but for now the plan is to focus on their first shop.

Former Downtown fire station to ignite musical creativity

Downtown’s historic former Memphis Fire Station No. 3, which dates back to the early 1900s when firefighters still used horse-drawn carriages, will see new life soon, as renovation work is underway for the building’s new tenant, the Memphis Music Initiative nonprofit.

MMI signed a lease earlier this month, and developer Orgel Family LLC is spearheading the buildout for them. Orgel bought the 10,000-square-foot building more than two years ago.

In addition to serving as a firehouse in its earlier days, the building was also used as a recording studio, 3 Alarm Studios, in the mid-1980s and more recently in 2015 as a spot for a beer garden, known as the Memphis Firehaus.

MMI focuses on music education for black and Latino youth in high-poverty communities, with an emphasis on sparking excitement about music as an art form and helping them to cultivate their talents.

“Obviously this is a great location at the gateway to Beale Street next to the FedEx Forum,” said Jimmie Tucker, partner with Self+Tucker Architects. “We’re excited that they’re going to use it as both an administrative office and as well as a space for some of the innovative programming that they do.”

Self+Tucker Architects created the building designs and Metro Construction is handling the construction work.

The building is scheduled to be ready for move-in by early 2018.

 “We want to respect the character of the historic building but also come in with an innovative use of the interior space,” said Tucker.

The total interior renovation features designs for exposed ductwork in the high ceilings and vibrant use of color. All new mechanical systems, electrical, plumbing and an elevator will be installed.

“We’re also trying to incorporate sustainability where it’s appropriate, such as recycled materials, low-flow fixtures and energy-efficient mechanical systems,” said Tucker. “We’re looking at ways to maintain the historic doors on the front of the building that were there when it was used as a firehouse.”

Right now there is hardly any glass in the doors. Tucker plans to incorporate glass if possible so people can see into the space from the street and allow some natural light inside

“It will have a very open floor plan, with one of the larger rooms available to be subdivided, so there will be a great deal of flexibility with how that space can be used,” said Tucker.

French Truck Coffee cafe and roastery opens at Crosstown

With an intense dedication to respecting the flavor of its high-quality coffee beans, French Truck Coffee has opened its second location in Memphis, moving into a 3,500-square-foot space at the newly redeveloped Crosstown Concourse.

Geoffrey Meeker, who started French Truck Coffee in New Orleans five-plus years ago, partnered with Jimmy Lewis of Relevant Roasters to establish the first French Truck location at 584 Tillman Street in August 2016. Part of the reason French Truck and Relevant Roasters merged was the fact that they would get the chance to go in at Crosstown.

The Tillman location’s small-batch roastery has been relocated to Crosstown, where customers have the opportunity to see the roasting process in action. French Truck currently roasts four coffee blends and eight single-origin beans.

“Right behind where you would order a cup of coffee there’s a glass wall, and you can see our brand new roaster and actually see the roasted beans falling out of the drum and onto the cooling tray,” explained Meeker, who has a background in the culinary world and was a chef for two years before starting to work in coffee.

The new cafe serves an extensive coffee and tea menu seven days a week, and it also offers prepared food for breakfast and lunch. The breakfast menu features items like a waffle sandwich with prosciutto, goat cheese and eggs while the lunch menu (which will be phased in soon) includes a caprese sandwich on a ciabatta roll, a tarragon chicken salad and turkey with brie and apple cardamom jam.

Pastries and baked goods are provided by Porcellino’s in East Memphis.

Walker Bradshaw Construction handled the buildout at Crosstown for the new cafe, and New Orleans-based Colectivo drew up the designs.

The cafe has hired about a dozen people so far, and Meeker expects to increase that number to around 20 employees in the next few months as business expands.

Developing partnerships with restaurants and grocers around town is a focal point for French Truck. One of French Truck’s big pushes right now is to try to work with restaurants that are of similar quality to help them up their coffee game.

“As soon as coffee comes out of the roaster there is a stopwatch that starts, and really good coffee is going to be consumed within ten days of coming out of the roaster,” said Meeker. “Our goal with our restaurant partners is to make sure they are getting coffee that is as fresh as it could possibly be so that their customers are getting a cup of coffee that is superior to what they would get elsewhere.”

French Truck Coffee also has several locations in its hometown of New Orleans, as well as a location in Baton Rouge opening later this month.

PetVax to open new Midtown location by September

Midtown residents will have a new place to take their pets for affordable pet care services like vaccinations, spaying, neutering and heartworm tests. Locally-owned PetVax is ramping up to open by September at Loeb Properties’ Belvedere Collection at 1680 Union Avenue.

PetVax is exclusively a walk-in clinic and allows pet drop-off for anything from complex procedures to simple vaccinations.

More than 25 years ago, owner Kevin Frazier made a deal with Don Warmbrod, former owner of Hollywood Pet Star (now Hollywood Feed), to do affordable vaccinations out of the Hollywood Pet Star locations.

“He had a belief in preventative care. He saw so many patients when he was working in the ER where things could’ve been prevented through vaccinations, and he felt that it was overpriced in the Memphis-Shelby County area,” said Frazier’s daughter and PetVax Hospital Administrator Laura Frazier Shansky. “He felt strongly that he should build something that would allow people to vaccinate their pets affordably and also educate pet owners about what vaccines are required.”

Frazier built up a large base and then opened a spay-and-neuter clinic on Broad Avenue in 1998, which led to full-service locations in East Memphis, Collierville, Cordova, Bartlett and Germantown. With its new location, PetVax now leases three locations (all from Loeb) and owns three locations.

Construction is underway on the 2,300-square-foot space in Midtown, and PetVax Hospital Administrator Tim Paxton is also serving as the contractor

“We prefer to do our own buildouts because we know the flow that works the best for us, and we’ve found it just moves a little quicker if we do everything,” said Frazier Shansky.

The new clinic will have a staff of five, including Dr. Amanda Jondle, who is moving to Memphis from Iowa, along with two technicians and two receptionists. More staff will be hired in the coming months as needed.

Future PetVax expansion is likely outside of Memphis.

“We do have plans to potentially expand further towards Arkansas and maybe into Nashville, but as of now I believe our Midtown location will be our last one in the Shelby County area,” said Frazier Shansky, who mentioned Fayette County and Northern Mississippi as other places for possible future growth.

Teach For America makes move to Crosstown Concourse

Teach For America has completed its relocation to the fourth floor of the new Crosstown Concourse mixed-use redevelopment project, moving from its previous home at the Toyota Center Downtown.

“The design for Teach For America is very unique, and it has a great impact for them,” said Juan Self, partner with Self + Tucker Architects.

“Part of what they wanted was access to parking and to be a little more centrally located so they could bike to work. Plus there are some sister organizations for them already at Crosstown that they interact with quite a bit.”

The 6,500-square-foot renovation at former Sears Crosstown building represents a downsizing for TFA, which had taken up approximately 13,000 square feet at the Toyota Center.

“Part of the challenge was to cut in half the amount of space they were occupying and still meet their needs,” said Self. “The final designs look very open and feel a lot larger than it actually is.”

Floor plans feature a “brain break” room that is ideal for teacher collaboration and practicing presentations, an area with some relaxing swing-style seats, and a conference room that opens up into an area with a view of the building’s atrium.

“The break room is somewhat innovative, as we took some scrap steel and created counter space,” said Self. “There’s a lot of reuse of found materials that we incorporated into the project.”

Grinder Taber & Grinder was the general contractor on the renovation, which was completed very quickly over the first part of this year because TFA had to be out of its previous digs by the end of May.

TFA entered the Memphis market in 2006. More than a decade later, its incoming corps members are increasingly more diverse with half of its incoming 2016 teachers coming from a low-income background and more than half identifying as a person of color. The Tennessee Higher Education Commission's report card found that TFA Memphis is among the state's top teacher preparation programs, and the only one to earn that distinction for six years in a row.

There are roughly 250 TFA alumni who teach in Memphis, along with more than 20 serving as principals and more who work as assistant principals or deans.

TFA joins the Memphis Teacher Residency at Crosstown, which moved in to the building in March.

Other current and future tenants at the large mixed-use community include Church Health, the YMCA, City Leadership, Tech901, Area 51 Ice Cream, Curb Market, French Truck Coffee, Juice Bar, and many others. Crosstown will also be home to Crosstown High School.

CFY Catering leads reinvention of Dixon's Park + Cherry cafe

Park + Cherry by CFY at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens reopens its doors on July 14 following a change in management and an overhaul of its previous menu.

The Dixon's new chef partners are husband and wife team Kristi and Kevin Bush of CFY Catering, who have catered parties, events, and private tables locally for more than ten years including dozens of successful events at the Dixon like Art on Fire and Art on Tap.

The Bushes started their catering company more than decade ago after Kristi had to leave her chef position early when she was pregnant.

“For some reason, we thought that would be a good time to open a new company, joked Kevin Bush. “But it’s worked out really well. Just having a chef-driven approach to catering I think set us apart.”

Park + Cherry’s new menu features salads, sandwiches, quiches and fresh baked goods like brownies and cookies, as well as coffee drinks and a variety of other beverages.

Unique hot sandwiches include The Pork & Cherry with pork loin, cherry gastrique, chicarrones (pork rinds), and lemon aoili along with a smoked New York strip sandwich on brioche with a spicy tomato spread and Port Salut. Cold sandwiches include a prosciutto and roasted peach croissant with gruyere and balsamic reduction and a veggie sandwich with lemon hummus, roasted red peppers, spinach, zucchini and sunflower seeds.

“We’re always going to want to have good flavors, good quality product and make things from scratch, but we didn’t want to go with an avant-garde approach. We want people to feel a comfort level with what they’re eating," said Bush.

The café uses local product whenever possible, including from Claybrook Farms and McCartney Produce.

“Right now we’re using local vendors for our produce, and we’re using French Truck coffee,” said Bush.

“And we’re getting even more local than that, as the Dixon has agreed to grow product for us here on property. It’s going to be really exciting. We’re going to start doing it in small doses now until we can get more high volume, beginning with some fresh herbs and then moving on from there.”

The original Park + Cherry opened in the spring of 2016 following renovations at the Dixon, which did not have a restaurant or dining space prior to then. Wally Joe managed the café, but he decided to focus on his other restaurant, Wally Joe’s.

Park + Cherry temporarily closed starting on June 20 as the café transitioned to new management. The café itself was redesigned slightly with a new color scheme and new tables. Customers can eat in the café or outside in the gardens.

“Our goal is to get people to realize that they can some to the Dixon for lunch. There’s this barrier because people think, ‘Oh, I’m not a member,’ (you don’t need to be a member to eat there),” said Bush. “For people leaving work for a short lunch break, they can get fed and still have time to maybe enjoy the gardens or the gallery. It’s a nice getaway from the monotony of the 9 to 5.”

Hours of operation will remain from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and Sunday, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Baptist Memorial Health Care to open second local Good Grief center

Due to overwhelming need from the community, Baptist Memorial Health Care is opening its second grief center in the Memphis market, as renovation work finishes up in Midtown at 28 S. Evergreen on the grounds of Idlewild Presbyterian Church.

The Kemmons Wilson Family Center for Good Grief, dubbed Milla’s House, will welcome its first patients on July 26.

All services at the center will be free of charge and will be provided by Masters-prepared therapists.

“Grief touches everyone. It’s the most universal experience there is. It impacts people physically, emotionally, cognitively, behaviorally, and spiritually, and it changes people and changes the way they react to the world around them,” said Angela Hamblen Kelly, Baptist Memorial Health Care’s executive director of bereavement.

“But we have seen in our 20 years of doing grief work that given support and trained people, people really can reconcile that grief into their life and live a happy, healthy, productive life.”

The new center is named in memory of six-year-old Milla Gieselmann, who lost her battle with the rare Batten’s disease. Milla’s family partnered with Baptist to help open Milla’s House because they relied so heavily on Baptist’s Grief Center in Collierville to make it through Milla’s grueling illness and death.

“Milla’s parents and the community around the Gieselmann’s came together and started a bike ride this year that will be an annual event called Miles for Milla, and they have made a commitment to continue that event to continue to raise money to support Milla’s House,” said Hamblen Kelly. “We are also developing a giving circle called Milla’s Circle for people in the community to be able to give and help support her lasting legacy.”

Baptist will share space with Idlewild, which has formed a new nonprofit called the Children and Family Enrichment Center, inside the two-story home directly behind the church. The house is owned by Idlewild, and Nickson General Construction is handling the renovation work.

The hospital system opened its original grief center in 2005 inside a Baptist office complex within the I-240 loop alongside its home care and hospice services. It then expanded to constructing a standalone grief center on the Baptist-Collierville campus in 2010 so that outdoor space could be utilized for some therapies as well as its Camp Good Grief for children.

“We found that we were quickly needing to hire additional staff because people were calling from all parts of Shelby County, as well as Jackson, Tenn., Mississippi, and Arkansas,” said Hamblen Kelly. “We just knew we needed to expand our services, and the Midtown area made sense for us because it easily accessible for many families."

Baptist plans to open a third Grief Center in October in Jonesboro, and it will be affiliated with Baptist’s hospital there, NEA Baptist.

Levee Creamery in Collierville: Where ice cream meets coffee

The Levee Creamery in Collierville, which opened at 2059 S. Houston Levee Road in May, is marrying two locally produced delights that work wonderfully together: ice cream and fresh roasted coffee.

Pyro’s Fire Fresh Pizza co-owners Chad Foreman and Kirk Cotham were wanting to do something different for the community they live in and jumped at the chance when the former TCBY location came available.

The business partners, who operate five Pyro’s pizza locations locally and are expanding into the southeast U.S., both live within walking distance of their new creamery.

“We had a vision to turn into a cool, unique coffee/ice cream shop opening every morning at 6:30 and staying open until 10 (p.m.),” said Foreman.

“So in the morning, it’s a really great coffee hangout and you can get coffee all day, but in the afternoons it turns into a great hangout for kids where we make the ice cream in-house – kind of a super-premium ice cream that we are making right here in Collierville.”

The most popular flavor is Mustang Madness (Oreo cookie and vanilla), with Mint To Be (mint with chocolate flakes), Grit and Grind Café (coffee), Birthday Bash, vanilla, and Mud Island (chocolate) close behind.

“We have about 22 different flavors right now that we make on a regular basis, and we have 16 in the cabinet at any one time,” said Foreman. “And we’re constantly developing new things, and we’ll put those out as a beta.”

The creamery’s coffee comes locally from French Truck, which was formerly Relevant Roasters.

“Everything we get is roasted in their facility,” said Foreman. “Usually we receive it within 48 hours of them roasting it. We let it age a couple of days and then we’re able to serve it. So it‘s probably some of freshest roasted coffee you can get.”

He touts the fact that the shop has already converted many people to cold-brew coffee beverages with its Oji water dripper system.

“It’s off the charts, I can’t count how many people we converted to the Oji cold brew because of the smoothness of that coffee,” said Foreman.

With the ongoing expansion of Pyro’s into Mississippi and Alabama, the focus is not on expanding with more creameries just yet, but Foreman is not ruling out chances to be opportunistic in the future.

Bluff City Coffee & Bakery selects Cooper-Young for second location

After more than ten years of slowly growing its original location downtown on South Main, Bluff City Coffee & Bakery is expanding to a second shop.

A grand opening expected by late next month in the heart of Cooper-Young at 945 Cooper Street. Bluff City joins other coffee shops like Tart and Java Cabana in the immediate Cooper-Young area as well as Otherlands and Muddy’s Bake Shop a little further north on Cooper.

“We’ve been looking for several years for the right spot to be able to expand,” said owner David Adams. “It will be very similar to what we do Downtown. It’s in a great neighborhood, which is just like where we are Downtown on South Main. So it will be very neighborhood-oriented.”

Bluff City touts high-quality, made-to-order espresso beverages and sells no brewed coffee. For the past decade, Adams has sourced espresson beans from the West Coast. 

The Bluff City menu will feature a wide variety of espresso beverages, teas and smoothies, pastries, sweets and hot and cold breakfast and lunch sandwiches served on baked breads made in-house.

“Everything that goes into our case is baked in our facility,” said Adams. “We don’t buy any (baked goods) from outside vendors.”

General contractor USGC Construction just started work at the new location in Midtown, and construction costs are estimated at $85,000. Since the interior space only measures 1,300 square feet, Adams plans to have most of the seating outside on the patio, which was formerly a covered drive-up area for a Bank of America. The building was built in 1955.

He expects to hire six to seven new employees over the next month.

For now, further expansion for Bluff City is not likely.

“We’re always listening, we’re always looking, but no immediate plans,” said Adams.

Team Better Block workshop maps fall MEMFix event

As the MEMFix program celebrates its fifth anniversary this year, the Memphis Medical District Collaborative (MMDC), city planners and community stakeholders gathered at the BAM Thrift Store on Madison Avenue to discuss planning of a MEMFix event that will happen in September or October using the empty storefronts at Madison and Cleveland.

The two-day planning workshop, led by national consulting group Team Better Block, took place on June 10 and 11.

Team Better Block has spearheaded tactical urbanism interventions across the country with a goal to bring together the arts, community, innovation and design to support streetscape improvements, art installation, pop-up shops, entertainment and revitalization.

The MEMFix program was launched under former Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton's Innovation Delivery Team five years ago, and since then MEMFix events have helped kickstart the revitalization of areas of the city like the Pinch District, the EDGE District, South Memphis, Crosstown and Highland/Walker.

MEMFix events are community-driven and involve tactical urbanism, creative placemaking, and urban prototyping, with neighborhood stakeholders envisioning and recreating livable streets, vibrant public spaces, and reinvigorated commercial areas.

“I think the two unique features of this area are its multiculturalism and the fact that it is a transportation hub with bike lanes, the trolleys (when they come back), and bus stops in both directions,” said Abby Miller, MMDC director of programs and data, who suggested a transit center approach.

Ideas for activating the area included setting up pop-up shops or temporary health care clinics where artists could come and trade their talents for health care services, similar to what Team Better Block helped facilitate at the O Positive Festival in Massachusetts.

Problems with the stretch of Madison Avenue near the Cleveland Avenue intersection include that it is too loud, vehicles drive too fast, and there are narrow sidewalks.

One remedy proposed was to create “parklets” in front of storefronts in the outer traffic lanes as traffic-calming devices, creating space for more café seating, a bocce court, or other games. Other suggestions included possibly setting up a coffee and newspaper stand in the median on Madison, installing public restrooms with artwork or intriguing designs surrounding them, and public phone charging stations, in part for the area’s homeless population.

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