First Central BBQ under new partnership opens this spring

Central BBQ is expanding its Memphis presence in the coming months and will be moving into markets outside of Memphis thanks to a new partnership with Kemmons Wilson Companies.

The newest Central BBQ location will open in East Memphis at 6201 Poplar Avenue in late spring or early summer in a building that most recently housed LYFE Kitchen and before that a Steak & Ale.

“I think it’s going to be awesome. I think it’s just going to kill it at that location,” said Craig Blondis, co-founder of Central BBQ.

He expects to receive a lot of business from people living in the neighborhoods to the south and east of nearby Memphis University School on Park Avenue.

“It’s feeding a whole new customer base considering where our other locations are,” said Blondis. “The volume of traffic on Poplar alone is something you can’t complain about.”

Work being done to the approximately 5,000-square-foot building includes adding smokers and a larger walk-in cooler-freezer combo, along with decorative touches.

Blondis expects to hire 40 to 50 people by opening day.

The new restaurant will be the fourth Central BBQ in Memphis, including spots at 4375 Summer Avenue, Downtown at 147 E. Butler Avenue, and the original in Midtown at 2249 Central Avenue. It is the first location under a new partnership with Kemmons Wilson Companies, which is the funding capital arm of the joint venture and controls a majority interest in all locations going forward.

“With this being the first one that we’ve done with our new venture, it’s taking a little longer because we want to make sure we’re getting everything in place and doing it right the first time because this will be the footprint for what we do going forward outside the Memphis market,” said Blondis, who expects the size of the East Memphis location to be consistent with other Central BBQ’s going forward.

Kemmons Wilson will head up future expansion efforts for the brand, with Blondis and Central BBQ co-founder Roger Sapp serving in an advisory capacity. Blondis and Sapp will retain ownership of their current Memphis locations, catering kitchen and food truck.

The pair have also recently branched out into other endeavors, including opening Sunrise Memphis with partner Ryan Trimm at 670 Jefferson Avenue. The trio are preparing to open 117 Prime Steakhouse at 117 Union Avenue later this month.

Read more articles by Michael Waddell.

Michael Waddell is a native Memphian who returned to Memphis several years ago after working for nearly a decade in San Diego and St. Petersburg, Fla., as a writer, editor and graphic designer. His work over the past few years has been featured in The Memphis Daily News, Memphis Bioworks Magazine, Memphis Crossroads, the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Contact Michael.
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