Jonathan Kiersky returns to his roots at Growlers

Whoever said “you can’t go home again” clearly never met Jonathan Kiersky. 

Kiersky, the 39-year-old entrepreneur and Memphis music patron, is still perhaps best known as the owner/operator of the local music venue the Hi-Tone from 2007 to 2014. 

Under his guidance, the club enjoyed arguably its greatest period of success.  Most notably, he oversaw the club’s relocation from 1911 Poplar, across from Overton Park, to its current Crosstown location at 412 N. Cleveland, where it continues to flourish under new ownership. 

Kiersky said his decision to sell the Hi-Tone in 2014 was based purely on exhaustion, both mental and physical.

“I was working 100 hour weeks for eight years and I needed a break, so I took a couple years of semi-retirement,” he said.  “I'm always glad to see it thrive. Both myself and my employees put everything we had into the business. We loved it and we did a great job but when you put that much of yourself into a project you need a break.”

During his “semi-retirement,” Kiersky traveled a lot, spent time with family and generally re-charged his batteries.
But in 2016, a confluence of circumstances led him to return to Memphis.

“I came back to Memphis to get ankle surgery and my dog needed his normal vet,” Kiersky said.  “Then I got a call from the owner of the Buccaneer asking me to take that over, and I just kind of stayed.”

Jonathan KierskyKiersky’s stint at the Buccaneer Lounge proved to be short and somewhat tumultuous, but it was enough to whet his appetite to re-engage in the Memphis music scene.  When the offer came to take over the newly re-branded Growlers, located in the original Hi-Tone space at 1911 Poplar, it ultimately proved too tempting to refuse.

“It came about drunkenly, to be honest,” said Kiersky.  

“I went up there to watch football with my friend, and Tony Westmoreland (Growlers owner) wouldn't leave me alone about coming to work there. I was looking at different offers but he was pretty adamant and one of the great qualities about Tony is that when he sets his mind to something, he does it. I really liked that about him, and his vision was the same as mine.

Finally, I got over the fact that I said I'd never work in that building again, and said yes. It's been an amazing experience so far and we haven't even scratched the surface of what we are about to do.”

Kiersky, who is now the co-general manager as well as a minority partner in the business, said his strategy will be to focus on booking homegrown Memphis talent at Growlers to build an audience.

“Locals will always be the focal point. As I've said to pretty much everyone, Memphis has the finest local talent pool in the world. Hands down. I've lived many places and it's not even close.”

Read more articles by J.D. Reager.

J.D. Reager is a musician and freelance writer from Memphis, TN.  His second solo album, It's Dangerous to Go Alone! Take This, was released in 2014.  He lives in Midtown with his beautiful wife and two cats.
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