South Main Food Hall incubates new restaurant concepts

South Main Market, a newly opened food hall in the South Main Historic Arts District, is quickly filling up its vendor roster.

One of the vendors, chef Cole Jeanes, is using the innovate space to test out three restaurant concepts. Coco, Kinfolk and Magnolia all operate within a 300-square-foot space in the food hall, which opened at 409 South Main Street at the start of December.

“We’re maximizing our use of ingredients with three different concepts,” said Jeanes, a L’Ecole Culinaire graduate and former employee at both Acre Restaurant and Hog & Hominy. He also helped open Porcellino’s Craft Butcher and reworked the menu for Silly Goose.

“I’ve always wanted to own a restaurant or bar since I was young,” said Jeanes.

Related: "Renovations nearly complete at South Main Food Hall"

Coco’s features a 96-inch deli board with all three menus on it. The restaurant focuses on healthy food, including three seasonal salads with produce from a farm in Selmer, Tenn. Toppings include white-wine poached pears, pecans, bacon, apples, navel oranges, pickled fennel, ricotta cheese, homemade yogurt, homemade granola and more.

“We’ll introduce warm bowls soon like a brown rice bowl or sweet potato bowl,” said Jeanes.

Kinfolk’s menu showcases Southern food favorites like fried chicken, spicy sausage, honey-buttered buttermilk biscuits, eggs and gravy.

“Everything comes from Marmilu Farms in Selmer, and it’s all pasture-raised proteins,” said Jeanes, who has hired ten people to staff the three restaurant stations.

The third concept, Magnolia, is a dumpling house focused on Japanese gyoza, or pan-fried dumplings. Several different types of gyoza are available including pork and scallion, kabocha squash, shrimp and scallop, pork belly and kimchi, and the flavors will change with the seasons.

“All three concepts are a part of me,” said Jeanes. “Coco’s is for my wife, Courtney; Kinfolk is for my dad and Magnolia is for my mom and her side of the family. My grandmother worked at a Japanese restaurant in Germantown called Mikasa, and I had my first gyoza there when I was really young. I remember it very vividly.”

With the succulent new additions, there are now seven concepts at Memphis’ first food hall, with room for seven more. Current vendors include Civil Pour, City East Bagel & Grille, Coco, Kinfolk, Java Cabana, Magnolia and Wallflower Memphis. Each vendor signs on for a two-year lease with a one-year re-up.

Rebecca and Steve Dyer bought the three-story, 41,000-square-foot building for $1.2 million in November 2015 after it had been gifted to the Visible School of Music earlier that year.

“The whole idea behind a food hall is to create variety,” said Dyer, who also operates the 409 South Main Street event center on the third floor of the building. “Every vendor we bring in doesn’t compete with the other vendors. As they sign on, we check off something we would like to have in the market.”

For future vendors, Dyer is hoping to possibly sign on a butcher, vendors who specialize in sweets or ice cream and a small mini-market with unusual condiments to use with the food or fresh vegetables.

“We would love to become a customer of the farmers market and buy from them,” said Dyer.

Each concept operates out of approximately 100 square feet.

“You have to think like you’re in a food truck, which is 100 square feet roughly,” explained Dyer.

She first had the idea for a food hall in the mid-2000s when she saw one called Redding Terminal in Philadelphia. “It was just a wonderful place full of sights and sounds and smells and accents of different people.”

She tucked it into the back of her brain for nearly a decade until her son came back from New York in the summer of 2015 telling her of his experience with Chelsea Market in New York City. That rekindled her interest in starting a similar venture in Memphis.

The building was constructed in 1912 and is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places. Over the years it was home to Puck’s spices until the 1930s, then Lucky Heart skin and hair products until the 1970s, and a dance club in the 1980s.

Architecture Inc. handled the designs. Metro Construction is the general contractor, and Claire Richardson is the interior designer for the project.

Dyer is thrilled with the building and the growth of its businesses so far.

“What we’ve seen in the two years that we’ve owned the building is increased foot traffic, which is exactly what we were counting on,” said Dyer.

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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.