Whitehaven breakfast spot and deli builds on family legacy

Irvin Jackson was well known in the Elliston Heights community. As a butcher and deli owner, he fed the Whitehaven area for over 60 years.

His son, Wendell Jackson, grew up stocking the meat and deli boxes, stacking fresh produce and butchering meat.

“He fed many people who were in need,” Wendell said. “My father helped to raise many of the children in the neighborhood and was able to see them become parents and grandparents. The love that the community is still felt today and many residents of the community still call and check on him today.”

And now the younger Jackson is ready to open a deli of his own. To be located in Whitehaven at 1248 Marlin Road, Eggxactly Breakfast and Deli could be open as late as January of next year.

Adrena and Wendell Jackson show the progress of renovations to their restaurant Eggxactly Breakfast and Deli in Whitehaven. (Brandon Dill)

The deli is housed on the site of My Beauty and Barber's Den, a shop that Wendell and his wife Adrena Jackson operated from 1998 to 2016. For the past two years, they've been renovating the building to a new use that carries on the family legacy.

In August, the Jacksons received a loan from the Memphis-Shelby County Economic Development Growth Engine for Memphis and Shelby County. Trey McKnight, formerly of EDGE and currently the executive director of the Greater Whitehaven Economic Development Corporation, assisted the couple in receiving the $25,000 grant.

McKnight says the Whitehaven community is the perfect place to build a restaurant.

“We have a very diverse area here,” McKnight said. “If this community was a city by itself, it would be the sixth largest city in the state.

There is a lot of companies starting here and those people in the area will need somewhere to go during the lunch rush. This could be the perfect place.”

Some of the companies McKnight mentioned are FedEx, Smith & Nephew and Montreal-based Olymbec. With over 1,000 businesses in the area and few locally-owned restaurants, McKnight said Eggxactly is opening at precisely the right time.

A concrete marker shows the history the Jackson family has with the building which will house their new restaurant, Eggxactly Breakfast and Deli. (Brandon Dill)

“A lot of the residents in the area are looking for more sit-down restaurants for sure,” McKnight said. “The only ones I can think of are Marlowe’s and maybe Piccadilly.  This deli can provide a need and do a great service to the community.”

The property has an additional personal significance to the Whitehaven couple, as it's where Wendell proposed to Adrena.

“We were both at the barber shop cleaning and doing towels to get things prepared for the week. I was sitting in his barber’s chair folding towels while he was mopping the floor. It was a normal day,” Adrena recalled.

“He walked over to me looking strange and asked me to close my eyes. My first thought was that he saw a bug or something. I am terrified of the creepy crawly,” she said, laughing. “He said, ‘OK open your eyes’. He was on one knee with the ring in his hand.”

With this new venture, the Jacksons hope to bring something different to the Whitehaven community. 

“This is home for us,” Adrena said. “We have built so many great relationships here with the seniors, the young people, and the schools. A lot of people here we view like family.”

Renovations are underway at Wendell Jackson shows the progress of renovations to his restaurant Eggxactly Breakfast and Deli in Whitehaven, which is housed at the site of the Jackson family's former barber shop. (Brandon Dill)

“It’s not about just making money,” Wendell added. “Of course, anyone that’s opening a business wants to make a living, but it’s about finding new ways to give back to the community.”

All food from Eggxactly will be made from scratch. The Jacksons plan to employ family members and close family friends to run the deli, which will be open daily from 6 a.m to 2 p.m. 

For Wendell, it is imperative to him that customers have fresh and healthy options. The menu will feature items such as homemade sausage, barbecue, and an array of salads.

Related: "Two newly opened health food restaurants bring fresh fare to Whitehaven"

“We’re not just going to give you a frozen sausage,” he said. “We’re going to make freshly ground. Everything, from hamburger patties to turkey, will be freshly made. We want to do something different. We have to do something different.”

“Our vision is of course great food and great customer service, but we ultimately want to become a place where people in the neighborhood can come and relax and to just feel comfortable,” Adrena added. 

“We just want the presence of this place to ultimately feel welcoming and warm. We want people to always feel like they can come here. That’s our goal and that’s our prayer. Not to be your ordinary breakfast place but to be home.”

Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Jeremiah Graham.

Jeremiah Graham is a Memphis native born in the Orange Mound community. The recent University of Memphis graduate spent time as sports editor of the Daily Helmsman, the school campus newspaper. During his young journalism career, he has also spent time interning with the Commercial Appeal and the Memphis Redbirds. While freelancing, he also works as sports editor at the Germantown News, covering high school sports.