The Memphis Medical District Collaborative said final approvals are in for facade improvements and a new coffee shop for the The BAM Thrift Store located at 1340 Madison Avenue. Its familiar blue awning and chain link, barbwire-lined fence on Madison at Cleveland Street will soon be replaced with landscaping, a stylish patio and trellis and a cafe entrance.
"Work should begin by the 15th and hopefully be finished somewhere in a 45, 50 day window," said Vonesha Mitchell, MMDC's community and economic development program manager.
The store is owned by nonprofit Memphis Adult Teen Challenge
, located at 33 North Cleveland Street behind BAM.
The project has an estimated cost of roughly $95,000. The Center City Development Corp. awarded a grant of up to $47,289 and MMDC is providing a $28,290 forgivable loan. Adult Teen Challenge is putting in the remaining funds.
“I saw the [renderings], and it’s beautiful what they’re getting ready to do, so we’re looking forward to that happening,” said Anatole Williams, executive director of Memphis Adult Teen Challenge.
Mitchell and Williams both said Adult Teen Challenge has been motivated to renovate the outside of the building. Adult Teen Challenge recently renovated a portion of BAM's second floor interior and added climate-controlled storage units that rent primary to Madison Heights residents. They’re now adding additional storage units and corporate offices.
Revenue from BAM helps fund Memphis Adult Teen Challenge's faith-based alcohol and drug residential recovery program. Its clients volunteer at the thrift store as part of their recovery process. Many of BAM's regular customers are Madison Heights residents with limited incomes who shop the store because it allows them quality items at affordable prices, but also they appreciate that its staff and volunteers offer time to talk, listen and pray when needed.
“It’s just a safe place, and it’s a place people like to come because they feel God’s presence," sad Michael Skouteris, who manages the store's daily operations.
"Related: A thrift store, a car wash and a mission to fight addiction"
Anatole Williams (L), executive director of Memphis Adult Teen Challenge, and Michael Skouteris, daily operations manager of BAM Thrift Store, discuss store needs. To the right, regular Patricia Jones says hello to the cashier. (Cole Bradley)
In early 2018, Adult Teen Challenge launched its Cozy Cafe coffee line. Its clients learn to roast and package organic beans, which are sold to local churches and offered to BAM shoppers at the Cozy Cafe stall currently set up inside the store. They also operate a Cozy Cafe coffee truck.
Now the cafe will have a storefront and patio for customers to enjoy and hope it will entice new customers to the store and to check out other businesses in close walking distance, which include several restaurants, bazaars and antique stores, Ebbo Spiritual Supply, barber and beauty stops and more. Mitchell said encouraging pedestrian traffic is a major goal for the improvements.
"There will be a new coffee retailer added to the space, people can go there and get their coffee for breakfast. And beautifying that note. The building is not bad right now, but I still think this will be a great uplift and hopefully it will be catalytic and encourage some of the other property owners there to do some similar things."
MMDC said it is interested in expanding its work in Madison Heights because it's part of the larger Medical District and holds great potential for growth. MMDC is focusing first on the Madison-Cleveland exchange because it is the neighborhood's center, has beautiful architecture and sturdy buildings, existing small businesses and great traffic and visibility from car commuters, public transportation routes and pedestrians.
Mitchell is working to build relationships with many existing business owners and encourage them to consider facade improvements and other business needs and how MMDC might help. She hopes seeing the BAM improvements take shape will encourage others.
"Hopefully this will give them an example of what's possible. We started having conversations with some of them, but I think there's nothing like seeing what could actually happen to inspire them," she said. "All those buildings over there have great potential."