Strong growth leads LEO Events to renovate Edge District buildings

A  former automobile service facility in the Edge District is getting a new life as office space as rapidly growing LEO Events is in the process of renovating the buildings at 407 and 411 Monroe Avenue to take over as its new corporate headquarters by the end of the year.

LEO partners Cindy and Kevin Brewer and Kent Underwood purchased the parcels (under the River Hawk Properties, LLC moniker), which sit close to the proposed Wonder Bread Bakery factory redevelopment.
Kent Underwood, Cindy Brewer and Kevin Brewer (L to R) merged and formed LEO Events in 2012.“As we’ve grown, we wanted to look at the opportunity of owning our own space,” said Kevin. “To be in the Edge District, we’re super excited about the revitalization of the area.”

The Brewers founded Destination King in 2002 and initially operated from the Emerge Memphis building downtown. At first, the destination management company just handled in-bound corporate meetings and events.

“In 2002, Memphis didn’t have a destination management company, and we saw an opportunity,” said Cindy. “This was at the time that the convention center was expanding, and everything just seemed like we were primed to do that.”

The business quickly grew thanks to the numerous corporations and Fortune 500 companies in the Memphis area, and its services expanded to include turn-key meetings and events, such as a 2,000-person event for FedEx employees in an airport hangar or work with the National Civil Rights Museum on the annual Freedom Award. Companies also began to use Destination King to handle annual meetings held in other cities.

One of their good friends, Underwood (former vice president of operations for Memphis in May), had moved to Chattanooga and opened a consulting business called Quiddity Entertainment, with an expertise on large-scale outdoor events and festivals as well as production services.

The Brewers would call on Underwoods help from time to time and vice versa.

So in August 2012, the trio decided to join forces and merged to form LEO Events.

“Destination King had all of the employees and the infrastructure and Kent was a one-man consulting operation, so that’s why our corporate headquarters have been and will continue to be in Memphis,” Cindy said.

Today, the company handles about 300 events per year and has offices in Memphis, Nashville and Chattanooga, as well as full-time employees that work remotely in San Francisco and Arizona. From the time of the merger to the end of last year, LEO’s sales grew by 580 percent and its staff tripled.

In October of 2003, the company moved to 265 S. Front Street and has been there since.

“We started there with five employees in 2003, and now we’re at 19,” Cindy explained. “So now all of us are on top of each other. It’s hard to have private conversations or conduct conference calls. We’ve been looking for a long time to find a place for us to move and call home.”

Due to years of neglect, along with major termite and water damage, the entire interior needed to be demolished and torn out.

“On the back end of the building [in the elevated crawl space], there was some rot. One of the old cedar or fir columns had shrunk and the whole building had sunk six inches,” said architect Christopher Schmidt of CS Studio Architecture. “So we had to realign the columns with the walls and add the support back in. That’s some of the dirty work needed to get the building back to a useful life again.”

Metro Construction is the general contractor for the project.

The two buildings (totaling 17,000 square feet) will be joined by an interior hallway connector, allowing LEO to occupy the entire 10,000 square feet on the ground floor. The remaining 7,000 square feet will be leasable office space.

“We’re continuing to grow as a company, so part of the idea for this new facility is it will allow us at a certain point to take over the second floor,” Kevin said. “For now, we don’t need the space, so we will lease it to other tenants.”

The new space will feature an open work environment and multiple comfortable meeting spaces for entertaining clients, including an outdoor patio/courtyard in the back. The previous broken garage doors on the front will be replaced with lots of glass and windows, and the streetscape will have new lighting, signage and landscaping, along with a bike rack.

LEO hopes to move into its new digs by December.

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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.