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VOL. 128 | NO. 242 | Thursday, December 12, 2013

Restaurant Row

Poplar corridor becoming hotbed for new eateries

By Amos Maki

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If you blink, you might miss a new restaurant opening along the Poplar Avenue corridor in East Memphis.

Broadway Pizza on Mendenhall Road is nearing completion. It’s just one of several new restaurants being added to the already busy Poplar Avenue corridor in East Memphis.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

Over the last few months, several new restaurants have opened or are on the way around the heavily traveled Poplar corridor between Perkins Road and Kirby Parkway.

“People are spending more and more eating out,” said Danny Buring, managing partner with the Shopping Center Group LLC. “The higher-end and fast-casual segments are picking up. Along that area, you’re talking about a little of everything.”

The restaurants are being lured to the area by the high traffic counts, population density, above-average incomes and extraordinarily high daytime population fueled by the thriving office market sector in East Memphis, according to local experts.

Soul Fish Cafe has opened its latest restaurant in the old Wolf Camera space, 4720 Poplar. The 3,100-square-foot location is Soul Fish’s third restaurant in Memphis, behind its original spot in Cooper-Young and its Germantown store, near Forest Hill-Irene Road.

The Whimsy Cookie Co., a Memphis-based boutique that specializes in designing custom, hand-decorated cookies, is opening a location next door to Soul Fish. Laurie Suriff founded Whimsy Cookie Co. and is co-owner with Collins Tuohy, whose family was featured in the best-selling book and hit movie “The Blind Side.”

“We had been eyeing it since Gifts and Art closed a year ago, and we love that cottage-style, gingerbread house, which is perfect for our company,” Tuohy said. “We think it’s going to be a great little addition to Poplar Avenue.”

Mellow Mushroom opened its second Memphis-area location at Park Avenue and White Station Road.

The new restaurant – in the round building at 5138 Park Ave. that once housed a Union Planters Bank branch and, later, a AAA Auto Club Group location – joins the area’s first Mellow Mushroom, which is in the Shops of Forest Hill in Germantown.

Broadway Pizza House is opening a new restaurant on Mendenhall Road just behind Belmont Grill. The Ishee family – owners of the original Broadway Pizza on Broad Avenue, a Binghampton mainstay since 1977 – is currently building out the roughly 3,600-square-foot space.

Workers work on the front facade of Capital Grille, near Crescent Center in East Memphis.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

Further east, a healthy-dining concept called Lettuce Eats plans to open in the Carrefour Shopping Center at Poplar and Kirby Parkway.

Two new restaurants are under construction in front of the Crescent Center at Poplar and Ridgeway Road in East Memphis. The Darden Restaurants chain is building a Seasons 52 restaurant and a Capital Grille restaurant at the landmark office building.

The restaurants will offer a unique dining experience, with each being the first of their brand in Tennessee. Seasons 52 offers healthy meals with menus that change with the seasons, while the Capital Grille specializes in steak and seafood. While Darden is building the Seasons 52 and Capital Grille, Highwoods Properties, which owns the Crescent Center, will own the two restaurants.

Steve Guinn, vice president of Highwoods, said Darden had been eyeing a one-block stretch around the key intersection for around five years.

“It was that or nothing,” Guinn said.

The availability of parking at the Crescent Center, where hundreds of parking spaces were going unused at the structured parking garage every day, played a key role in Highwoods’ decision to add restaurants there.

“If you look up and down Poplar and the demand for restaurants, all the sites are very difficult parking situations for the most part,” said Guinn. “We had the ability to morph our parking.”

Guinn said Highwoods is now exploring adding a restaurant to its Triad Centre office development just across Poplar from the Crescent Center.

“You’ve got a huge daytime population,” he said. “If you look up and down the Poplar corridor, a lot of those (restaurants) are doing well at night, but they’re also doing great during the day – and the only way to do great during the day is to have a big daytime population.”

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RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 52 136 5,209
MORTGAGES 79 182 6,891
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 13 50 1,606
BUILDING PERMITS 328 328 12,307
BANKRUPTCIES 70 175 5,475
BUSINESS LICENSES 30 58 2,119
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 85 182 7,240
MARRIAGE LICENSES 19 43 1,501

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