Soul Fish Café has selected a prime piece of real estate in East Memphis for its third location.
The catfish and Southern-inspired restaurant has signed a lease for the old Wolf Camera space in the Poplar Avenue/Perkins Road corridor. The 3,100-square-foot freestanding building at 4720 Poplar Ave. will mark Soul Fish’s third location in Memphis, behind its original spot in Midtown’s Cooper-Young district and its Germantown location near Forest Hill-Irene Road.
Raymond Williams, who co-owns Soul Fish with Tiger Bryant, said when they first started looking a few years ago for a second spot after Midtown, they preferred the Poplar corridor.
“We always knew we would try to do two or three of these, so we kind of figured the third one would probably be out towards Germantown,” Williams said. “We looked and looked and looked (in the Poplar corridor) and had a couple of deals kind of blow up on us – we just couldn’t find anything that was suitable for us.
“So we just kind of skipped number two and went to number three, and three years ago, we opened Germantown.”
Ever since then, Williams and Bryant continued their Poplar corridor search. When bankruptcy prompted Wolf Camera to close in September after 27 years in operation, Williams said, “We came back to the table and found a way to make a deal.”
Williams said Soul Fish’s new East Memphis space is a better fit size-wise than the restaurant’s other two locales. It also has parking options, which the Midtown store lacks.
“If you ask people who eat at both on a regular basis, a lot of people say, ‘Oh, Germantown’s just too big, it doesn’t have that feel of the Midtown store,’” Williams said. “And the Midtown store, it does have a great feel and people sure love it, but it’s just a hair small for what we need to do.
“There’s four or five entrée items and different specials that we run everyday in Germantown that I just can’t do (in Midtown) because I don’t have the room in the kitchen.”
Soul Fish anticipates an early summer opening for its East Memphis location. It will staff about 35 to 40 employees.
Brown Gill with Gill Properties represented Soul Fish in lease negotiations. Chris Carruthers, broker at Acker Robison Realty, represented the group of landlords, Dan Carruthers, Albert M. Jones and the George S. Lovejoy Trust.
Gill said the key to the deal was Carruthers’ willingness to work with a local tenant.
“He could have gone with any national retailer and he chose to go with these guys and to help to expand Soul Fish,” Gill said. “I think that’s really cool, personally, as somebody from Memphis who cares about being here and cares about our economy. Chris does also. I just think that’s neat.”
Carruthers said there was a lot of interest expressed by restaurants, as well as plenty of offers to purchase the building as opposed to renting it.
“I’m thrilled and I think it’s a win-win for sure,” Carruthers said. “I think they’ll do great … and it’ll be great for the area.”
Meanwhile, the former The Gift and Art Shop space at 4704 Poplar, to the west of Soul Fish’s new digs, is in play too. The upscale specialty boutique vacated that spot after 55 years in December.
Lewis “Mac” McKee Jr. of McKee and McFarland Inc., who represents the ownership group, said while a deal isn’t firm yet, the property has seen plenty of activity.
“We’re working on some leads and talking to some prospects,” McKee said. “We’ve talked to some local companies; we’ve also talked to some national chains.”