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VOL. 129 | NO. 141 | Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Busy Street

Cafe Pontotoc latest development along bustling South Main

By Andy Meek

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Evidence for the attractiveness of Downtown’s South Main neighborhood can be found in any of several corners.

Cafe Pontotoc owners Milton and Cherie Lamb, with servers Katie Cady and Monica Patrick, left, in front of the new business in the South Main Historic Arts District.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

One example is at 314 S. Main St., where Café Pontotoc opened its doors about two weeks ago. Owners Milton and Cherie Lamb wanted to establish a comfortable neighborhood bar that serves wine, local beers and small plates in a setting where patrons get used to coming in to unwind.

The eatery plans to include brunch later this year, and right now it’s open Tuesday through Saturday from 4 p.m. to close. Beer from local breweries will be part of the experience, as well as a menu that includes international small plates and emphasizes fresh ingredients.

“We’re from Memphis, love Downtown and want to be a complement to the growing South Main district,” said Cherie Lamb, who added that the café space will be an attempt to create a kind of party for patrons each day.

“You’re trying to have everybody who comes in have a great time. Certainly that’s a goal to try to obtain every single day. I think that’s what I like most about restaurants. Every day you can start over, and your goal is just to try to make it perfect.”

All around Café Pontotoc, meanwhile, plenty more is going on. In recent days, word came that longtime Memphis food and beverage wholesaler D. Canale & Co. is bringing a spirits distillery and public tasting room to 301 S. Front St.

The distillery will be up and running late next summer and open to the public next year. The project will be used as the production and bottling facility for a portfolio of ultra-premium distilled spirits.

Other businesses that are recent additions to South Main include a small book shop – the South Main Book Juggler – and the clothing boutique Red Velvet Vintage, among others. And there’s still more to come.

According to Downtown Memphis Commission president Paul Morris, more than $100 million in new development is underway in the neighborhood.

“Everything is coming together all at once in South Main right now,” Morris said. “The Main to Main project is fixing up the street and sidewalks, new retail stores and restaurants are opening, the Chisca is being redeveloped, D. Canale's new craft distillery is moving forward, and … within the next couple of years, we expect that 1,000 more residents will be moving into the neighborhood.”

Besides that, he went on, attractions like the renovated National Civil Rights Museum, the new Orpheum Centre for Performing Arts & Education, and the Blues Hall of Fame will be bringing still more visitors to South Main.

Lamb said she and her husband have lived in South Main for four years now, and because of the kind of neighborhood it is, they know more of the neighbors they live around than they did in any other community they’ve called home.

“We’ve lived out in the county, in several suburbs, East Memphis and Midtown,” she said. “We love being able to walk instead of always having to get in the car, too.”

Jean Andrus, who opened the South Main Book Juggler with her husband, Clayton, at 548 S. Main St., said the couple is looking forward to things like the completion of new apartments in the neighborhood and the Main to Main initiative, plus the return of the trolleys.

In trying to put his finger on the reason behind the neighborhood’s draw, South Main Association president Brian Douglas said it’s one of those places that has pretty much everything, all in one close-knit neighborhood.

“It’s home to businesses, shops, restaurants, bars, entertainment, museums, not to mention a strong residential community,” Douglas said. “It’s a little bit funky, a little historic, and a little adventurous all rolled into one.

“It’s a place that locals want to visit, want to live in, and want to work in. It’s an area that can feel like you’re taking a quick vacation by just traveling across town for the day.”

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