VOL. 129 | NO. 130 | Friday, July 04, 2014
I Choose Memphis: Airika Wallace Gigas
Special to The Daily News
“I Choose Memphis” spotlights Memphians who are passionate about calling this community home. New Memphis Institute provides the profiles.
Name: Airika Wallace Gigas
Job title and company: Director of Sales & Events, LEO Events
Length of time living in Memphis: Two and a half years
Life history: I grew up in the Dallas-Fort Worth area before moving to Oklahoma to attend Oklahoma State University, where I received my degree in advertising and public relations. After college, I returned to Dallas where I accepted my first job at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. While at UTSW I planned events for the president of the Medical Center and ignited my passion for the events industry. In 2010 my now-husband was transferred to Memphis for a position with Ford Motor Co. Over the next year and a half, I visited Memphis dozens of times and fell in love with the city that would become my future home. In late 2011, I decided that I needed a change professionally and moved to Memphis. Within weeks of moving, I was fortunate enough to accept a position as Event Services Manager for LEO Events. Since moving to Memphis, I got married this past March, bought a house by the Pink Palace, and was recently promoted to Director of Sales & Events with LEO Events. Moving to Memphis has been one of the best decisions in my life personally and professionally, and I am excited to see what this great city has in store for me next.
What would be your ideal Saturday in Memphis? My perfect Saturday in Memphis would start off with coffee from Bluff City while walking around the Downtown Memphis Farmers Market. After that, I would spend an afternoon at Overton Bark and finish the day listening to a live band at the Levitt Shell with great friends.
What do you like most about your job? I am in the business of selling Memphis as a destination to companies to hold their meetings, events and conventions. Once the group is here, it is my job to provide them with the most authentic experience while in our city. As a transplant, my job forced me (and I mean that in the best way) to learn and explore Memphis quickly and thoroughly. You need to know and love what you sell so my job instantly allowed me to see and experience all of the wonderful things Memphis has to offer. From the restaurants, to the history and music – I get to experience it all day, every day. The best part is being able to share the city I love with visitors from around the world.
What is your favorite local restaurant? One of my favorite restaurants in Memphis is LUNCHBOXeats – this locally owned restaurant serves classic “grown-up” plates with a “grade-school” spin. Where else can you eat a delicious lunch off a retro cafeteria tray while playing connect four or tabletop jenga…all while sitting in a classroom style chair. I suggest the Holiday Break Chicken and homemade lemonade. Yum!
What do you find surprising about Memphis? When I moved to Memphis, it was a pleasant surprise to see the volume of support for local grassroots and community-driven initiatives. It is so obvious that Memphians love Memphis and it’s inspiring to see the change and influence that a small group of people can have on our community. You can see this in the support of our locally owned restaurants, local breweries and the revitalization of the South Main Historic District. One of my personal favorites, was the Tennessee Brewery Untapped project– this grassroots effort by Memphians pulled together people from all over the city to experience local innovation in a historic Memphis setting.
What is your favorite outdoor activity? My husband and I love to take Winnie, our 90-pound Bernese Mountain Dog, hiking at Shelby Forest in Millington. I had no idea until recently that this state park existed just half an hour north of the city. There are over 20 miles of great hiking trails with dense valleys where the temperature drops 10 degrees. We also love Shelby Farms and are thrilled about the development and expansion plans for the park and lake.