VOL. 119 | NO. 12 | Wednesday, January 19, 2005
By Andy Meek
Midtown Antiques Corridor Set to Grow
Multi-building project to add retail, gallery, studio space
The Daily News
Many of the buildings at the corner of Central Avenue and
Cox Street are vacant and decaying. But Frank Roberts, owner of two upscale
antiques stores in the area, sees potential in the structures so much so that
he plans to turn them into an arts and antiques venture hes calling the Memphis
Decorative Arts Complex.
Roberts, who owns Market Central and Palladio International Antique Marketplace on Central,
plans to redevelop six buildings in the area, most of them along Cox.
His plans include architectural and garden antiques shops in two of the
buildings and a gallery with studio space for local artists in another
Building on success. The
finished complex would complement Roberts other antiques ventures, both of
which serve as a major draw to the retail stretch along Central Avenue in Midtown.
We just want to enhance our already 10-year investment in
the area, Roberts said of his plans, adding that he and his wife, Mindy, are
entering their ninth year as owners of Palladio.
Roberts is uniquely suited for the redevelopment project. With
a background in home building, he has succeeded in the antiques business by
turning the bare walls of forgotten buildings into old-world marketplaces
replete with fine antiques, artwork and pottery. His two current antiques shops
are known for their high-quality merchandise and European flair.
Getting to work. Roberts
recently completed a total renovation of Market Central, which he and his wife
bought in 2002 through Palladio LLC. After purchasing
the building, the couple updated it, gave it a European ambience and filled it
with merchandise from 70 antiques vendors.
Now, work is set to begin on one of the first components of Roberts
latest venture, a 6,500-square-foot studio and gallery space for local artists.
Roberts is expecting positive reaction to the artist space; when his wife
brought an art gallery into the couples Palladio
International Antique Marketplace, he said it was instantly welcomed.
To say it was a success would be an understatement,
Roberts said. There is such a demand here for artist studio and gallery
Roberts said other parts of the development will be built in
increments, with the final piece of the project a 10,000-square-foot
marketplace for potters, picture frame designers and other artisans slated for
completion in 2006.
A booming district. When
its completed, Roberts said the massive arts and antiques complex will be the
perfect addition to the Memphis Antique and Design District, which he helped
organize with other local merchants. At the moment, customer interest in the
area is booming, said Dana Whitehead, current president of the district.
Theres been such growth in our area, said Whitehead,
owner of Toad Hall Antiques at 2129 Central. Just since Ive been open in this
spot, weve had six new antiques shops and art studios. This area is just
fantastic for retail.
Last year, the organization began including restaurants
among its members, enabling the group to tout the district as a convenient
place to dine and shop. Whitehead said the organization, which has 16 members,
also has been working with the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau to
coordinate marketing efforts.
Weve been marketing with them so that when groups come
into town, they can be aware of and come to this area and spend a day or
weekend here, she said. Weve got our brochures in all the hotels and welcome
centers, and some of us individually do marketing outside of Memphis, so we try
to spread our name to the feeder cities. We also market together as a group.
Building interest. Toad
Hall Antiques, Whiteheads 5,000-square-foot store whose name comes from the
classic childrens story Wind in the Willows, has been open on Central Avenue
for two years and carries everything from china to pottery to jewelry.
Whitehead said interest in the district coincides with a
resurgence of interest in Midtown. And Roberts stepped up his plans to
redevelop properties in the area after noticing that the neighborhood was on a
Our sales have increased over the years, and our sales last
year were extremely strong, he said.
His latest project dovetails with what Whitehead said is
another push for the Memphis Antique and Design District to keep properties
in the neighborhood attractive and to draw more people to the area.
One of our goals is, even though were located in the
historic area of Midtown, we want to offer shopping as well as restaurants, but
were also trying to improve the area, Whitehead said. That includes helping
other properties around us that need help with beautification, to make this
area one of the best in Memphis.