VOL. 122 | NO. 244 | Monday, December 24, 2007
By Eric Smith
ON THE TOWN: Town Square at Snowden Grove in Southaven has reached 98 percent occupancy thanks to the recent arrival of Bangkok Alley, a Thai restaurant that opened Nov. 26. -- Photo By Eric Smith
Sam Mitchell probably would be the first person to say commercial success in DeSoto County isn't limited to Goodman Road. The business lineup at Town Square at Snowden Grove in Southaven proves it.
Town Square is at 5960 Getwell Road and is adjacent to the popular ball fields and amphitheater of Snowden Grove Park. The development is a 10-acre, 60,000-square-foot mixed-use center whose retail portion is now 98 percent leased thanks to the addition of Bangkok Alley, a Thai restaurant that opened its doors Nov. 26.
That leaves just 3,000 feet for Mitchell to lease, and he said he already has a few potential tenants in mind. In addition to the retail on the ground floor, Town Square also has 16 loft-style apartments and some office space.
"Traditionally, everything has had to be on Goodman Road," said Mitchell, a broker with McCullar Ferguson Realty LLC. "We think that this is proving that if you've got a good site, and it's appealing and the prices are competitive, that people will come here."
More than anything, Mitchell said he sees it as a sign of DeSoto County as a maturing community, one where development has gone off the main drag onto side arteries. And those burgeoning areas should support and provide competition for the original commercial core.
"DeSoto is a changing demographic and a changing market," Mitchell said.
Away from the strip
Town Square opened in 2005. It was the brainchild of Meredith McCullar, who helped Henry Turley and Jack Belz develop Oak Court Mall in East Memphis and Harbor Town on Mud Island.
McCullar originally bought 300 acres in Southaven along Getwell, but he sold much of the property to individual developers, who in turn created a residential subdivision behind Snowden Grove.
McCullar and his partners modeled Town Square after the historic square in Oxford, Miss., replete with a variety of architectural façades designed for a variety of businesses.
Current tenants include The Mesquite Chop House and The Pig restaurants, along with retail outfits Wilson Perry Salon & Day Spa, Southern Vintage (designer clothing), Robert Madison Home Furnishings, the Grove Coffee House and the Swing Shoppe (golf and tennis apparel).
"One of the things I think is unique is the tenants aren't regular strip-center tenants," Mitchell said. "Most of them (the business owners) live in the area, and the tenants have done a good job of developing a small-town atmosphere right here in Town Square."
Leasing at Town Square is $17.50 per square foot, which Mitchell noted is the same as older properties along Goodman. Newer space there would run about $20 a foot, he added.
"It's not a significant difference, but it is for retailers that are a little unique," Mitchell said. "It's a destination and people are not going to just drive by and whip in there - they're going to go there on purpose."
Thai, not traffic
Thara Burana owns the 130-seat Bangkok Alley with his wife, Dottie. The Southaven restaurant is their third in the Memphis area, joining locales in Cordova and Collierville.
Burana said he wasn't particularly interested in sites along Goodman, which he believes is too hectic and might have prevented customers from easily getting to his restaurant.
"I don't like the big, heavy traffic," he said.
Instead, he was attracted to the look and feel of the space he eventually leased at Town Square.
"We checked it out a little bit and we were in love with the building and the way it's set up, the concept of the building," Burana said. "After we did a little study on the demographics, it seemed like it had potential, so we tried it out."
In addition to the full Thai cuisine offered at its other sites, the Town Square version of Bangkok Alley has a sushi bar and employs a chef from Los Angeles who recently moved to the area to run the kitchen.
Burana, who is planning to have a grand opening for the restaurant in January, admitted they are still working out some kinks at the new location and still waiting for the big crowds. But he expects that to happen soon.
"I think it will," he said.
Now, the Town Square developers are eyeing expansion. A branch of BancorpSouth is under construction as an outparcel, and there's room for one more outparcel on the front of the property along Getwell.
Also, the developers plan to begin a second phase of Town Square, likely 20,000 square feet, in the spring.
Although Phase II will be smaller, it will incorporate the same mixed-use approach - retail, residential and commercial - that has worked so well with the original site.
As for the stigma that a business has to be on Goodman to thrive in DeSoto County, that trend could be headed farther south - and Town Square is squarely in the path of that migration.
"We think Church Road is going to be the next hot area as far as development," Mitchell said. "It's going to be solid from here to Hernando. It's really growing to the south."