'Catching the Wave'

Though '06 business license filings dipped, some Memphis ZIPs saw big gains

By Rosalind Guy

STRIKE A POSE: Kevin Warr, owner of Art D' Dealer at 173 Court Ave., is one of more than 120 people who filed business licenses in 2006 in Memphis-Shelby County. -- Photo By Rosalind Guy

Like many Memphians, Kevin Warr is very familiar with all the residential development going on in Downtown Memphis. And also like many small-business owners, he decided in 2006 to open his business there to take advantage of all the growth.

Warr filed a business license for Art D' Dealer in September 2006. The business, which is at 173 Court Ave., offers customized frames for the posters and prints he sells.

Scattered throughout the store are posters of Bob Marley, Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong and three-time World Heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali. Also on display are original prints by local artists.

"I wanted to be Downtown because Downtown is growing," he said. "And I wanted to hopefully catch onto the wave."

Slight dip in filings

Warr was one of the more than 120 people who filed business licenses for Downtown's 38103 ZIP code last year.

Overall, 6,758 business licenses were filed at the Shelby County Clerk's Office in 2006. That's down about 2.5 percent from the 6,929 licenses filed in 2005, according to The Daily News Online, www.memphisdailynews.com.

Despite all the activity taking place Downtown, the area with the highest number of filings was the 38115 ZIP code in Hickory Hill, with 396 filings. That was followed closely by the 38116 ZIP code in Whitehaven, which saw 377 filings.

About 70 percent of the total licenses filed last year were filed within the Memphis city limits. Behind Memphis, but with only about 8.5 percent of the total filings, was Cordova, with 578 licenses filed in 2006.

Planning, planning, planning

Despite the relative ease with which a business license can be obtained, it's just as important to have a solid business plan and adequate capital in hand when starting a business, said Kendall Haney, owner of Kendall Haney Realty Group, in an earlier interview.

To get a business license, a filer simply has to go to the Shelby County Clerk's Office, fill out some paperwork and pay a fee to get his or her license.

Art D' Dealer has been in the works for Warr for about two years. He'd previously been working as an independent vendor selling posters and artwork, but business has grown to the point where he wanted to have a storefront presence.

Most of his customers are Downtown, so it should follow suit that his business is there, he said.

"I hope to outgrow this small spot," Warr said of his store at the corner of Court Street and Second Avenue.

So far, he's been getting the word out about his store by posting fliers.

But he's in the process of composing a newsletter that will further get the word out about his business. His Web site, www.artddealer.com, should be up and running soon, he said.

The bigger picture

Nationwide, the economy and financial markets appear to be generally supportive of small-business growth, according to the report "The Small Business Economy" issued by the national Small Business Administration in December.

The report examines the business climate for 2005 by looking at how well small businesses fared in the economy that year, in the financial markets and in the federal procurement marketplace.

The estimated number of business startups in 2005, the most current year for which data was available, was 671,800 - higher than the estimated number of closures at 544,800. The number of closures at 544,000 is still relatively high, but small businesses tend to come and go.

When one business closes, the numbers seem to suggest that a newer, more innovative business tends to take its place, according to the report.

A look at quarters

Warr was one of 518 people to file his business license in September. The most filings took place in July, though, with 734 business licenses filed during that month.

In looking at the numbers on an annual basis, business license filings seem to remain steady. In 2006, 6,758 licenses were filed, slightly down from the 6,929 filed in 2005. In 2004, 6,205 licenses were filed.

License filings fluctuated among the quarters in 2006.

First quarter '06 saw 1,929 license filings, while Q2 dropped about 20 percent to 1,557. Third quarter was up almost 18 percent quarter-over-quarter to 1,834 filings, and then Q4 dropped more than 21 percent to 1,438 filings.

Of the 1,438 fourth-quarter filings, Hickory Hill's 38115 ZIP code was the busiest, with 75. Following closely behind the Hickory Hill neighborhood, 72 business licenses were filed for the 38116 ZIP code in South Memphis during the fourth quarter.

Large and in charge

Despite the fluctuating numbers, the outlook seems positive for Warr, who is looking forward to gaining new customers, outgrowing his current store and hosting art showings throughout the year to showcase local talent.

And location just may be the key to Warr's success. As Tim Duncan, owner of the PRStore, said in an earlier interview: "Location is the king in real estate."

Duncan and his wife, Lisa, along with partner Veronica Walton, opened the PR Store last year at 6139 Poplar Ave. Shortly after opening, Duncan attributed the success his business was experiencing to its prime location along Poplar Avenue.

"I think we would have been successful anyway," Duncan said. "But I don't think it would have happened as quickly."

With all the interest in a booming Downtown Memphis, Warr soon might be able to move on to bigger and better things.