Former Midtown Grocer Building Gets New Owner, Look

By Eric Smith

A REASON TO SPEND: Richard Lynch and Todd Weddle plan to renovate and rename this strip center at 1860 Madison Ave., opening up an additional 7,400 square feet of retail space for Midtown.
Top: what the center will look like after renovations. Bottom: what it looks like now.
-- Photo Courtesy Of Lynch And Weddle Holdings Gp / Rendering Courtesy Of Brian Pearson

A Midtown building once home to a well-known grocery store and then an antique shop is on the verge of yet another incarnation as its new owners prepare to give it a fresh look.

Memphis-based Lynch and Weddle Holdings GP, whose partners are Richard Lynch and Todd Weddle, Feb. 6 bought the decades-old strip center on the northeast corner of North McLean Boulevard and Madison Avenue for $600,000.

The duo bought the 13,329-square-foot building from the Merrill P. Thomas Trust (established by Merrill P. Thomas and Lilla Pratt Rosamond). Lynch and Weddle took out a $1.1 million construction loan from BancorpSouth the same day they bought it to perform a complete exterior - and partial interior - overhaul.

"It's our intention to put a whole new facelift on the property and totally gut the old (John Gray & Son Market) space," Lynch said. "There are some tenants we're going to keep intact, but we're going to renovate the space that has not been renovated, and we're going to divide that up and have it for speculative retail space."

History-filled address

The address for the property is 1860 Madison Ave., although its three current storefronts actually face North McLean; the strip center also is listed under the addresses of 14, 16, 18 and 20 N. McLean Blvd.

John Gray & Son Market grocery store was on the property for nearly 70 years, closing in April 1997. Madison Avenue Antique Mall opened in the space later that year and operated there until it closed earlier this month.

The Shelby County Assessor lists the year built as 1967, although the original structure likely dates back to the 1940s, the new owners said, with additions completed in 1967. But the property's history goes back even further as part of the Idlewild Subdivision plat, dated April 1889.

Now, Lynch and Weddle will bring the parcel up to date by creating a modern exterior for the entire center and delivering to Midtown three revamped retail spaces totaling 7,400 square feet.

"We feel like there's some pent-up demand for retail there," Weddle said. "If you look at the rooftops that are in that area, if you look at the demographics and the income, those people need retail. Right now, the way we look at it, Madison and Union (Avenue) are their choices, and for everything else they have to travel east."

Community assets

Lynch and Weddle were drawn to the property for its access to a signalized interchange at Madison and McLean, and also for boasting a much larger parking lot than many strip centers in Midtown. The lot has about 45 spaces, Lynch said.

"That is something unique," he said.

The center's existing tenants are Valenza Pasta and Midtown Eyecare; Weddle said they shouldn't be affected by construction work.

"We hope to allow their businesses to continue operating smoothly," Weddle said. "I think they're great assets to the community and we're proud to have them. Now we're looking for some complementary neighbors for them."

The partners said they don't have specific tenants in mind but will begin looking soon.

Construction is scheduled to begin within the next 60 days with completion set for mid-summer. Hasco Inc. is the contractor for the project.

'Full circle'

Lynch and Weddle plan to rename the building, although they haven't settled on a new moniker. They hope to coin something simple yet memorable - such as the instantly recognizable shopping centers of Eastgate or Saddle Creek - while also capturing some of the nearby street names and Midtown flavor.

This project, whose final cost has not been determined, is special to both Lynch and Weddle. Back in their youth they used to shop at the strip center's old grocery store and they like the idea of being part of its future.

"To come full circle and bring some value to that community, to that redevelopment, is satisfying," Weddle said. "We think it's going to be good for the community, good for Midtown."