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VOL. 124 | NO. 31 | Monday, February 16, 2009

Minglewood Open for Business

By Eric Smith

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STAGE IS SET: Mike Smith, left, and J.De DeHart have opened Minglewood Hall, a mid-sized entertainment venue at 1555 Madison Ave. in Midtown. The concert hall, which can hold up to 1,500 people, is part of the $5 million mixed-use development called Minglewood Plaza. -- PHOTO BY ERIC SMITH

The initial phase of Minglewood Plaza, a $5 million mixed-use development in the heart of Midtown, opened to the public Friday night, giving Memphis a much needed, mid-sized entertainment venue and giving new life to a building that has been home to a bread factory, a music store and a church.

The facility, at 1555 Madison Ave., is anchored by Minglewood Hall, an entertainment venue with a capacity for 1,500 people, although it can be transformed into a number of different configurations, from small to large, from seated to standing.

Minglewood Plaza was renovated by locally owned The DeHart Group over the past two years and also includes restaurant and two retail spaces, which are still available for lease.

Seeing the hall open for business – first with a wedding and then with Friday night’s performance – is a sweet reward for J.De DeHart, president of The DeHart Group, and Mike Smith, general manager of Minglewood Hall.

DeHart and Smith created Minglewood to bring Memphis music fans a medium-sized venue for a variety of musicians and other performers – whether it’s local or national touring acts – because they saw a hole for that type of venue in Memphis, especially in Midtown.

“We definitely feel the void is being filled,” said Smith, formerly of Young Avenue Deli. “It’s been a long time coming and we’re excited it’s here.”

Under way

Minglewood Hall
1555 Madison Ave.
Box office is open 10 a.m.to 4 p.m., Mondays through Fridays

The hall’s inaugural public performance was Friday night with a production of “The Vagina Monologues” followed by a Sunday night performance by the Old Crow Medicine Show. Upcoming shows include local rockers Saliva, singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams and the Cardinals, whose front man is Ryan Adams.

Before The DeHart Group came in, the building was home to Strings & Things and Tastee Bread Co.; it also hosted the worship services and offices of All Saints Presbyterian Church.

The DeHart Group, operating as Mad Will Properties LLC, developed the iconic Midtown building after buying it in February 2007 for $1.7 million.

The DeHart Group is a family-owned business that operates a host of companies ranging from third-party logistics and finance to human resources and technology. It operates its corporate offices on the second floor of the building.

The Madison Avenue property is roughly 64,000 square feet, according to the Shelby County Assessor, but the building is being expanded to about 80,000 once all the renovations are complete. Cosmetic touches were being placed on the hall Friday morning, while the rest of the Plaza will be finished soon, DeHart said.

The project’s general contractor was Barnes & Brower Inc., and the architect was Evans Taylor Foster Childress Architects. Construction on the concert hall began last May.

While The DeHart Group is parent company of concert promotion company TCB Concerts, DeHart stressed that Minglewood will be a nonexclusive concert and event hall, booking with all agencies and hosting functions for any group, public or private, wishing to rent it out.

Minglewood Hall features a large stage, three private VIP suites for rent, two bars and huge bathrooms with dual entrances to accommodate concert crowds.

Midtown stimulus

DeHart and Smith tout the development of Minglewood as “organic,” letting the facility find its identity through the acts who play there, the fans who see shows there and the tenants who will occupy the retail and restaurant space.

Both of them stressed that Minglewood Hall is not a bar that will entertain patrons until 2 a.m. Instead, they see it as a place where concertgoers can watch a show that’s over by 10 p.m. or so, and then visit a nearby bar for after-hour events.

They hope to draw 200 events to the Hall and Plaza each year, working to bring an economic windfall to other Midtown establishments.

“I think the runoff is going to be great, drawing people to the area,” DeHart said. “Hopefully this will be a stimulus for the economy.”

The name Minglewood was the brainchild of DeHart. While following the Grateful Dead on tour during the 1990s, DeHart heard the band sing “New New Minglewood Blues,” a cover of the blues song “New Minglewood Blues,” written by Noah Lewis and performed by Cannon’s Jug Stompers in the 1930s.

As the song goes, “If you’re ever in Memphis, better stop by Minglewood.” That inspired DeHart to find some way to pay tribute to the song and the place that inspired it.

“Minglewood’s the myth,” DeHart told The Daily News last year. “We’re taking that, putting it here and letting people come see it.”

And DeHart and Smith are finally seeing that myth come to life.

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