VOL. 125 | NO. 79 | Friday, April 23, 2010
More Than Shopping
By Andy Meek
From left, Briana Windham, Gabrielle Brown and Tameshia Davis take pictures of friend Yulondria Bronson while shopping at The Avenue Carriage Crossing in Collierville.
Photo: Lance Murphey
Resource Entertainment Group is a Memphis-based entertainment services company with a resume full of big names and corporate clients.
The company has booked concerts for acts like Harry Connick Jr., Ludacris and Elton John. It produced Sun Studio’s 50th anniversary reunion festival, among a long list of other shows through the years.
Which is one reason REG managing partner Howard Stovall gets some funny looks when he tells people about the new entertainment series his company is presenting – in a suburban shopping center.
REG was tapped to put together two evenings of entertainment each month from April through October at Collierville’s The Avenue Carriage Crossing, the 60-acre “lifestyle center” at Tenn. 385 and Houston Levee Road.
The events are part of “Fridays at the Avenue,” a venture the shopping center is launching next week.
The mall has lined up a seven-month slate of outdoor movies, live music and other entertainment that will be presented in Carriage Crossing’s central park. The series kicks off April 30 with a magician, juggling lessons, a display of fire eating and more.
Later events will include free outdoor movies including “E.T.,” “Hoosiers” and “Peter Pan.” Local bands such as The Venus Mission and The Soul Shockers will perform.
A full list of events can be found at the shopping center’s website, http://http://carriagecrossing.shoptheavenue.com/event/fridays-avenue.
The series’ goal is to draw in families by creating something not usually associated with the clothing stores and food courts of traditional malls: a community-building experience.
“We started talking about this last summer,” said Carriage Crossing spokeswoman Elizabeth Allen. “But we didn’t have the talent and staff on hand to get the level of entertainment that we wanted.”
Enter REG, which is programming a similar Music in the Park concert series for Carriage Crossing’s sister shopping center in Murfreesboro.
The company turned out to be the perfect partner for what Allen said the Collierville center wanted to provide.
As the economic slump continues to batter retailers, the traditional shopping mall – something of a relic in an age of Amazon.com, Netflix and other shop-by-mail outlets – is taking its own beating.
Shelby County malls are working harder than ever to attract and keep tenants, not to mention shoppers.
“There’s a renewed focus on the importance of family, friends and community,” Allen said of what’s driving consumers to hoard more of their money and seek out different experiences. “And we embrace those values.”
Stovall said an event like Fridays at the Avenue is a shrewd, perfectly timed move for the Collierville center, which opened in 2005.
“If your competition is online marketing, and you create an experience that requires you to be there, that does a good thing for your tenants,” Stovall said.
In an unexpected way, his company’s new partner has seemed to fit seamlessly into REG’s operation despite the setting. The core need was similar to that of many other REG clients: entertainment as part of a broader strategy.
It’s not the Memphis Botanic Garden, where REG booked the venue’s “Live at the Garden” concert series in the summers of 2002, 2003 and 2004. And it’s not the rooftop of The Peabody hotel, where REG is the entertainment producer for the Peabody Rooftop parties.
But Fridays at the Avenue is a unique, lower-key entertainment production whose draws will include everything from a meet-and-greet with former American Idol contestant Alexis Grace to the giveaway of a Wii video game system.
“We’re trying to be part of peoples’ lives and part of the community,” Allen said.