VOL. 126 | NO. 191 | Friday, September 30, 2011
Business Booming as Greenline Turns 1
By JONATHAN DEVIN
As the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy celebrates the first anniversary of the opening of the Shelby Farms Greenline with a party Saturday, Oct. 1, and a half-marathon Sunday, Oct. 2, along-the-trail businesses are celebrating a noticeable increase in volume.
A bicyclist rides the Greenline south of Sam Cooper Boulevard between White Station and Mendenhall.
(Photo: Lance Murphey)
The conservancy expected the trail to generate an economic impact for companies near the trail, but small businesses have been pleasantly surprised with the increased activity.
“We knew from what we’d seen in other cities what this could be,” said Jen Andrews, director of communications for the conservancy. “It’s more than just seven miles of asphalt. It’s a trail that leads from Midtown to the heart of the largest urban park in the country. It makes people feel a sense of momentum for positive things happening. I think it gives them something to be proud of.”
The opening of the Greenline last October had restaurant owners miles away seeing dollar signs and spandex.
“I had to bring in extra help just to handle the extra business,” said Spencer Hays, owner of High Point Pizza, which is a few blocks from the High Point Terrace access point onto the Greenline and next door to Cheffie’s Cafe.
Out of nowhere, Hays said, his 5-year-old restaurant was packed with groups of 10 to 12 cyclists in athletic gear, stopping to relax and fuel up before heading back east.
“They want their carbs, so beer and pizza and there’s your carbs,” said Hays. “Saturdays and Sundays have doubled for our lunch crowd. It’s been a positive thing all around.”
And that’s something to celebrate.
Saturday's festivities include "Bands, Bikes and Block Parties" from noon to 4 p.m, followed by an after-party in Shelby Farms Park from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Sunday will include a half-marathon. Registration has already closed, but 656 runners signed up. They’d hoped for 500.
The anniversary coincidentally follows the announcement that Shelby County has secured grant funds to extend the Greenline east to connect with other existing trails. Andrews said the nonprofit conservancy also reached another milestone, having just exceeded 2,000 members in the last week.
And where the park has always had strong usage by residents of East Memphis and the suburbs, Andrews suspects a number of new park users from the west.
“We’re seeing people who are coming into the visitor’s center who are first-time park users,” said Andrews. “You get on the Greenline and realize that the park isn’t really all that far away.”
Hays, meanwhile, also has new customers from new areas.
“The only traffic we got before was local – people who live in the neighborhood – and now there’s a whole slew of people who never knew about this shopping center, mostly people from out east,” Hays said. “They drag their kids along behind them. They hang out and eat and ride back. A lot of my friends who live out east I see now regularly because before they had no reason to come here.”
The Greenline has even inspired the creation of new business.
Jordan Emerson, an avid cyclist and executive chef for La Paloma Treatment Center, formed an agreement with the conservancy and opened Greenline Rentals, a bike rental company, inside the park at the eastern terminus of the Greenline.
“Just thinking about what was going on in the area, I thought a bike rental business would sit really well here,” he said. “The boat rentals are there, the horse rentals are there. I thought this could be really easy.”
Emerson has 19 bikes and one kiddie trailer. He said the entire fleet, which rents by the hour, is sold out at least twice a day on the weekends. The cost starts at $12 for two hours.
That appeals to less serious riders who simply want to enjoy a day now and then and those who have no way to transport their bikes to the park.
Emerson will close down for the season in about four weeks, but said he is looking into offering tandem bikes, more trailers and tricycles next year.
“As long as we can keep people excited about (cycling), it will continue,” said Emerson. “Memphis is in a bicycle renaissance right now. The community is changing ideas about what it means to be a cyclist.”