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VOL. 128 | NO. 7 | Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sekisui, Circa to Relocate Spaces

By Sarah Baker

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Two East Memphis restaurants soon will have new addresses. 

Sekisui is moving from its original location in the Shops of Humphreys Center, 50 Humphreys Blvd., into Circa by John Bragg’s space in Regalia Shopping Center at 6150 Poplar Ave., suite 122. Circa plans to relocate west to Chickasaw Crossing, 2855 Poplar, in the space where Ronnie Grisanti’s restaurant operated for years.

Both restaurants hope to re-open as early as mid-February.

Sekisui’s last day in the Shops of Humphreys Center was Dec. 29. Jimmy Ishii, Sekisui CEO, introduced Memphis to sushi in 1989 when Sekisui opened its doors in Boyle Investment Co.’s multi-tenant building at Walnut Grove Road and what is now the Interstate 240 interchange.

Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp. in November revealed the possibility of locating its Baptist Center for Cancer Care to the site where the Shops of Humphreys Center now stands. Baptist also desires to expand its Baptist Memorial Hospital for Women facility at 6225 Humphreys.

“They changed the campus plans, so we have to move out,” Ishii said.

While Sekisui East's new 3,600-square-foot space in Regalia, also owned by Boyle, is smaller than its Humphreys location, Ishii said it will retain most of the same staff, chefs and authentic Japanese cuisine – with no hibachi or fusion offerings.

“I want to keep focusing to bring the true Japanese food to Memphis,” Ishii said. “That’s our specialty.”

Ishii actually had plans prepared 25 years ago for the exact space in which Sekisui is moving. Circa opened there in 2010 after relocating from Downtown, and Mikasa Japan had a long stint there before that. But in the late 1980s, Boyle recommended Sekisui open in the Shops of Humphreys Center instead of Regalia, Ishii said.

“Boyle moved me to Humphreys because a full sushi bar was risky in Memphis (at the time) and (they didn’t think) Memphians would accept the sushi, so they didn’t want to do that in the Regalia,” Ishii said. “After they saw the success and we were doing well, then Boyle put a sushi bar in the same space and now I’m going back there.”

Sekisui has aligned with Wasabi Management Co. Inc. as part of the deal. The group also inked a 4,680-square-foot lease in Bartlett Logistics Center; Colliers International's J. Hickman represented the landlord Wolf Lake Logistics G.P.

Meanwhile, Circa is finalizing plans to relocate from Regalia to Chickasaw Crossing near the Poplar/Union Avenue split, west of the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library. Current restaurant tenants in the shopping center are Sharon’s Chocolates & Breads Café and Lenny’s Sub Shop.

The 5,850-square-foot space will allow Circa’s bar to be twice as big, a private dining area for at least 60 and a total of 200 seats compared to its previous 110 seats. Circa’s new digs also provide an area for a new retail line with pastry and baked items, said restaurateur John Bragg.

“Remember the old Café Espresso we used to have by the old Ridgeway Inn back in the old days? I think that kind of offering has been totally absent from Memphis for a while and we have the skills and the people to offer it,” Bragg said. “This space over here lets us do that. Its got bigger and better private dining options, too, which is a lot of what we do with the business/entertaining segment.”

Bragg said the decision to move from Regalia was a combination of factors. It was “kind of a landlord thing,” as well as Circa’s wish to take the business in a new direction with its new pastry venture.

“We were kind of wanting to be someplace else; Sekisui needed to be someplace else – kind of a musical chairs let’s call it,” Bragg said. “Also, I think down the road with Capital Grille trying to come in, Ruth’s Chris and Flemings and that real concentration of high-end right in that corner, it might be a better mix for the shopping center to have something lower, more of the walk-up business in there too.”

The second-generation restaurant space, having housed Ronnie Grisanti’s since the 1980s until last February, was also appealing for Circa.

“This had been a proven, viable location for quite a long time,” Bragg said. “What I like about this place is it’s centrally located and visible. Being that far out at almost to Kirby, I’d say it limited the frequency of our Midtown customers coming out that way. Now, it’s a little more accessible to Midtown and it’s more accessible to the Poplar-Perkins, Poplar-Goodlett residential area. My feedback from my vendors and customers has actually been a lot more positive than I thought it would be.”

Steven Levy, chief manager with Levy Commercial Realty LLC, is representing Bragg in Circa’s lease negotiations. Aaron Petree, vice president brokerage with Loeb Properties Inc., is the landlord rep for Chickasaw Crossing.

Shawn Massey and Gary Shanks of The Shopping Center Group LLC are representing Ishii in Sekisui’s new lease at Regalia along with master broker Mike Pettit of Sansone Group in St. Louis. Jon Isbell, Boyle assistant vice president, handles leasing at Regalia.

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