VOL. 130 | NO. 117 | Wednesday, June 17, 2015
Sam’s Hamburgers in 100 N. Main Could Be Forced to Close
By Amos Maki
Amjad “AJ” Odeh moved to Memphis in 1996 to partner with Osama Eltaych at the old Sam’s Hamburgers & More that was operating at 16 S. Front St.
Sam’s Hamburgers & More, on the first floor of the 100 N. Main building, could be forced to close if the building’s owner does not pay a delinquent MLGW balance by June 24.
(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)
Odeh soon became the sole owner of the business, and in 2000 opened Sam’s in a section of the first floor of 100 N. Main St., the city’s tallest building, located at the southeast corner of Main and Adams Avenue near Civic Center Plaza.
But the Kuwait native is now operating on a day-to-day basis, unsure of what the future holds for his restaurant and the six to eight people who work there.
“It is stressful,” Odeh said. “It’s mentally stressful. A lot of people depend on this business.”
Odeh, 48, is caught in the middle of an ongoing dispute between Yitzchok “Isaac” Thomas, the owner of 100 N. Main, and Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division.
MLGW could shut off water and electric service to 100 N. Main on June 24 if Thomas does not pay an $86,400 delinquent utility balance, a move that would force Sam’s to close its doors for good.
“I feel bad for the employees if it closes, some of them have been here many, many years, but I also feel bad for the customers,” Odeh said. “They have been good to us.”
Odeh does not own the other Sam’s Hamburgers location Downtown, at 3 S. Main St.
In February 2014, Odeh said Thomas sent tenants a notice saying they needed to leave the building by the end of May. As the tenants, many attorneys of which were lawyers, began pouring out, Odeh spoke with Thomas about staying open on what amounted to a month-by-month basis because he could not afford to move to another location.
“If we’re not here it would be like a ghost building,” Odeh said.
“We came to an agreement we can stay open but it is hard,” he said. “You think you’re going to close and then they tell you that you have one more month.”
Thomas moved tenants out of the tower to make way for a proposed mixed-use development that would feature hotel rooms, apartment units and commercial space. But nothing publicly has happened since.
Thomas told Odeh he was working on a deal to possibly arrange financing for the redevelopment project or potentially sell the building to a development group. Odeh said Thomas claimed the deal had a June 18 deadline.
“They’ve been doing the same thing for the past year,” Odeh said. “(Thomas) said he’s been working on it but we’ve seen no result.”
Odeh has been watching after the building, making improvements to his restaurant and getting rent credits for the money he has spent. He said he paid about $17,000 to have his own air conditioners installed. When a pipe burst on the 17th floor of the building last winter, Odeh said he hired someone to make the repairs. Only one of the building’s elevators works and it travels to the 22nd floor. Odeh said he and the repairman had to take the elevator to the 22nd and then walk down to 17.
Sam’s, with a physical address at 94 N. Main St., has its own electric meter and receives bills separate from 100 N. Main, but the restaurant and the building share the actual electrical connection. Separating the electrical connection requires getting inside or below 100 N. Main; so far Thomas has not let MLGW crews in the building, an MLGW official said last week.
Odeh praised MLGW’s efforts but said that sometimes it’s hard to be optimistic.
The building’s owner or representative has already missed one recent deadline to pay the utility bill at 100 N. Main. MLGW sent a cutoff notice for the property on May 22 for a past due balance of $78,914, but a payment was not received by the May 31 deadline.
Thomas and One Hundred North Main LLC acquired the 37-story tower in August 2013 for $5 million on a seller-financed note from the Zimmerman Revocable Trust, according to people familiar with the transaction.
For Odeh, the unknown is a daily anxiety but one he has made peace with.
“We come to work every day and what happens, happens. It is in God’s hands.”