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VOL. 131 | NO. 171 | Friday, August 26, 2016

French Truck Coffee Making Splash in Memphis

By Madeline Faber

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Jimmy Lewis said that when he agreed to move his Relevant Roasters concept into Crosstown Concourse, he was taking a risk. His coffee-roasting operation is only 2 years old, and the in-house coffee shop element at 584 Tillman St. is even newer.

Geoffrey Meeker, owner of French Truck Coffee,  and Jimmy Lewis, the managing partner for French Truck Memphis,  in front of their new home at Crosstown Concourse

(Daily News/Madeline Faber)

“I just hoped it would work out, but I am glad the French Truck guys came along,” said Lewis, a serial entrepreneur who founded natural-foods store Squash Blossom Market in 1979.

Following a newly established partnership with New Orleans-based French Truck Coffee, Relevant Roasters has a new name – French Truck Memphis – and a lot more horsepower to take on an expansion into the 1.5 million-square-foot Crosstown Concourse complex.

When the move is complete, Lewis will jump from five employees at the original Relevant Roasters location to 20 employees at Crosstown Concourse in Midtown.

Production will pick up pace as well. French Truck Memphis will roast around 3,000 pounds of coffee a week, nearly four times what the Tillman shop handles. In addition to regional grocery stores, French Truck Memphis will sell bags of coffee beans at the market planned for Crosstown Concourse. It will sell brewed coffee at an in-house coffee shop and to the handful of restaurants in Crosstown Concourse.

“It was definitely curated. It was on the list from day one that we needed a great coffee shop,” said Amy Carkuff with Carkuff Interiors, who is on the development team for Crosstown Concourse. “We knew we had it in Relevant Roasters, and now this marriage has made it even better. It just so exceeded our expectations.”

As the “coffee shop for the village,” French Truck Memphis will be located in the central atrium adjacent to the Kitchen Next Door, according to Carkuff. The 3,200-square-foot bay will be lined with glass so that passersby can watch the roasters in action. The coffee shop will have limited seating, with patrons encouraged to take their coffee on the plaza or elsewhere in the building.

“We’ve got a million square feet of seating for our coffee shop,” said Geoffrey Meeker, who founded French Truck in 2012. He opened a second New Orleans location in February.

French Truck Memphis also will sell wine and beer and have a café menu with items like a fresh caprese sandwich and French toast. Meeker, who has a background as a chef, said that the restaurant is more French-inspired and less so by its New Orleans home base.

French Truck’s expansion into Memphis came organically. Lewis first reached out to French Truck when he was getting his coffee operation up and running. What started out as a conversation about best practices evolved over the years, with a merger occurring this summer.

By September, customers will see new signage and branding on former Relevant Roasters products in grocery stores and markets in advance of French Truck Memphis’ opening in Crosstown Concourse in 2017. When the new location is up and running, the Tillman shop will be phased out.

Meeker said that he’s invested in Memphis and plans for more French Truck Coffee locations in town.

“We’ll definitely have different shops, but this will be the central one,” he said. “We want it to be a Memphis company that people enjoy and want to see grow, and I think the quality of the coffee and the food will speak for itself.”

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