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VOL. 10 | NO. 9 | Saturday, February 25, 2017

Hattie B’s ‘Excited’ About Midtown Location

By Michael Waddell

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For Nick Bishop Sr. and Nick Bishop Jr., owner-operators of Nashville-based Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, opening a Memphis outpost had been something they’d wanted to do for a while. Now it’s becoming a reality.

Nashville-based Hattie B’s Hot Chicken built its business on a limited menu of chicken and scratch-made sides. Now it's preparing to open in Midtown Memphis.

(Submitted)

The father-son team bought The Curb Market’s former spot at 596 Cooper St. in recent weeks and is planning an estimated $350,000 in renovations to convert the 2,700-square-foot building into a Hattie B’s.

“We were looking in Memphis two years ago at different places, and thankfully this building has come along,” said Nick Bishop Sr. “We’re really excited about being here. When you look at the neighborhood and the surrounding community and how the restaurant could be branded, we feel like it could really be a home run for us.”

While scouting for a local site, the Bishops also looked at the University of Memphis area, Downtown and closer to Overton Square while keeping an eye on what was happening with the Curb Market building. When the store, which is owned by Peter Schutt, president of The Daily News Publishing Co., decided to move into a significantly larger space at the new Crosstown Concourse, the Bishops made their buy.

Selling points for the Midtown property included its strong street presence, its location between Cooper-Young and Overton Square, abundant parking and space for outdoor dining.

Over the next four to five months, they will reconfigure the current interior layout and expand the kitchen, as well as do a lot of cosmetic work. An outdoor patio game area on the front side of the building will likely include a small putting green, corn hole or other games for kids. A grand opening is planned by late summer.

The pair opened the first Hattie B’s – named after three ladies from different generations of the Bishop family – in Midtown Nashville in 2012, followed by a second location in West Nashville two years later.

“We saw [in Nashville] with hot chicken what Memphians have with barbecue, you’ve got all these great shops doing it their own way,” said Nick Bishop Jr.

After retiring from Morrison’s Corp. with more than 20 years of service in 2007, the elder Bishop opened his first restaurant, a buffet concept with Southern comfort food called Bishop’s Meat & Three, in Franklin, Tennessee, 20 miles south of Nashville. One of his top sellers there was (and still is) fried chicken.

Nick Jr. had been working for Oh Boy Records in Nashville before joining up with his father at Bishop’s in 2010. Soon after, hot chicken was added to the menu, and by the next year it made up 20 percent of all sales.

“It took us a good six to eight months to formulate our blend of spices to create our hot chicken,” said Nick Sr. “But first and foremost it was starting out with great fried chicken. Being able to maintain that crispy, crunchiness and still get the heat is really a secret of what we do.”

Hattie B’s bought its future South Cooper location from The Curb Market, which is moving into Crosstown Concourse.

(Memphis News File/Andrew J. Breig)

The hot chicken is prepared with a spice bath in five intensifying levels of heat, including “hot,” “damn hot” and “shut the cluck up,” which consists of cayenne, habanero and ghost peppers.

“People have fun with it,” said Nick Sr., talking of some customers who challenge themselves to eat higher heat levels each time they come in. “The guy who lost a bet or who is in town for a wedding might be eating ‘shut the cluck up.’”

The fresh chicken is locally sourced from the Nashville area and only cooked once the customer places an order.

“It’s a limited menu, but a lot of thought and care have been out into the processes of it,” said Nick Jr. “We take that order and drop that chicken, and 15 minutes later or so you’ve got about as fresh a piece of stick-to-your-rib-sides hot chicken as you can get.”

Nick Sr. believes Hattie B’s scratch-made sides, such as black-eyed pea salad, collard greens and pimento mac & cheese, help to set the restaurant apart, and the banana pudding is there to help people cool down after some hot chicken. The Bishops also plan to partner with local Memphis breweries to offer craft beer.

Originally the Bishops hadn’t envisioned taking the concept beyond Nashville. But last June, they extended their reach, opening a restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama.

They’ve resisted franchising their idea, instead planning to grow organically over time. After expanding to Birmingham and Memphis, they are working to open a Hattie B’s in Atlanta later this year and have their eyes on another prominent market after that.

The Memphis restaurant will hire roughly 30 employees, including a management staff with two to three managers from the area.

“I think one of the most rewarding parts of doing this is to see people from all different socio-economic walks of life come together,” said Nick Jr. “Fried chicken, much like Memphis barbecue or any other great comfort food, is as much of an equalizer as there is.”

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RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 95 253 13,695
MORTGAGES 96 261 15,827
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 3 24 2,163
BUILDING PERMITS 250 500 28,258
BANKRUPTCIES 57 178 8,828
BUSINESS LICENSES 31 85 4,650
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 33 93 5,486
MARRIAGE LICENSES 9 57 2,951

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