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VOL. 133 | NO. 5 | Friday, January 5, 2018

New Memphis Arrival Opens Coffee Shop at Brooks

By Andy Meek

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Four months ago, David Pender had never visited Memphis before. That’s how he starts a recap of what for him has been a serendipity-fueled introduction to the Bluff City, an arrival that’s included landing behind the counter at his newly opened coffee shop, Low Fi Coffee, inside the museum store at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.


Low Fi Coffee ended a short pop-up stint on Dec. 27 at 7 N. Main St., where Pender’s operation shared space with the store Bozwell + Lily. A few weeks before that run ended, City & State co-owner Lisa Toro – who had been tapped to lead a redesign and relaunch of the Brooks’ museum store – approached Pender about reopening at the Brooks.

Pender and his wife, Bailey Biggers, are the co-owners of the Low Fi Coffee concept, which materialized in Memphis not long after they did. And how they came to be here in the first place speaks to the kind of loose, lo-fi, DIY vibe behind their coffee enterprise.

“My wife and I were living in Fort Worth – we were there for about a year,” Pender said. “Before that, we were in L.A. for about eight years.

“L.A. wasn’t cutting it. Way too expensive. While we were in Fort Worth, I had an opportunity in Asheville (North Carolina) to get some work through my uncle, so I moved there for a couple months over this summer. We weren’t really feeling Fort Worth. We were like, ‘We need a place to meet in the middle,’ and decided on Memphis.”

They piled into their cars and met here. They were immediately drawn to qualities about the city, like the approachableness that greeted them. They found, Pender explains, it was easy to meet people, get connected and find willing partners for ideas like what would become Low Fi Coffee.

He met the team behind Bozwell + Lily and was able to secure space there. Toro met him and offered to help facilitate an opening at the Brooks.

“When the Brooks approached me regarding the cafe,” Toro said, “my first thought was to leverage the space almost as another exhibit. It’s an opportunity for the Brooks to partner with new roasters and specialty coffee shops while keeping the cafe fun and engaging. The timing seemed ideal with Low Fi wrapping their pop-up Downtown, and it gave them a space to keep the momentum going.”

The Brooks museum store reopened to the public a few weeks ago. Its merchandise selection will rotate and change along the museum’s exhibits.

On Wednesday, Jan. 3, Pender was behind the counter along one side of the store, busy with tasks necessary for Low Fi opening for business there that day.

“What I love about Memphis is the openness, the ability to connect with people and make friends in a really short amount of time,” he said. “There’s no pretentiousness. Everybody’s willing to help. There’s something in the air here. There’s something special.

“The whole thing with Low Fi is, like, there’s lo-fi recording. And that whole lifestyle of being able to make something great out of rubbing two sticks together is what I live for. You don’t have to be extravagant. You don’t have to have a $30,000 espresso machine. It’s about how good your product is. That’s the whole Low Fi concept. You’ve just got to love what you do and have passion.”

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