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Hit the Road With Renee: Strong Opportunities in Memphis, Tennessee

Day 3 of the Great American River Road Trip brought us to Cape Girardeau, Missouri, where we were able to share independent business owners’ love of their community, their support of the military and much more.

Early the next day, the team from Independent We Stand and I took off from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, to Memphis, Tennessee, eager to see what local businesses are doing to distinguish themselves and offer their customers unique experiences.

Day 4: Memphis, Tennessee

After about three hours on the road Thursday morning, we arrived at Edge Alley in the Memphis Medical District. Edge Alley’s main tenant is a coffee shop and features microretail offerings that give small, independent business owners the chance to open up shop quickly and efficiently. After a year in Edge Alley, these small business owners are encouraged to move out and open their own storefronts within the Edge neighborhood.

Within Edge Alley, we met Amanda Saucier, owner of Paulette’s Closet, a women’s vintage clothing shop that brings style from the 1960s and 1970s to today’s customers. Saucier shared the vision behind her business, which was inspired by her grandmother Paulette, whom she named the store after. Paulette was born in France, then lived in New Jersey, performed on stage in New Orleans and later moved to Memphis.

After talking with Saucier, we met Vonesha Mitchell, program manager of the Memphis Medical District Collaborative, a community development organization that is working to make the communities in the regions the Memphis Medical District serves safer and more vibrant.

Mitchell introduced us Brian Christion of Shab Chic, a creative market and social hub. Just across the street from Edge Alley, Shab Chic features three shipping containers that will soon be home to small businesses that can rent one of the shipping containers. With a courtyard between the shipping containers, there is space for shoppers to mingle, relax and enjoy a unique retail destination.

As it got closer to noon, our group was excited by the prospect of local barbecue, and we headed to Central BBQ in downtown Memphis. When we got there, we met Felix Vega,  manager of the downtown location. He spoke about the popularity of the restaurant, what made their barbecue so good and even gave a behind-the-scenes tour through the kitchen. After our interview for the Great American River Road Trip, we sat at the bar, sampled a selection of vega’s favorite foods, and enjoyed our lunch.

After tasty barbecue and amazing banana pudding, we took off for Germantown Hardware & Paint, where we met two employees, Mary Faulk and Malan Mortensen. Faulk shared how she lost her home in a fire and detailed the support Germantown Hardware & Paint provided to her and her family.

“The first thing store owner Justin Wagner did for me was set up a GoFundMe,” Faulk says. “We moved in with my sister for a while but Justin helped make sure we got all the things we’d need for our home. I love every one of my coworkers with my whole heart, they’re like family. They were there for me and the whole community of Germantown was there for me, too.”

After talking to Faulk, we met Mortensen, who came to the store one day to look for STIHL equipment and ended up becoming the manager of the outdoor power equipment department.

While at the store, my oldest brother Nick even popped by to say hello and do some shopping with his girlfriend Lezli and her dog. It was fun visiting with them and being able to share the difference independent businesses all across the Mississippi River are making. Then our group loaded the SUV back up and made our way to Greenville, Mississippi, for the evening.

Stay tuned to Hardware Retailing to learn about the evening in Greenville, and all about our final day of the Great American River Road Trip in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana.

About Renee Changnon

Renee Changnon is the retail outreach coordinator for NRHA. She meets with retailers in their stores and at industry events and introduces them to the services NRHA provides. Renee previously worked as a member of the NRHA communications team. She earned a degree in visual journalism from Illinois State University, where she served as the features editor for the school newspaper. After college, she implemented marketing and promotions initiatives at Jimmy John’s franchise locations across the country. She enjoys exploring books with her book club, Netflix marathons and hosting goat yoga at her apartment complex. Renee Changnon 317-275-9442 rchangnon@nrha.org

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