Day 179

My, oh my, how busy I've been! 

Over the past week, I had the opportunity to speak with a whole slew of great individuals. It all started last Thursday, when I got to watch / briefly meet with a group of U of M students at an AAF luncheon. Although I didn’t get to chat with them individually, just watching them present proved they all have bright futures in the industry.

The following day, I sat down with Michael Phillips of Choose901 / City Leadership to discuss downtown Memphis and how the city is changing for the better—especially when it comes to attracting and retaining creative-types. Then on Tuesday, I met with Andrew Lebowitz and Billy Nation of AIGA | Memphis for lunch at Rendezvous. They had very kind words for #TGAA and offered up some great advice on how I can better build support for the project. They also host the Creative Memphis podcast and I highly recommend everyone check it out. It’s a great listen, no matter where you live.

Finally, I headed to Aldo's Pizza yesterday for a great conversation with Memphis blogger and resident creative, Holly Whitfield. We chatted about all things Memphis and how the city compares to the other places I've visited so far. To be honest, I'm really bummed I wasn't able to meet any of these awesome individuals earlier in my residency here. However, one thing is for sure, each and every one of them is having a positive impact on the city's creative offerings and overall growth. 

And that brings us to today. I know May is one of the shortest months I have booked, but it honestly feels like I just arrived yesterday. Alas, at 10:40pm Saturday, I hop on yet another train and begin my overnight journey to St. Louis. But before I venture to Stop 7, I want to send a big “thank you” to the Red Deluxe team for showing me a great time in Memphis and introducing me to the city’s incredible BBQ.

Looking forward, my next month is going to be exciting for a number of reasons. Not only does it mark the halfway point of the project, but I’m also hitting one of the most interesting agencies I’ve ever come across — Boxing Clever. Part ad agency, part record label and part book publisher, BC certainly has a lot going on and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. From what I can tell, this group really thinks outside the box and I feel we’re going to get along swimmingly. 

On a final note, a strange set of circumstances transpired on Memorial Day and I somehow ended up on the news. It feels weird being labeled as a "Grizzlies fan" while wearing a Cleveland Indians hat. But, let's look on the bright side... I made the news! Surely, this can be chalked up as a victory somehow. Right?

-Steve-

Day 173

On Monday, I was forced to amend my thoughts of Memphis after discovering the Midtown area. Well, let’s just say things didn’t end there, as last night I found myself in another bustling neighborhood—South Main Street.

As I mentioned, when the youth and excitement of Midtown finds its way into the downtown area, Memphis is going to grow by leaps and bounds. Well, it turns out there’s already a movement to make that happen. From restaurants like Bluff City Coffee and The Arcade to shops and galleries like Sache, the area is unlike anything I’ve seen in my portion of downtown. I realize this journey is about finding the wonders of each city in a natural way, but I truly wish I had discovered this place a few weeks ago.

I first came across South Main Street, after seeing a flyer for Tennessee Brewery Untapped— an event that combines live music, locally sourced beverages, food trucks and other makeshift fun all in effort to rediscover the hidden potential within one of the city’s historic properties. It seemed like an opportunity I just couldn’t pass up and the event certainly elevated any expectations I had going in. The crowd skewed more toward my demographic and it was clear to me that many of the attendees lived in the neighborhood. After chatting a few of them up, I learned that this is an up-and-coming neighborhood, which is still rather new. They told me lofts are popping up everyday and with the diversity of new business, the downtown area is finally starting to draw people back from Midtown.

After the great time I had last night, I’m making it a point to venture back down to South Main Street for brunch this weekend. My hope is that it will give me a chance to further explore what the area offers. You can tell there’s a lot of development going on, which is a good thing, as is the American Apparel located on the corner. It shows that national brands are taking notice of the area’s efforts and justifies the enthusiasm of those I spoke with the night before.

Between the neighborhoods of South Main Street and Midtown, I have a feeling there’s a new Memphis starting to take shape—one that embraces the future, without neglecting the city’s rich history. As more and more of the city supports this mindset, I can’t wait to see what downtown is like a few years from now.

-Steve-

Day 169

Well, there you have it. I know last Monday’s blog was a bit gloomy, but as I said, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and I found it by way of Midtown Memphis. For everything downtown Memphis currently lacks, the midtown area picks up the ball and scores a three before you can even bat an eyelash. From record stores and brunch-friendly eateries to the Memphis Zoo and shops like Sweet Noshings, the area is teeming with life and exuberance.

Much like Charlotte’s NoLa, Brooklyn’s Williamsburg and Cleveland’s Ohio City, it takes but a glance to realize this is where the creative twenty-somethings and young professionals have taken up residency. In fact, I’ve come to find that most of my Red Deluxe co-workers already live there. So, I’ll be the first to admit that just when I thought I'd seen all that Memphis has to offer, it continues to surprise and delight me in brand new ways.

The two areas of midtown I ventured to were Overton Square and Cooper Young. Both offer a variety of locally owned shops, restaurants and bars in addition to great entertainment options. In fact, Overton Square even has a weekly concert series called "Thursdays Squared". However, above all else, there was one thing that really caught my eye—Cowork Memphis—a modern building designed to accommodate freelancers, entrepreneurs and independent contractors. Needless to say, I believe every city would benefit from a place like this, because it encourages collaboration and connectivity—two things #TGAA is all about. Even though I came across it on a weekend, you could still see that it was teeming with life.  

After several hours of walking, I decided to stop into Boscos, where I struck up a conversation with a few locals who told me all about the city’s theaters and concert venues—from the Orpheum and Minglewood Hall to the Playhouse on the Square and Hattiloo Theatre. Each of which offers it’s own unique style and flair. They told me great stories of their past and how these venues are all apart of the growing diversity that is the Memphis creative scene. You might not notice it at first—I know I didn’t—but as I’ve said before, the people here are more than happy to tell you why this city is so great.

All in all, these new discoveries make a tad jealous, because most nights I see nary a soul outside of my apartment window. Sure, Beale Street is nearby and always full of energy, but much like Bourbon Street, it’s home to the city’s tourist population. I think that once Midtown’s energy begins stretching west toward the downtown area, this is going to be one city all creatives will want to keep on your radar.

I also found time to attend the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest over the weekend too. It's another awesome Memphis in May event and the place to go if you love delicious BBQ. I even learned about the stories behind the ceiling toothpicks at Huey’s and the ducks in the Peabody Hotel. I'd tell you all about them, but I don't want to spoil the excitement. 

-Steve-