For this week’s FACES, we’d like to introduce you to Shantih Smythe, a local restaurateur who co-owns not one, but two, local restaurants with her husband, Bert. Together they operate McEwen’s on Monroe downtown and Alchemy in Cooper Young. In addition to her involvement with the two restaurant locations, she is also a popular yoga instructor, and at her children’s school, she is known for volunteer leadership and involvement. In addition to being a devoted mom and local businesswoman, Shantih is a recent cancer survivor with a joy for life that makes her a leader in every setting. Meet our multifaceted FACE of Memphis: Welcome, Shantih!
Have you always called Memphis home?
Yes, born and raised. Actually, I always called Midtown home. I branched out and went to White Station for high school, but came back in to go to Rhodes.
Looking back, name a few of the benchmark experiences that led you toward a career as a restaurant owner.
I grew up in restaurants. My parents both worked for the original Overton Square, so I was raised in the restaurants in the Square, and then waited tables through college, which, of course, could only be followed by marrying a restaurant person.
When did you add yoga instructor to your list of accomplishments?
About 13 years ago, my sister, who was an avid yoga practitioner, and I gave my mother some family yoga lessons for Mother’s Day. She did not continue with the practice (in fact, she didn’t even really like it), but I did. Shortly thereafter, my sister and I had the opportunity to embark on a nine-month teacher training program. It was something that I jumped into a little blind, but I am forever grateful for my husband and sister coaxing me to participate in the training. The practice, the studio, the students have all had such an amazing impact in my life.
What does a typical daily checklist in the life of Shantih Smythe look like?
It feels like: get kids on-task, laundry, return an email, dishes, get kids on-task, get kids on-task, laundry, get kids on-task, take kids to swim, laundry, email, pick up kids, dinner???
What will a first-time visitor to McEwen’s and Alchemy immediately recognize as a standout similarity in the two restaurants?
The commitment to quality would be the overlapping feature.
What is the standout difference between the two?
The two restaurants have very different styles. One feels like an intimate dinner party (McEwen’s), and the other feels like a celebration (Alchemy).
Describe yourself in three adjectives.
Enthusiastic (my husband would translate that as loud), hardworking and even-tempered (though my kids might have another opinion here).
Have you read a good book or two lately that you would recommend to others?
Please share a few words of wisdom or perhaps your favorite quote.
“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” (Viktor E. Frankl)
Do you have a mentor? If so, how has that person influenced you?
I do not have one particular mentor, but I admire and work to emulate different aspects of individuals I know. I admire my dear friends who have all had the courage to start and sustain their own businesses … people like Anna Holtzclaw, Cynthia Saatkamp, Kelley Morrice and Cindy Brewer. I admire the compassion of people who work tirelessly to help others, people like Kathleen Kruczek, Andy Andrews and Katie Kitchen. And, I admire the patience and dedication of all the teachers I know.
Name your favorite vacation escape, and why is this destination at the top of your list.
The beach! Forever the beach! I have grown up spending a week at the beach every year with my aunts, uncles and cousins. My mom is one of seven, and every summer for the last 44 years, they gather with their kids and grandkids for a week together. I have only missed a handful of summers and it leaves the year feeling incomplete. Don’t get me wrong; I love sneaking away with my husband—anywhere. My year needs both trips!
Are there any charitable organizations where you volunteer your time or support? What’s meaningful about this outreach to you?
I am on the board of the Memphis Farmers Market and New Memphis Institute. I also hold a leadership position with the Junior League and spend countless hours volunteering at Grace-St. Luke’s, my children’s school. I am very grateful for the way each organization, in its own way, works tirelessly to keep pushing Memphis forward and making it a stronger community and an even better place to live.
What three lighthearted things could you not live without?
Brave Design jewelry (which I am wearing today!), books and my camera.
Do you have any favorite fashion trends or must-have clothing items/accessories on your wish list (or already in the closet!) for your 2014-15 wardrobe?
More Brave Design! Seriously, you can never go wrong with those girls!
It’s going to be a festive Halloween week in Memphis. Describe your most memorable Halloween costume.
I don’t remember any of mine specifically, but my favorite Halloween costumes are anything with a little humor added, like dressing twins as Superman and Clark Kent.
Thank you, Shantih, for sharing a bit about yourself with our readers. Click here to read about more inspiring women in the Memphis community.
Today’s photos were taken at McEwen’s on Monroe by Micki Martin Photography.