There’s ecotourism, foodie tourism and now … grocery tourism? The face of Germantown is changing, and with it, the city’s retail landscape. And the two things definitely go hand in hand.
To explain, let’s first talk grocers. First came Sprouts Farmers Market. Next came a new flagship Kroger, the grocery chain’s biggest and most tricked-out store in the region. Right on its heels was the second Memphis-area Whole Foods Market. And finally, the long-awaited announcement that Trader Joe’s is entering the Memphis market, picking a spot near Poplar and Exeter for its area debut.
Germantown Mayor Mike Palazzolo says geography is one big reason for the surge. And the explanation makes sense–according to the Metropolitan Planning Organization, which studies the big picture, Germantown is now roughly the epicenter of the entire Metropolitan Statistical Area or MSA. “It used to be a lot farther west,” says Palazzolo. That means residents stretching from north Mississippi to Fayette and Tipton counties and beyond are making the trek to Memphis’ center point (Germantown) to shop.
There’s another reason for the shift, though, and it’s demographics. The population of Germantown is getting younger, and these young, creative residents want new options. “We survey our citizens on a regular basis,” Palazzolo explains. Studying the past few years’ surveys, two patterns emerged as to residents’ priorities: public safety, and more shopping and dining choices. Germantown has poured its efforts into stepping up both. “We love everything that’s happening here,” says Katie Hedgepeth, a creative, 20-something, new mom with an active Etsy store and a side business baking cakes. She and her husband, Matt, moved from the University of Memphis neighborhood to Germantown in 2013. “We were drawn to Germantown because it has such great schools and it’s just a family-friendly town,” she says. “We can walk everywhere, and it’s a friendly little place.”
Lately, Palazzolo says, more 25- to 40-year-olds are making Germantown home, and, like Katie Hedgepeth, they’re doing market research on schools and crime and amenities before choosing to land in the city. Meanwhile, these new–and existing–residents are celebrating Germantown’s highs (Movoto.com named Germantown the third-happiest suburb in America in 2014) and adding to the new, bubbly persona of the once-sleepy suburb. “It’s so much a part of the city,” says new resident Jessica Babb, who moved with her young family to Germantown in August. “I don’t feel separate from Memphis. I don’t feel cut off.”
That’s what the city wants for its residents, and Germantown is embracing its connections to nearby Collierville and to Memphis itself. “I think it’s really easy to be a resident of a region and still be a citizen of a city,” Palazzolo says. “We can be in harmony with each other. We all have a lot to brag about.”
Part of what Germantown is bragging about these days is new retail and mixed-use development, including an expansion to Saddle Creek that’s bringing with it a new steakhouse, a liquor and high-end spirits store, and several new-to-Memphis brands, among them a now-open Michael Kors store. The city is also working to establish a new central business district that follows the walkable community model. “We embraced modern urbanism and smart growth years ago, and now it’s starting to come to fruition,” Palazzolo says. For example, a new mixed-use development called Thornwood is in the works that’s in walking distance to the Germantown Performing Arts Center. With high-end apartments, retail and office space, and an urban prototype for Hampton Hotels, the development embodies the new urban ideal Germantown imagines for its future.
“My parents still live in Germantown,” Palazzolo says. “They probably didn’t envision this in their lifetime. We’re trying to create a sense of place in our downtown, and we’re getting there.”
Where to Shop
This upscale, design-focused, home furnishings store offers upholstery, case goods, accessories, local art and more. With a special emphasis on Made in America furniture, Chestnut Hall also features an area called At the Cabin, with rustic-chic items tailor-made for your lake house or your family’s outdoors enthusiasts. The shop’s professional staff of interior designers is available to meet your home and office interior design needs. Says Lana Zepponi, Chestnut Hall’s director of interior design, “It’s been great seeing the growth in Germantown that benefits the rest of the community, as well.”
With a stylish range of dresses, casual wear, outerwear, shoes and accessories at a price point you can afford, Mozelle is a can’t-miss boutique near Germantown’s Shops of Forest Hill. We love it for its sleek décor, fun fedoras and bold, black-and-white images of fashion icons like Audrey Hepburn and Karl Lagerfeld.
Me & Mrs. Jones
Got a furniture DIY project planned, or just want a painted piece? Head to Me & Mrs. Jones for the 4-1-1 on furniture upstyling. The Germantown shop, one of two locations in the city for this locally owned creative outpost, features supplies for your painting projects, including Annie Sloan paints and topcoats, stencils, specialty brushes, metal leaf and waxes, and a variety of knobs and pulls. You can also buy completed pieces here … and sign up for hands-on workshops that’ll have you finishing furniture like an expert. An added bonus: owner Stephanie Jones literally wrote the book on furniture upstyling.
This good, old-fashioned, community hardware store offers a full range of home improvement and hardware supplies, including power tools, lawn and garden items, interior and exterior paints, and heating, plumbing and electrical supplies. Not only is it a local institution and a welcome alternative to the big-box stores, but it’s also one of the few places in the Memphis area to pick up Benjamin Moore paint.
This longtime Germantown boutique has evolved through its two decades in the town and now counts designer denim among its specialties. According to Indigo, it carries 12 designer denim lines, making it the fifth-largest carrier of designer denim in the world. With sportswear, shoes, jewelry and other fun accessories, Indigo is another specialty shop that’s worth the trip.
Southern Avenue Company
Situated in a charmer of a converted house in the heart of Germantown’s shopping and dining district, Southern Avenue Company features a wide range of home accessories and gifts. A recent trip to this shop felt like a reunion with old friends–and owner Melissa Kimbrough is a poster child for authentic Southern hospitality. Along with pottery, jewelry, baby items, barware, candles and a wide range of gifts, go here for caring customer service, design advice and customized items for special events.
This residential and commercial interior design firm in Exeter Village is known for its fun use of color, says co-owner Valerie Sachs, as well as its window displays that showcase the design team’s updated contemporary and traditional range. Here, you can snag to-the-trade furniture and accessories, a full range of interior design services, and local work by artists including Donna Blackard and Nestor Bartolomei. “Valerie did research on (Germantown) before we moved here,” says co-owner and interior designer Lynne Catron. “This was the place to be because of the growth. And we’re thrilled to be here.”
Where to Eat
Talk about a local institution. This barbecue mainstay is popular with the locals and with out-of-towners looking for ‘cue that’s “so good y’ull slap yo’ mama.” Go here for the ribs, of course, but also for the “pig sticks” (sweet potato fries), housemade barbecue chips and range of homemade desserts. Plus, here’s a little local secret: the Commissary’s dry rub makes a fabulous popcorn topping. Seriously … try it!
This cute, little, walk-up eatery is a great place to grab lunch to-go, as well as complete dinners you can take home and heat up in a pinch. Along with the array of staff-made items, Katie’s Kitchen sells Buntyn’s famous rolls and a range of items from Las Delicias–including the guacamole! Check out the homey atmosphere, and even pick up a throw-back apron to don while you heat up dinner.
Soul Fish Cafe
If you love Southern food and seafood, this suburban outpost of Midtown’s beloved bistro is the place for you. Known for its fried catfish and epic veggie plates, Soul Fish also serves up po’ boys, local brews, fish tacos and daily specials based on whatever’s fresh. Its spacious Germantown location is great for the whole fam, or even a group. Hint: it’s a great spot for book clubbers.
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