Holy Bass Pro and IKEA, Batman, this has been a big year for Memphis. We’ve had ups and downs in 2015, but mostly ups … not bad for a city with perpetual underdog billing and a soul and spirit that’s totally our own. (Can I get a “whoop that trick?”) From record retail growth and J.T.’s epic Memphis Music Hall of Fame induction to the loss of blues legend B.B. King and the last-ever Sunset Symphony, 2015 has been historic for our city. Join us in a look back:
Shopping Just Got Real
After a small skirmish over property tax valuation, the much-anticipated retail giant (and we do mean giant – have you seen these blue and yellow behemoths?) officially broke ground off I-40 at Germantown Parkway. The Swedish retailer hired Linkous Construction Co. to oversee construction of the 271,000-square-foot store, which is set to open in fall 2016 and employ roughly 225 Memphians. Bring on the KALLAX shelving units and Swedish meatballs with lingonberry sauce … we’re ready.
First, Sprouts. Then, a second Whole Foods location. And, finally, the long-awaited announcement that Trader Joe’s is at last gracing our city with its presence — oh, the options! And man, have we needed them (ahem, Kroger). Phoenix-based Sprouts Farmers Market arrived first, opening a store in Lakeland in May and then a second location in Germantown in July. With a focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, it set the stage for (dum, dum, DUM) Whole Foods, which cut the ribbon on its Germantown store at Poplar and Exeter in August. Not to be outdone, Trader Joe’s joined the game with a press conference that was shouted to the Facebook hills in September. The new T.J.’s store is expected to open at 2130 Exeter Road in third-quarter 2016.
After a long, sad post-Tigers and post-Grizz hiatus, The Pyramid got a new lease on life in April, when Bass Pro Shops opened its version of Disneyland in Downtown Memphis. Billed as a “national destination experience” by the outdoor retailer, the 535,000-square-foot store features a wilderness hotel called Big Cypress Lodge, a cypress swamp with 100-foot-tall trees, an 84,000-gallon gator habitat, a 13-lane, ocean-themed bowling alley, a 28-story freestanding glass elevator and a cantilevered, glass-floored observation deck atop the 32-story steel building. Plus, it’s now an unmistakable part of the Memphis skyline. Well played, sportsmen. Well played.
For decades, the Mid-South has been in want of destination shopping in the form of a massive outlet mall — surprising, considering that a huge percentage of the nation’s retail goods pass through our region’s distribution centers and warehouses (thank you, FedEx). But we’re lacking no more, now that Tanger Outlets has launched its newest outdoor mall in Southaven, MS. The center, located near I-55 and Church Road, opened in November and is home to more than 70 upscale, brand name and designer outlet retailers, including Michael Kors, Lucky Brand, Talbot’s, White House Black Market, Coach and more.
Also new to the Memphis market this year is another Swedish retailer, H&M, which opened its first area store in Collierville’s Carriage Crossing mall in August. The on-trend clothing retailer for women, men, teens and kids aims to offer “inspiring fashion with unbeatable value for the money.” H&M also opened an outlet location in Southaven (see above). All in all, not a bad year for shopping in the Bluff City.
Loss of a Legend
B.B. King Dies at Age 89
On May 14, 2015, blues icon and music legend B.B. King died peacefully in his sleep at his home in Las Vegas. Mississippi-born King rose to stardom in the 1950s, and his influence on Memphis music was steep. His eponymous nightclub on Beale Street stands in tribute to the Memphis music icon, and upon his passing, President Obama issued this statement: “The blues has lost its king, and America has lost a legend.” Rest in peace, Mr. King.
Another Star Shines Bright
Justin Timberlake & Memphis Music Hall of Fame
As a spokesman and all-around champion for the 901, J.T. can’t be beat. This triple threat musician, actor and comedian hails from Millington and wears the fact on his sleeve, or sometimes on his head. In an October awards ceremony at the Cannon Center, the Memphis Music Hall of Fame welcomed Timberlake as its newest inductee. To say J.T. and his wallflower pal Jimmy Fallon stole the show is a bit of an understatement … Timberlake led the audience in a round of the Memphis Tigers fight song, and Fallon had this to say: “He’s one of the biggest stars in the world. He can sing, he can dance, he can act, he’s funny, he’s good looking. And if you don’t believe me, you can ask Justin himself. He wrote this speech.” Not to be outdone, former *NSync member and multiple Grammy-winning Timberlake crooned Al Green and Otis Redding tunes and told the crowd, “This is the ****ing coolest thing that has ever happened to me.”
Great Year in the Grindhouse
From a crazy-awesome playoff run to Mike Conley’s broken face to Marc Gasol guilelessly holding us all on edge before finally, finally announcing he’s not going anywhere, already, the Grizz took Memphis on a wild ride in 2015 … and we loved it. Grit-grind, Grizzlies. We’ve got your back. And, thank God, you’ve got ours.
… And Great Brews to Go With It
Memphis’ brew scene just keeps getting better and better, and this year saw a few changes and additions to the city’s top spots to grab a beer. The taproom-formerly-known-as-The-Growler rebranded and added eats, reopening as Hammer & Ale. Meanwhile, if you’re not a regular at Wiseacre in the Broad Avenue Arts District yet, you really need to get your priorities straight. And while you’re checking out taprooms, do not miss High Cotton in the Edge District or Memphis Made in that straddle section of Midtown between Cooper-Young and Overton Square. Cheers!
This year saw a reprise of a favorite new Memphis tradition (we hope) with year two of the former Tennessee Brewery opening its “doors” as a beer garden and playground for grown-ups and kids alike. The beer, music and food truck concept launched last year as Tennessee Brewery Untapped. In 2015, a new owner came into the picture and relaunched a Tennessee Brewery Revival this spring. All we can say is, thanks for “investing in good times.”
On a similar note, those new owners behind the Brewery Revival opened a second beer garden concept in another historic Downtown property, Memphis Fire Station 3, aka The Memphis Firehaus. In the shadow of FedExForum, it was a great spot for pregaming during its October-November run. Food trucks and brews – we love that combo. Keep it coming!
Proton Therapy Center Opens at St. Jude’s
From St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s new $90 million Proton Therapy Center to the West Cancer Center’s 123,000-square-foot oncology care and research facility to Methodist Healthcare’s recent announcement of a planned $275 million investment in Methodist University Hospital’s campus, 2015 has been a big year for medical development in Memphis. The Proton Therapy Center alone is a massive undertaking, offering the most advanced form of radiation technology available and making St. Jude the only hospital in the world with a proton therapy center dedicated to pediatric cancer treatment.
And finally, the Sun Sets on a Tradition
MSO Plays Sunset Symphony Grand Finale
Led by celebrated music director Mei-Ann Chen, the Memphis Symphony Orchestra serenaded the city against a panoramic backdrop of the Mighty Mississippi for one last Memphis in May Sunset Symphony event. After a 39-year run, the final Sunset Symphony took place May 23 in Tom Lee Park, with a spectacular MSO performance, special guests and a massive fireworks show to mark its farewell. Never fear, though. MIM recently announced a new Memorial Day weekend event that will cap next year’s 40th anniversary Memphis in May International Festival: the Great American River Run. Set for Saturday, May 28, the event includes a half marathon and 5K with a course showcasing the Mississippi and Downtown. In early 2016, MIM is slated to announce a second event for the festival finale.
It’s a fitting swan song for a great year in the 901. As we look ahead to 2016, we bring you this quote from Choose901, because really, we couldn’t say it any better: “Now is the time. Memphis is the place.”
Happy New Year, Memphis!