Memphis, the city that once was…

earlier this year I traveled to Memphis, Tennessee to tour the manufacturing facilities of Delta and Brizo Faucets… It was a trip I had no expectations of, as I knew very little of the city. You can read about the pristine manufacturing plant here, from my past blog post “Poka-yoke: Striving for perfection!” This isn’t about Brizo though, this is about the city of Memphis itself. I wanted to be inspired and moved by visiting the city that birthed Rock and Roll, and is known for World-Class barbeque, but I was moved in a different way.

This once bustling and thriving city, second largest in Tennessee should be packed with tourists, and industry, celebrating the rich culture it’s bestowed upon the world of music and arts, not to mention the significance in Civil Rights history… But Memphis was not that. It was a vacant, deserted town. Others I traveled there with equated it to something of a Zombie Apocalypse wasteland. Streets were empty, there was no “rush hour” with people heading to and from work, there was nothing. Why?!… Elvis even called this town home!

sun studio
I did the prerequisite visit to Graceland, and walked Beale Street, but wanted to see what wasn’t in the guide…

graceland-001 lisa marie beale st
Walking through what was considered the Arts District, you could envision what was… Gorgeous old factories, the trolley cars still run through town, ringing those distinctive bells, but they were passing abandoned building, not quaint galleries and artisan shops as one might figure.

arts district memphis 2downtown memphis arts district memphis
The historic Lorraine Motel, the site where Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated is now the National Civil Rights Museum, but unfortunately a stone’s throw away was a homeless man trying to stay cool in his makeshift shelter in a vacant lot…

lorraine motel homeless memphis
I’m not sure what this post is honestly about other than a wish for Memphis to be more than what it currently is… You know that there is a sparkle and vibrancy there, it’s just been oppressed for so many years. There is sign of life happening, and old buildings are being taken over and turning into residential lofts, but it is slow going.

mississippi river
This has the makings of such a phenomenal place, set along the Mighty Mississippi. There are little patches of greatness traveling around.

memphis tiles
A great mosaic tile entryway…

ibeam cathedral
A modern cathedral type structure created out of I-beams…

The food is phenomenal… There is nothing like authentic Memphis BBQ, or perfection found in the simplest of dishes, like Fried Chicken. I stopped off in Gus’s the day of my departure, and so delish!

gus chix 2
All I’m hoping for is this charming city see itself regenerate into awesomeness… The people all possess that great Southern charm, and they know in my speaking with them that their city could be more! So much more! I’m really wishing that it happens! Recently I’ve heard that a large scale initiative has just been approved to get the city back through a multi-million dollar renewal project. It will take more than just money to make things better, but the belief that this can be, and WILL BE again, that vibrant town credited with being “Birthplace of Rock and Roll!”

During my final stroll, headed back to the hotel I literally found this little bit of history in the crack of the sidewalk…

spike memphis
A forged nail, something used to build this city… This simple spike made it through the years, as a reminder of what was… This is my Memphis. I hope whenever the day is that I return, Memphis will have found the strength to pull itself up and once again become that cool city it knows it can be!

James Robinson