Wiseacre Brewing: ‘It’s beer, people, not brain surgery’

The Daily News recently told the story of Wiseacre Brewing Co., a new craft brewery headed to the Broad Avenue Historic Arts District later this year.

As the commercial real estate broker Andy Cates put it, “It is a great story of Memphis natives coming back home.”

Click here to read FuzzyBrew’s Q&A with brothers Kellan Bartosch and Davin Bartosch, partners in Wiseacre. Learn more about their re-rooting back to Memphis from Las Vegas and Chicago, respectively; how their grandmother’s smart-aleck terminology turned company name shares in the fun-nature of beer brands like Dogfish Head and Jester King; and how Restaurant Iris fits into the versatility of beer offerings.

But perhaps the following quote sums up the article and Wiseacre’s mission in one fell swoop:

“Really, we’re just a couple of hometown dudes who love Memphis and love having a good time here, and we want everyone else to have that same experience,” Kellan Bartosch said.

RedRover Talks Expansion, Client Gratitude at 50th Dog Year Party

To celebrate its seventh year in business, RedRover Co. fittingly held a 50th dog year anniversary and client appreciation bash at Bleu Restaurant & Lounge on Thursday, Feb. 28.

The event included entertainment in the shape of a photo booth by Gary Baldwin, as well as performances by the Mud Flap King and violinist Donna Wolf.

RedRover’s Memphis office left to right: Kitty Keller, LeeAnn Christopherson, Brandon Herrington, Lori Turner-Wilson, Pete Rizzo, Melissa Thomson, Ty Skinner and Vicki Dye. Not pictured: Silvia (Meewis) Brasher.

And it was a story worth commemorating. As evidenced by our January write up on the sales training, marketing consulting and PR firm, RedRover is different breed of agency in that it has bucked recession-era trends and achieved impressive growth – for itself as well as clients.

RedRover was founded in January 2006. Its revenues since the end of 2007 have seen 971 percent growth, with the last year alone resulting in 90 percent growth.

The success is not something founder and CEO Lori Turner-Wilson takes lightly.

“We remain absolutely committed to crafting smart strategies and achieving real, quantifiable results for our clients,” Turner-Wilson said.

Along with steady growth comes the need to expand operations. Turner-Wilson said at the party that RedRover is on the market for 5,000 square feet of office space in Downtown or Midtown by August, which is more than double the size of its current location at 415 S. South Front St.

RedRover is also hiring for two full-time staff positions in marketing and sales training, and expects to hire two more full-time employees this fall. The company’s current staff size is 11 people.

What sets RedRover apart from traditional agencies is how it aligns its staff with small- to mid-sized business owners to add affordable, fractional (part-time, outsourced) sales and marketing veterans to its clients’ management teams.

Most of RedRover’s clients fall in the range of $5 million to $50 million in revenue. The RedRover team, which Turner-Wilson said is the firm’s “secret sauce,” allows its accounts to rely on it from standing in as part-time chief marketing officer to a seasoned sales manager to a coach when such full-time internal roles are not possible.

“RedRover has been a critical part of our growth strategy at DreamCatcher Hotels,” said Greg Hnedak, principal of Hnedak Bobo and managing partner and founder of DreamCatcher Hotels. “They have made a significant difference in how we we’ve been able to position our brand.”

The firm now known as RedRover began to take shape “one fateful night in the fall of 2005,” Turner-Wilson said. That’s when her and her now business partner Julie Lunn were contemplating their futures over a game of pool.

“We … felt that we had more to give creatively,” Turner-Wilson said. “We had tossed around the idea of starting an agency for months, but that night was different – there was a white board and wine – clearly all the tools we needed to map out our strategy. Two months later, we walked away from the corporate careers we’d spent more than 15 years building and hung our shingle.”

While part of EmergeMemphis from 2008 to 2010, RedRover reached its revenue targets in half the time expected and graduated in two and a half years instead of five. Turner-Wilson thanked Gwin Scott and Eric Mathews, the latter of which was in attendance at Thursday’s event, for their support.

Likening EmergeMemphis to a “stand-in board of directors,” Turner-Wilson credits the entrepreneurial incubator for its hands-on approach across the full range of strategic business planning, including review of financial projections and staffing plans.

Seven years later, RedRover attributes its growth to new clients that have been referred by existing clients, such as Lucite International, Thomas & Betts, Bleu and Christian Brothers University. That’s in addition to RedRover’s portfolio of existing clients, which are growing 10 to 20 percent year over year, as well as a pipeline of potential clients.

Additionally, RedRover has also brought in specialists to grow its social media, public relations and international communications elements of its firm over the past year.

RedRover also donates pro bono staff time to selected charities in the Memphis area for a one- to two-year term. The firm currently serves Memphis Area Legal Services, and was one of 10 Pro Bono award recipients at a recent recognition event as part of Celebrate Pro Bono Month in October.

Henry Turley: Developer, Philanthropist and Memphis Storyteller

As evidenced by Wednesday’s story, there are very few people in Memphis today who’ve had as much impact on the way that the city looks and the way that the city is than Henry Turley.

Here are some more tidbits about the real estate developer and philanthropist that didn’t make it into print:

- The Turley family’s Memphis roots stem back to the Civil War. They came from the Carolinas and Virginia. His great grandfather, Thomas Battle Turley, was a senator in the late 1800s during the Cleveland administration.

He was born here, left here when he was 16 to fight in the war and got to about the Tennessee River when he was captured and wrote a little prison diary which (Rhodes College) published many years ago,” Turley said.

- Turley attributes the fact that he knew “a little more than the average white boy” during the early 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike to his friend and lessee T. O. Jones, a garbage-collector-turned-union-organizer. Turley joked that Jones couldn’t pay his rent, which was $75 a month, and that he rarely paid the utility bill. But Jones’ passion intrigued Turley, who had been in real estate for just five years at the time.

Here’s my T.O. Jones story – I’m kind of intrigued by the strike, so I started kind of curiously hanging around. I went to that first meeting where all the garbage workers went to raise hell with the council and disparage the council and tell them what a sorry bunch of characters they were and why they even allowed them alone to exist, so on and so forth. I enjoyed that, there was just a barrel of hell raised in a couple of hours there in the North hall of the auditorium. At the end of the meeting, we ….and I’m just a bystander, I’m not a striker, I promise I’m just there out of curiosity. But it was decided that there should be the first march. People filed out of the auditorium and went out onto Main Street and lined up maybe eight to 10 abreast and made quite a parade headed south. As the garbage workers lined up to march, the police came out of the old police station, which was right across the street, in a very orderly and military way sort of assigned one policeman to each row. We set out walking down Main Street, it was pretty exciting for awhile to be sort of a part of a demonstration and something we hadn’t seen before. Hell, we walked to Jefferson, we walked to Court Square, about Madison, the Union had gotten kind of anti-climactic – I mean what in the hell are we doing walking down the middle of the street in the middle of the day? I’m about (six feet) from T.O. and we get down to Goldsmith’s. There are not only police walking beside us, there are prowl cars driving. Well, T.O. goes over and grabs the fender of the prowl car and starts to rock the damn car. I thought, ‘Oh my God, he’s going to rock the squad car and he’s black, too. This ain’t going to work out.’ Sure enough, it didn’t. People just …kind of hurdled through the glass in Goldsmith’s – I’ll never forget it, the cosmetic department right up front. And all of a sudden there was this wild man not through the door, crashed through the window in the cosmetics. It turned out a fun time, a few people got beat up and a little mace floated around in the air, wasn’t so terrible. But I always credit T.O. with knowing that it was getting kind of boring, and if he was going to get any momentum that day, he had to get some hell raised and have a little violence.”

- Turley was for a brief moment the landlord to James Earl Ray, the convicted assassin of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I rented a place down on South Main to a guy named Loyd Jowers. Remember, I was just what they used to call in the old days the rent man – I didn’t own the property, I just collected the rent and fixed the plumbing when it broke. But we rented to a guy named Loyd Jowers, he sold cheap dishes to cheap restaurants. He was down at the train station, and most of the buildings there were developed in sympathy with the train station or in response to the train station. So you’d come to Memphis to get on the train, you’d take a room overnight and wait for your train to come. Well, Ray took a room overnight and stood in the fateful bathtub and shot King. That’s all I know about that.”

- Turley’s interest in reinvesting in Downtown peaked during an evening stroll with a friend.

He and I about 6 o’clock one evening walked from City Hall to the Rendezvous and we didn’t see anybody until we got to the Rendezvous. 6 o’clock – it was pretty damn pitiful. So the reason I got engaged in it is I thought it was so desperately needed. That’s kind of the way we started our deals was what do we need?”

- In the late 1970s, Turley bought the then-vacant Shine Building at 66 Monroe Ave. for $175,000. The 14-story office tower was built in 1923 as the Al Chymia Shrine headquarters. At about 100,000 square feet, his purchase equated to $1.75 per square foot. But Turley said it was worth no more.

It really wasn’t worth anything but you had to have a transaction so there would be some consideration. Fixing it cost several million bucks. Anything you saw was vacant, the only reason we got the good buildings was we were in line first.”

Turley opened the Shrine Building as apartments in 1981, and converted it again in 2005 into 74 condominiums.

- As referenced in my article, Turley knows a thing or two about talking his way through money to make deals happen. Even if that means pulling the “religion card.”

I used to pull it on bankers, most of whom were Christians. I’d try anything to talk them into making these loans and they would say, ‘Nobody wants to live Downtown.’ I would say, ‘Well, that’s just not right.’ I couldn’t say historical anomaly, they’d think there was something wrong with me. I would say, ‘Y’all remember Palm Sunday? Where do you think all of those palm branches stay? They live Downtown.’”

- One of Turley’s more proud moments related to Harbor Town involves Harold Ford Sr.

Harold Ford Sr. called me up one day and said, ‘Henry, I think I want a house Downtown.’ I sold him a house and saw him awhile later and I said, ‘How do you like it?’ He said, ‘There’s only one thing wrong with it – you didn’t call me 10 years earlier. I’ve had more fun here in a month than I had out on Poplar in 10 years.’”

Turley added that he and Ford and were the first visitors to Uptown.

The utterly impoverished, all black neighborhood where nobody’s put a quarter in 50 years – that’s now called Uptown, we called it North Memphis. I saw Harold one day, picked him up and drove him through there – he knew every church, he knew every important thing. He really kind of (showed) me the lay out, said it could be done.”

- When asked what intersection, building or stretch of road that is the epitome of Memphis, Turley thought long and hard before responding with two of the city’s poplar breakfast joints – Café Eclectic and Brother Juniper’s.

A place where the academia would intersect with the town itself – I always thought that was a nice idea and I like that way it’s happening. I kind of like being around colleges, I feel pretty comfortable in the neighborhood.”

- When asked how he would sell Memphis to 25 to 34 year olds, Turley responded he’d “sell it as the opportunities to do stuff are so clear.”

You can be somebody in Memphis if you set about.”

Kid President Spreads Resilient Spirit

I fell in love with Kid President when I watched his famous “Pep Talk” video that one of my friends shared on Facebook:

But now that I know more about his story thanks to his local celebrity status, my love for Kid President has grown even more. Kid President is Robbie Novak, who lives in Somerville and has a condition called Osteogenesis imperfecta, or Brittle Bone disease. He has had more than 70 breaks in his nine years of life.

Here’s Robbie’s true story, featuring local music from Star & Micey:

Make sure you watch Kid President’s related videos (to the right when you’re on the full YouTube site) as well.

Youth Villages Soup Sunday Slated for Feb. 24

The 24th annual Youth Villages Soup Sunday returns to FedExForum Sunday, Feb. 24, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., featuring soups, breads, specialty items and desserts from more than 50 Memphis-area’s restaurants, caterers and for the first time, food trucks.

This year’s event will feature dishes from Erling Jensen, Huey’s, The Half Shell, Central BBQ, Jim’s Place, Flying Fish, Draper’s Catering of Memphis and many more.

All proceeds benefit Youth Villages’ programs. In its 24-year history, Soup Sunday has raised more than $1million for Youth Villages programs.

Tickets are available at the door starting at $25 for adults and $10 for children ages 5 to 11.

Soup Sunday tickets also double as admission to the University of Memphis Lady Tigers basketball game at 2 p.m. at FedEx Forum. University of Memphis student athletes will also be at Soup Sunday to visit fans, sign autographs and take pictures.

For more information, visit soupsunday.org.

Dansette

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