Toney Armstrong at Kiwanis


Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong has been busy since his appointment as police director in April.

Armstrong took stock of what he and City Council member Jim Strickland termed a “challenging” tenure today at the Memphis Kiwanis Club.

The tenure has included the death in the line of duty of an officer, the flooding of the Police Training Academy in Frayser, a Presidential visit with the security details attendant with any visit by the leader of the free world and the logistics of moving the Memphis in May International Barbecue Cooking Contest to Tiger Lane.

What he didn’t mention was the covert tape recording of his first gathering with officers in which Armstrong served notice that there would be changes in the upper ranks and some of those in the room would not be happy with the changes.

But he hinted at it as we put our tape recorder on the podium for his speech at The Peabody.

“At least he let me know he’s recording it,” Armstrong joked. “It’s a good thing.”



Mollie Fountaine ranks among nation’s late night favorites

One of Memphis’ funkiest hot spots has made Playboy’s August issue of ‘After Midnight: America’s greatest late-night bars.

Mollie Fountaine Lounge, 679 Adams Ave., opened in 2007, but the building has been around since 1886. The club, located in Victorian Village, has ties to The Beauty Shop Restaurant and Lounge, do sushi + noodles and Another Roadside Attraction Catering.

Playboy says Molle Fountaine serves “dynamite mac and cheese” and its two bars allow you to pick your vibe, “which is sure to get weirder as the night moves along.”

Memphis ranks among 13 other party cities, including Atlanta, Hollywood, Las Vegas, New Orleans and New York.

Turning Blockbuster’s Lemons into Lemonade

2011 will go down as the year Blockbuster shuttered its doors, unable to keep up with Redbox kiosks and Netflix supremacy.

But to Shawn Massey, partner with The Shopping Center Group LLC, there’s a silver lining to the Blockbuster fiasco. Since there are no new developments taking place citywide, some vacancy is healthy, especially for local entrepreneurs who otherwise couldn’t afford the Class A space.

“One of the biggest boons this year was Blockbuster going out of business because they had great real estate that we were able to backfill,” Massey said. “It creates a natural progression. When somebody who has done good business moves up or down the street to a new location, that creates a new opportunity for another local entrepreneur to come in and backfill that space.”

For example, many immigrants and minority-owned businesses – i.e. nail and beauty supply and school uniform suppliers – come in and seize prime retail real estate in second generation space big-box space.

And national retailers favor, too. Last year, appliance and electronics retailer hhgregg was able to take over the spaces formerly occupied by Circuit City.

“hhgregg could have never came in and built new boxes – they wouldn’t have been here because they just can’t pay the rent that Circuit City couldn’t pay either.”

For more on Memphis retail, read tomorrow’s feature on Massey and his business partner, Robert Sloan.

A quick word on the (lack of) progress over the debt ceiling

I’m starting to be afraid that a comment Sen. Bob Corker made on the floor of the U.S. Senate last week is going to go down as the understatement of the year:

“Maybe the debt ceiling was the wrong place to pick a fight, as it relates to trying to get our country’s house in order. Maybe that was the wrong place to do it.”

Gigi’s Versus Muddy’s: Both ‘Uniquely Different’

In Friday’s paper, I spotlighted three new eateries investing in Midtown to expand their local footprint.

Marilyn Weber and her husband Blake have Nashville-based Gigi’s Cupcakes USA franchise rights to the Memphis metropolitan area. Marilyn, a Collierville native, was involved in a cookie business with a friend years ago before her career as a travel warrior business consultant. After longing to sleep in her own bed every night, Marilyn decided to launch her own Gigi’s business here.

She has the utmost respect for Kat Gordon, owner of Muddy’s Bake Shop in East Memphis. While the businesses compete with each other in a sense, they both offer their own individual flair, Weber said.

“Everybody wants it to be one side of the street is a Muddy’s side of the street, the other is a Gigi’s side of the street, and it’s just so not fact,” she said. “I so appreciate what Kat has done, I never could have done this at the age that she is at, so I appreciate it from the business side of things. I was a business consultant before and it’s not easy jumping from a corporation to being an entrepreneur. We’re so uniquely different. She’s a full-fledged bakery and we’ve got our own favorites over at Muddy’s and I think we just both bring something great to Memphis.”

The new Belvedere Crossing location will be Gigi’s third Memphis location, with at least one more in the works. Instead of “conquering the world with cupcakes,” and over-saturating the market (pun intended), Weber plans to stay relevant though constantly evolving her business model and producing customer favorites.

“When you look at when the ‘cupcake craze’ started in New York, that was over 10 years ago and it’s still there,” Weber said. “So, do I think we need to expand what our product offerings are? Yes. Does that mean we may do cake balls or cake pops? Yes. But we’ll stay true to what we do, and that is baking terrific cakes.”