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Law Week – Remembrance

On Wednesday, representatives of Memphis’ legal community will gather at Calvary Episcopal Church Downtown at noon to honor the memory of 30 lawyers and judges who died during the past year.

It’s part of Law Week, the local industry’s yearly observance and celebration of all things law in Memphis.

From an email this afternoon from the Memphis Bar Association:

“Families and friends of the honorees are invited, and they are always appreciative of those from the legal community who join them in remembering their loved one. It makes them feel like their loved one was part of a profession that valued him or her and that their contributions to that community have not and will not be forgotten. Additionally, attending this service is an indication that you believe in something bigger than the day-to-day ‘busyness’ of the law—that it is still a profession, that we are bound together by our common membership in the ‘legal club,’ and that it is important to take time to remember and honor those who are no longer with us.

The service lasts only 30 minutes, and there is a reception following in the Great Hall where you can mingle with judges, attorneys and family members and enjoy a light lunch.”

American Café Shutters Memphis Presence

The American Café in Germantown’s The Shops of Saddle Creek shopping center has closed its doors.

A spokeswoman for the Maryville, Tenn.-based chain confirmed Monday, April 30, that the lease had expired for the casual sit-down and take-out eatery at 2055 West Street, suite 20.

The last day of business for the 4,700-square-foot restaurant was Sunday, April 29. American Café opened in Saddle Creek in September 1989, under the name Silver Spoon.

“At this point, we have just started to actively pursue a replacement tenant,” said The Shops of Saddle Creek specialty/short-term leasing specialist Kenneth Taylor.

The American Café is owned and operated by Specialty Restaurant Group LLC. The chain operates in Alabama, Florida, Tennessee and Virginia.

The American Café once operated a location in Wolfchase Galleria, which is also no longer open.

Memphis economy losing altitude?

Here’s another strong post from the folks over at Smart City Memphis about the airfare situation at Memphis International and its effect on the local economy.

(I’m flying to NYC next month, and it cost me less to book a good hotel room there – for two nights! – than it did to fly there direct on Delta. I’m not necessarily making a commentary on that, just pointing out the state of things.)

“Memphis International Airport is the poster child for deregulation gone amok.

When the airline industry was deregulated in 1979, the promise was more airlines, more competition, lower airfares, and better service. It was not to be, and today, where there was once a couple of dozen air carriers, the future is to be dominated by three mega-carriers.”

Read the rest at Smart City.

Notes From The American Queen


Some notes on a busy two days at the riverfront that ended Friday evening when the American Queen left on its first cruise from the Memphis home port. You can read our story on how the world’s largest steamboat and Beale Street Landing got together in the new issue of our weekly, The Memphis News.


The American Queen is now bound for Cincinnati. It will return to Beale Street Landing on May 15 and leave that same day for its first trip south on the river to New Orleans. The boat will be on cruises in the New Orleans-Natchez-Vicksburg area from May 22 to June 21 when it leaves the area to come back to Memphis.

The American Queen returns to Memphis on June 28, leaving that same day for St. Louis.


Friday afternoon, the boat was christened by its godmother, Priscilla Presley — the carefully wrapped bottle smashed on a metal part of the front deck. The Great American Steamboat Company has some substantial ties to Elvis Presley Enterprises. Those on the boats will be going to Graceland as part of the cruise package. There will also be an Elvis themed cruise on the American Queen in December. Presley noted the onlookers along Riverside Drive and admitted that perhaps she had been guilty of overlooking the riverfront during her frequent trips to the city over several decades. “Why didn’t we ever take this opportunity,” she wondered aloud as she reflected on the turnout and the reaction. “Tourism is a big part of growing this city.”


Priscilla Presley and the American Queen weren’t the only things the curious came to see on the riverfront. For many this was their first time to see what the Beale Street Landing site looks like. Until this week when the docking platform was moved into place, sightseers tended to see the metal spiral in the river and wonder what that was all about.

Riverfront Development Commission president Benny Lendermon described it today as “the answer to the age old challenge of how Memphis deals with its riverfront and a 57 foot fluctuation in the water level in a year.”

Lendermon declared the dock formally open Friday although other parts of the landing won’t be ready until July including the restaurant and gift shops as well as a place to buy tickets for the daily excursion boats now docked at the cobblestones.


The boat’s theater looks like a miniature version of Ford’s Theater in Washington. It is big enough to hold the over 400 passengers on board when the boat is at capacity. And there are four cruise shows there including one that is nothing but Memphis music.


The riverlorians who talk with passengers about the history and culture along the river routes they take on a given cruise were a feature of the American Queen when it was launched in 1995 by the old Delta Queen Steamboat Co. They knew the story of the Sultana, the Civil War era boat that exploded north of Memphis in 1865 killing more people than any other maritime disaster including the Titanic. But they were still working on the story of Tom Lee and his heroic 1925 rescue of more than 30 people in a boat that capsized south of Memphis on the Mississippi River. Their work space with wi-fi, numerous books on river culture and maps and charts is one of the best public spaces on the boat.


I struck up a conversation Thursday at the Calliope Bar with one of the workers who began asking about the future of The Pyramid. I started to give the whole nine yards talk about how we got to this point when she interrupted and said she knew that part – she lives here. And later, I encountered other Memphians who have found jobs in these difficult times with GASC. Walking a few steps behind Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. Friday, Wharton encountered numerous Memphians who were part of the crew preparing the boat who said hello before getting back to the busy preparations for leaving Memphis.


John Waggoner, the chairman of GASC, talked at some length about the difficulty he had trying to get banks to loan the company $30 million to restore overnight river cruises on the Mississippi after a two year absence following a collapse of the industry. It was difficult until the group got to Memphis and found local investors through Pittco Management. Asked if GASC would be adding any more vessels to its fleet, Waggoner didn’t rule it out but said it won’t happen immediately. He noted that other companies in the business had failed because they had expanded too soon and he didn’t want to risk that.


GASC has two partners who are the link to international travelers and specifically the market for European river cruises that the American Queen hopes to tap. GASC CEO Jeff Krida expects the cruises will do very well particularly with Germans because of demand for not only cruises in America but for blues music as well.


As the christening ceremony, Judy Whitney Davis of Houmas House, Louisiana sang “Old Man River.” And she sang it well. Still, I couldn’t help having a couple of thoughts. First, I miss James Hyter and the institution he created at all of those Sunset Symphonies. Second, the song itself and its origins are, I think, a reminder of how complex and potentially volatile our culture and our history are. Some may see that as dangerous. I’ll agree to that and add that it is proof of how vital and relevant what happened here remains on so many fronts in so many eras. Tourists don’t shut off that part of their identity or curiosity when they go on vacation and we shouldn’t shy away from giving them the whole story and whole discussion. These aren’t party boats where you don’t see land for long stretches of time. On the decks, I saw more books and Kindles in use than I expected. Up the hill on Beale Street and beyond is the story these visitors are looking for. The river is part of it. So are we.

Green Ballast Gets Ticker, Adds Staff

Green Ballast Inc. – a Memphis-based marketer and distributor of electronic ballasts for fluorescent commercial lighting fixtures – is increasing its operations.

The development stage company is led by CB Richard Ellis Memphis CEO Kevin Adams. The company’s board of directors includes Mary Sharp and John Lamberson, also executives with CBRE.

Green Ballast reduces fluorescent lighting energy by measuring available daylight for individual lighting fixtures. Depending on a building’s exposure to natural light, it offers up to 70 percent savings on lighting costs.

Adams released the following letter to shareholders today:

Dear Shareholders,

The Green Ballast management team has have been working diligently on many important fronts, and I am pleased to take this opportunity to update you on the company’s progress.

Green Ballast became a public company on December 20, 2011, when the Securities and Exchange Commission declared our S-1 Registration Statement effective. Just last week we received our trading symbol from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, permitting trading of our common stock under the symbol “GBLL.”

On the sales front, the company has added three additional national sales personnel to our team to help grow our sales channels, each with more than twenty years’ sales experience in the lighting industry. We believe it is a testament to our business strategy, products and prospects that these lighting veterans left secure positions to join our team.

We have also expanded our engineering staff to include a Power Supply Design Engineer, a Software Design Engineer, a Circuit Board Design Engineer, a Computer Engineer and a Project Management Engineer. We have established a testing laboratory in Las Vegas, Nevada, in close proximity to some of our engineers.

We are scheduled to participate in several key strategic lighting and technology conventions, workshops and speaking engagements this year to continue raising customer awareness of the effectiveness and efficiency of our integrated lighting controls. These presentations allow us to demonstrate to potential customers, distributors and other industry personnel our products’ simplicity of installation and economically beneficial results.

We have enhanced our business model to offer our sales channel partners both innovative and return-oriented solutions that increase their value to their customers. Accordingly, we are watching our potential sales pipeline develop and expect the market will reward us with an exciting 2012.

It is truly an enjoyable and rewarding experience to lead a company that provides an efficient solution to one of today’s most pressing problems – energy conservation. I personally appreciate your investment, your trust and your confidence in Green Ballast.

With kindest regards,

J Kevin Adams

Chief Executive Officer