(WMC-TV) - More African-American owned businesses are needed on Beale Street. That is what city leadership thinks, and a plan may already be working.
Two African-American owned business have plans to open soon on Beale Street, including one that is already known to a national audience.
Oprah Winfrey's network has been serving up "Sweetie Pie's" for sometime. A show centered on the St. Louis restaurant that specializes in "Mississippi Style Cooking."
Downtown Memphis Commission President Paul Morris had to hold his tongue until Thursday when deal for Sweetie Pie's to lease in a long-vacant Beale Street space was finally revealed.
"We're bringing the best of St. Louis to Memphis," he said. "Beale Street is historically connected to the African American culture and community, and it's important to have African-American interests on Beale Street, which we do have presently, and that interest is growing."
Once the epicenter of African-American commerce in Memphis, city leaders want more African-American owned businesses.
Lew Winston happens to be in the middle of opening the Blue Note Bar and Grill which is adjacent to what will soon be Sweetie Pie's.
"The kind of crowd that they get, this end of Beale is going to be like the other end," he said. "I knew I could do good by myself, but when they told me they were moving, I'm like, 'This is great.' "
And, perhaps, even better if opportunities arise for others.
"We are a majority African-American city and, unfortunately, the percentage of African American ownership in this city is very low. So, it's important to everybody—white, black, Hispanic, or anybody else in this community—for the ownership of businesses to be more diverse, and that's especially true on Beale Street," said Morris.
Morris says Sweetie Pie's is getting no special incentives. Just the promise of a busy street and hungry people.
It should open in the coming months. Meanwhile, the Blue Note's grand opening is a week from Monday.