CeCe’s Liquors, on Madison just east of Main, is a small liquor store that has been around a long time. It was in business well before I moved Downtown 18 years ago. The thing is, though, back when that place opened, there were almost no residents in the area, and way fewer hotels. The owner, however, still managed to establish a regular clientele – I’m not even talking a daily or weekly clientele, but a multiple-times-a-day clientele – by offering products that were
- In the $3 and under range
- In small bottles that could be easily concealed from the police and the Blue Suede Brigade
From seeing the trash he put out, Night Train wine, Dark Eyes vodka, and Taaka gin were all options favored among his regulars. To finance their purchases, many of the regulars would congregate around the intersection of Main and Madison, where there is plenty of pedestrian traffic because of the Walgreens and the trolley stops. There they would panhandle passersby with stories like, “hey man, lemme get about fifty-two cent so I can get me somethin’ to eat” and then when they collected enough money for their next purchase, to the liquor store they would go. Court Square was another popular location to put their panhandling talents to use.
As the day went on, as they got more and more drunk, the panhandlers would get aggressive, standing in people’s paths, following them, cussing at them. Several times I had to rescue female tourists from their unwanted advances. They would litter their empty bottles all over the area. The liquor store regulars became known to Downtown residents as “the bums.” They were a problem not only for the reasons I just described, but they made it harder for the legit homeless population in the area who really did need money to get food in their stomachs or a place to sleep.
The years went by and the surrounding neighborhood changed. Two hotels on Main facing Court Square opened. Number 10 Main was renovated into apartments. The Madison Hotel opened less than a block away. The Goodwyn Building was renovated into condos. The Washburn became apartments. The Lincoln-American Tower did too. Various 3- and 4- story buildings nearby had their upstairs converted into condos. The Wm. Len was renovated into a hotel.
Now there were lots of people in the area who would be interested in a liquor store selling upscale liquors and wines. There was an opportunity for CeCe’s to change their offerings, cultivate an entirely new customer base, and expand profits.
The owner didn’t see it that way, however. That obnoxious drunk guy stumbling in for his 7th airplane bottle of gin was the store’s bread and butter. The owner didn’t think he could lose his current clientele and gamble on creating a new one, even if the risk promised substantial reward.
A few Saturdays ago, I was having trouble waking up, so I walked over to Walgreens for some caffeine about 8:15. On the way over, I noticed at least 10 of CeCe’s regulars sitting outside, waiting for the liquor store to open. That’s the gauntlet us locals have to run every day. Every time I want to run to Walgreens, or the Brass Door, or Havana’s Pilon, or the bank, I have to risk being aggressively panhandled. It’s a nuisance to the neighborhood.
Yesterday I had to make another Walgreens run after work. It was raining lightly and I put my hoodie up to stay dry. On the way, I stopped to say hello to Carl Winfield, who owns Winfield’s shoe and clothing shop at 2 S. Main, as well as my buddy Josh who works there.
“Paul, do you still write your blog?” Carl asked.
“Yes, I do,” I replied.
“Well, can you put something in there for me?” Carl asked. “I’m taking over the liquor store next door. There are going to be some changes.”
I didn’t even need to ask what the changes would be. Carl has owned a business next to that liquor store for 15 years. He knows what needs to be done.
I’d like to ask the following of my readers, if this news is music to your ears as much as it is to mine:
- Go by Winfield’s at the southeast corner of Madison and Main, thank Carl, and if there are any products you’d like to see the liquor store carry, let him know. If you feel like doing a little shopping while you are in there, his line of men’s wear is top-notch.
- If you’re on Facebook, give Winfield’s a follow.
- After the change in management happens, shop at the liquor store. It’s time to stock up the bar for spring!
- Tell tourists about the liquor store and encourage them to shop there.
As for the liquor store’s old clientele, I wonder where they’ll go? The other Downtown liquor stores – Quench, Pyramid, and Corkscrew – don’t carry their preferred products. They’ll either have to quit drinking or leave Downtown. Consulting Yellow Pages reveals that the next closest liquor stores that might sell their favorite products are at 798 Poplar, 677 Chelsea, and 815 Vance. That’s quite a lot of walking to do for a 50 milliliter bottle.
One of my neighbors commented, “Saint Carl!” after hearing the news yesterday. I agree. Thank you Carl for all you do to make our neighborhood a great place.
On to the news, and I have a lot more of it than yesterday, enough that I’m not sure I’ll get this post done before I leave for work. First of all, I have a rare out-of-Downtown entertainment suggestion, but one with a Downtown connection. Professional boxing returns to the Memphis Metro this Saturday, February 22, with Fight Night at the Tunica Arena. It’s presented by Tri-Star Boxing and Mid-South fighters on the card include Dedrick Bell, Macro Hall, Eric Draper, DeAngelo Leachman, and Joey Bryant. Traveling to the area to compete will be Jamal Woods, Wesley Bedwell, Tyi Edmonds, Julius Dyes, and Rydell Mayes.
The Downtown connection is that Dedrick Bell does security at Longshot, the new shuffleboard bar in the Arrive Hotel. By supporting this event, you’ll not only help bring pro boxing back to the Memphis area on a regular basis, but you’ll support a local athlete and businessman as well. “Like” Dedrick Bell Boxing on Facebook to keep up with the latest news.
The South Main Association has a cocktail hour tomorrow, Thursday, February 20, at Rizzo’s. There’s no agenda for these cocktail hours and feel free to bring friends; it’s a chance to meet your neighbors and explore the restaurants of South Main. 5:30-7:00 PM is the time.
Speaking of happy hours, the bar & grill inside Malco Powerhouse, the new theater on G.E. Patterson, has started up their happy hour, Monday-Thursday 4-6 PM. $5 well liquors, $5 draft, can, and bottled beers, $5 New Amsterdam vodka mules, and $5 glasses of ten select wines.
The monthly Downtown Neighborhood Association meeting will happen at Comeback Coffee, 358 N. Main, on Tuesday, February 25. The owners will talk about how they came to Memphis from out of state, found this historic building, and decided to renovate it and open a business. Also, newly-elected City Councilwoman Michalyn Easter-Thomas will be the guest speaker. She represents District 7 in which Comeback Coffee resides.
The Bleacher Report has an outstanding article: The Grizz Got Next, why the Memphis Grizzlies are the NBA’s new “it” team.
South Main Sounds is back with season 6, episode 2 of Songwriter Night, live at 550 S. Main this Friday, 7 to 9. This evening of music will feature Chris Hill, CJ Starnes, Camryn Clark, Wyatt Edmondson and Abby Frances.
Penny Hardaway’s Memphis Tigers host ECU tonight at FedExForum at 6 PM in a Coaching for Literacy Game. CBS Sports Network will broadcast the game live.
Reba Russell Band plays The Lounge in the downstairs of 3rd and Court diner Saturday 9 to midnight.
Random discovery I made on social media yesterday: Mac & Cheesus. This comfort food has slogans “Good Lord, it’s Good!” and “Anoint Thy Pasta with Cheese.” The pasta comes in shapes of Jesus’ face, the fish, and the cross. Part of the proceeds of every sale are donated to food pantries. Their URL is jesusimhungry.com.
Rodrick Duran Band plays Loflin Yard Saturday 9 to midnight. From Facebook: “Rodrick Duran’s music incorporates the melody and innocence of golden oldies, the soul of Motown, the passion from Sunday morning church, and the groove of the rock band!” There’s a $5 cover for this show.
Elmwood Cemetery celebrates St. Patrick’s Day two days early with The Emerald Isle: The Irish (& Scots) of Elmwood on Sunday, March 15 from 3 to 4 PM. The event will start off with Irish-themed treats, beer and wine, followed by a 45-minute presentation on the fascinating lives of the Irish and Scots buried at the cemetery. Cost is $20 and advance registration is required.
Bayou Bar and Grill and RP Tracks are hosting watch parties for the Democratic debate tonight.
I plan to early vote after work. I have changed my mind about the presidential candidate I am voting for 5 times in the past week. As for General Sessions Court Clerk, I have never heard of any of the candidates running. I get the feeling “I need a job” is as much of a platform as some of them have. Unless I get new information between now and then, I’ll vote for someone with relevant experience in local government.
That’s it for now. Back tomorrow with more news.