One of Memphis’ most celebrated fried chicken eateries is in the pipeline for a long-time vacant East Memphis parcel.
Construction is under way for a new custom-designed Gus’s “World Famous Fried Chicken” at 730 S. Mendenhall Road, at the “Y” where Mendenhall and Mount Moriah split just south of Poplar Avenue.
The 2,500-square-foot restaurant – occupying space near The Half Shell and Gibson’s Donuts – is slated to be up and running by early summer.
“When we were looking at locations in that area, that was the one we kept coming back to,” said Chris Garland with Garland and Co. Real Estate Inc., who represented Gus’s in the deal. “By the time it gets done, it’ll probably have been nearly a year since we had the first lease draft sent to us until the time it actually opens.”
The deal was unique in that the franchise group signed a 50-year lease and will own the building but not the land.
The land belongs to Boyle Investment Co., which has a ground lease on the property and will sub-ground lease to the Gus’s franchise.
The land lease also makes it tough for financing, since banks can’t put a lien on the property.
“They’re investing a squad of money in that thing,” said Joel Fulmer, senior vice president of Boyle, who represented the landlord. “They paid for that building themselves.”
The area’s been vacant for so long that MLGW had to create an address for it, Fulmer said. That’s due in part to the space formerly housing a gas station, and when it was vacated, there was a long process of tank removal and remediation involved.
Garland is no stranger to the restaurant business or to bringing distressed properties back to life.
Last fall, he represented City Market – a boutique grocery that offers freshly prepared cuisine as well as staples like milk and eggs – in its entrée to the Downtown market at northwest corner of Main Street and Union Avenue, an intersection that had been empty for years.
The idea was to increase foot traffic in the area, which is something the Gus’s on South Front gets plenty of. Other franchised locations exist in Collierville and the inaugural restaurant in Mason, Tenn.
While the Gus’s in East Memphis’ will include all of its signature menu items such as light- and dark-meat chicken, sides and breads, the new store will use fresh vegetables, Fulmer said.
It’s not just in the greater Memphis area where Gus’s has caught on. In January 2001, GQ magazine featured the fried chicken spot as one of the top five restaurants in the United States worth flying to for a meal.