July 22, 2015

Soul Fish Adds Germantown Location

By Andy Ashby
– Memphis Business Journal –

Soul Fish Cafe, Inc., a Midtown full-service restaurant specializing in catfish and other Southern food, is taking its concept into Germantown with the signing of a 4,528-square-foot lease at The Shops of Forest Hill.

Restaurant owners Tiger Bryant and Raymond Williams opened their initial location in 2,000 square feet at 862 South Cooper in 2006.

Bryant, who also owns Young Avenue Deli in the Cooper Young district, says the 65-seat Soul Fish location did $1.7 million in revenues in 2008 and is on pace to break $2 million in 2009.

Soul Fish’s owners had been looking along the Poplar corridor from Collierville to East Memphis for more than 16 months trying to find a second location.

The Germantown location at 3160 Village Shop Drive became available when Grisanti’s Bol A Pasta closed recently.

The owners are considering East Memphis for a third restaurant.

“We think the market is still soft enough to where something will open up in that Perkins and Kirby area of the Poplar corridor,” Bryant says.

The new site is near “Germantown Baptist Church, which hosts youth athletic events, and FedEx Corps.’s World Headquarters, which translates into business lunches.

“We serve a lot of families and a lot of business people who are trying to get in and out for lunch quickly, but who want something decent for lunch other than fast food,” Bryant says.

Soul Food could employ 50-70 people at the new location, which should have 132 seats. Similar to its Midtown location, Soul Food will serve beer and wine. It will be non-smoking.

The Germantown location is going to have more menu items, such as vegetable dishes and po’ boy sandwiches, because it has a larger kitchen.

Before helping to start Soul Fish, Williams had managed at Houston’s Restaurant and Folk’s Folly.

He says Soul Food focuses on fresh ingredients prepared every morning, fast service and affordability, with entrees ranging from $7 to $11.

“I think that made a really big difference over the past year,” Williams says. “While a lot of high-end restaurants are down on sales, we’ve been absolutely through the roof.”

Compared to last year, restaurants’ gross sales are down 10%-15% statewide, according to Walt Baker, chief executive officer of the Tennessee Hospitality Association.

He says sales from higher-end restaurants tend to fall a little quicker during a recession.

“No pun intended, but people are starting to move down the food chain,” Baker says. “Instead of going to Flemings, you may to Outback. You still get your steak fix, but it doesn’t cost you as much.”

Boyle Investment Co. assistant vice president Bradley Wilford represented for landlord, Boyle, in the lease at The Shops of Forest Hill, a 365,000-square-foot shopping center at Poplar and Forest Hill Irene with Target Corp., Schnuck’s, Marshalls and Malco Theaters, Inc.’s Forest Hill Cinema 8 as anchors.

He has signed 19,938 square feet of new leases at the property this year. It has a 12% vacancy rate, but Boyle is working on several new deals to fill that space.

“It’s good to be near anchors,” Wilford says. “When things start going south and if you’re in the center which doesn’t have traffic, it’s good to congregate near anchors.”

Jerry Wagerman, an associate broker at Keller Williams Realty, represented Soul Fish in the lease.

“There are so many rooftops around here,” Wagerman says. “It is important to have that built-in business.”

The Germantown submarket has average quoted lease rates of $16.28 per square foot, according to a mid-year Co-Star Group, Inc., report.