Sunday, March 28, 2010

Charlie Vergos, 1926-2010

Posted By on Sun, Mar 28, 2010 at 7:20 PM

Charlie Vergos in 1968
  • Charlie Vergos in 1968
Charlie Vergos, who turned a cluttery barbecue restaurant tucked away in a downtown alley into a Memphis — no, I'd say a national — institution, passed away Saturday morning. Considered by many as the unofficial "mayor" of Memphis, he will be missed by many, and his praises will be sung by others better at these things than I am.

I had just found an interesting old news tidbit on Charlie just a few days ago, and I guess there's no better time to share it.

Lots of people think that The Rendezvous has always been in that exact same location, just across from The Peabody, but that's not true. When Charlie started the place back in the late 1940s, it was originally in a different alley — the one with the unusual name of November 6th Street — a block away. They always say "location, location, location" is the most important thing in the restaurant business, and I guess Charlie just had a thing for alleys. A December 1968 story in KEY magazine told about the move to the new location and included the rather dark and grainy photo that you see here.

Here's the story:

The changing Memphis skyline has made many firms relocate. When plans were announced to tear down the building above him, Charles Vergos had to move his Rendezvous. He is now open just a block away from his old address in the alley called November 6th Street. His new address is the Downtowner Alley behind the Downtowner Motor Inn, between Monroe and Union. Enter the alley from Union, between 2nd and 3rd Streets, which is between the present Downtowner Building and its new high-rise addition. Charlie has retained much of the captivating atmosphere of the old place with many surprising new features of the new location. Specialty of the house? His nationally famous charcoal ribs, of course.

It would have been interesting, I think, to see the Rendezvous when it was brand-new. The place seems ancient and rather timeless, and I hope it always remains so. But don't go searching for it in the "Downtowner Alley." City leaders renamed the lane Charles Vergos Rendezvous Alley years ago in his honor.

Rest in peace, Mr. Vergos. You were quite a guy.


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