On weekday evenings, the corner of South Main and Vance is quiet except for the rattle of trolley cars rolling by. But all that changes when you push open the front door to Frank's South Main Market & Deli.
First off, manager Mark Stukenborg samples with gusto a bag of barbecue pita chips. "Try one," he urges. "They're great." Shoppers are chatting it up ("Where are the eggs?" a woman asks), and, in the deli, Stukenborg's son, Thomas, finishes a catering order for the neighborhood association's monthly meeting. "It's a little crazy around here," he says, scooping up a mound of Green Goddess broccoli cole slaw. "You want a taste?"
Since its grand opening October 30th, Frank's is quickly filling a niche for downtown residents who have been clamoring for a grocery store in the city's historic arts district. Already, the store offers almost 4,000 items, ranging from Kitchen Basic soup stock to Paul Newman's treats for dogs. The cooler is fully stocked, as well, with San Pellegrino, Jones Sodas, Sioux City Sarsaparilla, and dozens of imported beers.
Don't be fooled, however, by the cold drinks. "We are not a convenience store," says Lance Lester, who opened the market with Beale Street club owner Bud Chittom. "We are a grocery store that is convenient."
The market's inventive assortment of homemade salads, sandwiches, and wraps reiterates Lester's claim. The I.B.M. — that stands for Italian Business Man — serves up pepperoni, Genoa salami, Cappicola ham, provolone, and cappoatina dressing, a mix of eggplant, capers, and peppers. "The recipe for cappoatina came from a friend," Lester says. "People like it so much, they eat it as a side."
The House Special Italian Dip is pot roast with roasted peppers, provolone, and au jus on a bun. The House Smoked Turkey Cobb combines turkey, mixed greens, aged cheddar, bacon crumbles, and caramelized red onion. "We smoke our turkey and ham in the basement," Lester says. "Smoking gives the meat a nice flavor, especially when it's served hot."
Insulated and reusable grocery bags keep food warm or cold for delivery to homes and businesses by the market's three-wheel bicycle, which is parked in front of the store when not in use. Catered orders also are delivered with similar finesse: They arrive by way of the market's 1951 Ford pickup, painted a very bright shade of blue.
Frank's South Main Market & Deli,
327 S. Main (523-0101)
If you are at loose ends since the seasonal produce markets closed, then listen up: A few local farmers have set up a D.I.Y. Farmers Market to sell organic produce on Saturday mornings in Cooper-Young.
The impromptu gathering takes place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in front of First Congregational Church. Participants change from week to week, but a handful of growers hope to sell produce until the end of December.
"Last year, I kept selling until the temperature dropped to 17 degrees," says Tim Smith, who on a recent Saturday had a lush selection of kale, arugula, Swiss chard, turnip greens, and tender lettuce. D.I.Y. Farmers Market, Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., 1000 S. Cooper
Don't be surprised if a Boy Scout knocks on your door Saturday asking for food. Even more important: Give him a donation.
Thousands of Scouts will be canvassing the Mid-South on November 22nd, trying to collect 50,000 pounds of nonperishable food for the Food Bank. The drive, called "Scouting for Food," is the most important community service project for the regional Chickasaw Council.
"We want to show the boys how important it is to give back to the community," says Michael Donnell, the project's chairman.
To facilitate the council's ambitious goal, food collection barrels have been set up at two Schnucks locations, on Farmington in Germantown and on Truse Parkway in East Memphis, and at MHC Ford (1721 Transport) and Truck Parts Specialists (757 East Brooks) in Whitehaven.
Scouts also will be at the Germantown Schnucks Saturday morning. "We can accept any type of nonperishable," Donnell says, "including things like pasta, cereal, and soup."
As Easy-Way regulars know, the markets have never been opened for business on Sundays. In fact, the chain's website cites "no Sunday hours" as a bonus for employees ...
More "Food News" from Pam Denney here.