Built to Last

Cover story and photography for The Memphis Downtowner

June 2013

AIA Memphis is 60 years old – structurally sound, aesthetically designed, and moving ahead with the next step in its organized blueprint.

Architects, designers, engineers, and
architecture fans gathered on a
warm, spring night in April to celebrate the
60th anniversary of AIA Memphis. Fittingly,
the gala was held at the Pink Palace Museum,
an iconic, architectural landmark if ever there
was one, with its pink Georgian marble rising
from a sweeping lawn.

The Memphis chapter of American Institute
of Architects was founded in 1953, a time of
eastward expansion for Memphis. New ideas
such as the suburban Poplar Plaza Shopping
Center began taking customers from
Downtown’s venerable, stalwart department
stores, such as Goldsmith’s and Gerber’s.

“Memphis was a hotbed for designers in
the 1950s,” says Heather Koury, executive
director of AIA Memphis . . . (read more)

June 2013

June 2013


Photography studio offers ‘more than memories’

Small Business Spotlight feature for The Memphis Daily News

June 10, 2013

Allison Rodgers will tell you that the most natural smile occurs going into, and coming out of, a laugh.

Rodgers has a lot to be smiling about these days. She and her husband, Jeff, are the owners of Allison Rodgers Photography on Collierville’s Historic Town Square.

It’s a business born of love. The two met while working at Good Advertising Agency and each made the rounds of agencies in town – including Sossaman & Associates (now Sullivan Branding), Red Deluxe and Walker Associates – as art directors before opening the photography studio in 2004.

At the time they opened the business in Olive Branch, Allison was working part time with Red Deluxe and Jeff was doing freelance design.

“It started quickly, faster than we wanted,” Allison Rodgers said. “This was supposed to be a part-time thing for me.”

The studio was founded at a time when “everybody was ready for a change in what they were seeing as far as traditional portraiture,” Rodgers said. “We were one of the first ones out of the gate with that. They were ready for images that had more life to them. They were ready to be able to have, personally, for themselves, what they were seeing in magazines. Up until this point, nobody was really doing that, nobody was doing that lifestyle, documentary, personality-driven, very custom work.”

The husband-and-wife team had found their niche and success followed, due in part to connections through the national network of the Professional Photographers of America that helped land them a gig doing the still photography for ABC’s “Extreme Home Makeover.”

The duo traveled to Montgomery, Ala., and Hattiesburg, Miss., where they worked closely with the show’s producers, a host of designers and the star, Ty Pennington . . . (read more)


Setting sail for new lands, with the kids

“Because I Said So” column for The Commercial Appeal

June 6, 2013

Setting sail for parts unknown, kids in tow

Brave men first explored our world, traveling great distances into the unknown at even greater risk for the glory of riches and the adoration of kings and queens. I’ve read about these guys. I’ve seen the documentaries. They sailed over the oceans with casks of wine and whole hogs, spices, muskets and gold doubloons. They even took smallpox with them.

You know what you never see? Their children.

How much faster would Ferdinand Magellan have circumnavigated the globe if he’d had a passel of snot-nosed sailors asking when they were going to be there, when they were going to stop and eat, and whether there would be an indoor play land when they did stop.

I propose that Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama, Ponce de Léon and the like left home for uncharted waters and dangerous lands because they just needed a few hours of peace and quiet; a day without “SpongeBob SquarePants” and being asked: “Where’s Mom?”

It’s time again for our annual vacation, and in the spirit of those great explorers, I took my Sharpie to a map and drew the distance of a day’s drive around Memphis. What I found was that Sharpie does not wipe off an Apple MacBook screen so easily. I also found that we could have gone to Springfield, Ill., Kansas City, Mo., or Cincinnati, Ohio.

But we didn’t. We raised the sails on the Mazda minivan and traveled south — we almost always travel south — and found ourselves in Eufaula, Ala., birthplace of Lula Mae Hardaway, mother of Stevie Wonder, and Motown’s Martha Reeves.

We spent a night at Lakepoint Resort, adjacent to the national wildlife refuge Lake Eufala, and within a 1,220-acre state park. It also had, my kids were thrilled to find, a swimming pool.

Vacation isn’t all fun and games, and we learned some things as we passed a day sightseeing in the antebellum town square where the historic homes and storefronts have been preserved since the Civil War. I learned, for instance, that the pristine nature of the tree-lined streets is due in part to a welcoming party meeting the Union Army outside of town with white flag in hand at the close of the war. It would be like meeting a guest at your front door to ask them to remove their shoes so as not to attract mud and dirt onto your new carpet.

Eufaula was merely a jumping-off point for our vacation, and we soon piled back into our schooner to set sail for Florida’s beaches of South Walton County and the quaint villages along Scenic Highway 30A.

In the small community of Dune Allen, there was only one activity to hold my attention. I spent days sitting on the beach and staring at the horizon, imagining explorers who sailed over it, never knowing what to expect; never knowing there would one day be tourists baking themselves with the backdrop of souvenir stands and pastel condominiums. They never imagined that their descendants would one day willingly pack up their children for a similar voyage, one that has taken us past horizons and history to claim a rectangle of beachfront for ourselves. It’s a new world built from salt and sand that I implore these children not to track into our house.

Permanent link to The Commercial Appeal


Strain elected shareholder at Baker Donelson

Law Talk profile for The Memphis Daily News

June 6, 2013

Jason Strain, a shareholder with Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC, grew up with the idea of the legal profession being a “good and interesting job.”

He saw it as a career his father,Alan Strain, a litigator with The Hardison Law Firm PC, always seemed to enjoy.

“To some extent I was kind of modeling that,” said the younger Strain.

It’s a path that led him to Mississippi State University to study political science and history, graduating summa cum laude in 2003. There was a brief flirtation with medical school but ultimately, he said, “There was too much chemistry involved.”

Wanting to go someplace different to spread his wings, and having worked in Washington one summer, he set his sights on Georgetown University Law Center. His wife, Amanda, worked for the IRS at the time and together, he said, they had “the quintessential D.C. experience.”

While at school, he used his background in history while working with a professor to research English legal history and in digging through the Georgetown law library, one of the best and most complete in the world. It was the perfect activity for someone who enjoyed the hunt for old manuscripts and primary sources . . . (read more)


Volunteer Odyssey: serving others can pay off

Feature story for The Commercial Appeal

June 4, 2013

Samantha Hicks came to Memphis with a husband, a 3-year-old daughter and a master’s degree in social work.

Her husband, Adam, was going to work at the University of Memphis, but she had no job and no contacts.

Although the writing part worried her, she said, “You know what, I’m just going to do it. Volunteering has always been something I wanted to do, but actually contacting the agencies and finding out what you need to do is kind of scary.”

It became a crash course in Memphis nonprofit groups and in networking. “It’s been awesome,” said Hicks, 26. “I haven’t had a bad experience.”

Through her blogging, Hicks landed a job after blog readers alerted her to openings. She is putting her University of Tennessee degree to use as a social worker for the Ave Maria Home, an assisted-living and nursing facility.

Kevin Nowlin, 38, already enjoyed writing and was looking for a way to showcase his abilities. The marketing consultant signed up for Volunteer Odyssey after a freelance project ended.

“I was job hunting all day, working on résumés, kind of pulling my hair out e-mail blasting my résumé to different jobs,” Nowlin said. “I was sitting at home all day, and I just really wanted to do something that I feel like had purpose … rather than wallowing in my self-absorbed job hunt.”

Nowlin has had some interest, and his work with Volunteer Odyssey led to an interview with an employer who read his blog. “It was good to get out and have a face-to-face interview,” he said.

His week turned out to be “more than I hoped for.” He mentions specifically his day with SRVS, a facility providing residential, employment, clinical and learning services to people with disabilities . . . (read more)


City’s Scarboro passionate about sharing Memphis

Memphis Standout profile for The Memphis Daily News

May 31, 2013

Born and raised in Fayetteville, N.C., Douglas Scarboro has chosen to make Memphis his home. As the executive director of the Office of Talent and Human Capital for the City of Memphis, his job is to help others realize the opportunities and recognize the same assets that he has found here.

While nonprofits such as the New Memphis Institute, and corporate employers such as FedEx and International Paper, are players in the same human resource game, Scarboro said that when he first entered city government, “there was not another office that we had seen that focused specifically on recruiting, retaining and attracting talent for an overall metropolitan area.”

Rashana Lincoln, director of community engagement for New Memphis, a position previously held by Scarboro, works closely with the government office and says that Scarboro “understands what it means to be a young professional breaking into the community” as a transplant to Memphis.

“Having come through New Memphis and being a fellow really set him up to excel in his current role because he is part of a network of people that are committed to moving the city forward,” Lincoln said.

Even as he navigated his way through an alphabet of degrees – a bachelor’s from Morehouse College, master’s from Campbell University, doctorate from the University of Memphis – Scarboro was uncertain of his final goal, other than the want to help affect change within a community. It was a lofty goal and one first presented while a student at Morehouse and during 1996 when the Summer Olympics was in full swing in Atlanta … (read more)


Baker Donelson litigator Tom comes full circle

Law Talk profile for The Memphis Daily News

May 30, 2013

Robert Tom, commercial and business litigation attorney for Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC, has been elected shareholder of the law firm.

The 35-year-old Tom grew up in Memphis and attended Memphis University School before going to Emory University in Atlanta to study business and finance. Becoming an attorney was never even on his radar screen.

“It really happened by chance,” he said. “I was keeping my options open.”

A friend was taking the LSAT at the time and Tom decided “on a whim” to take the test as well. The test went well and he took a job as a paralegal after graduation before leaving for New Orleans and Tulane University Law School, where he graduated cum laude in 2004.

“Being a business major, I wanted to do something related to that field or use that background for the type of work I’d be practicing in law,” Tom said. “The first place I started practicing, the litigation they did there was business-related litigation, so it happened by chance that the type of law that I was interested in practicing was the type of law the firm was doing.”

But that firm wasn’t in Memphis. Nor was it in New Orleans. Tom’s future wife, Margaret, a Florida native, had applied to medical schools and her first choice was in Tampa … (read more)


Five That Grabbed The Gold: Sea Change

Grand prize winning short story “Sea Change” anthologized by Contemporary Media in the e-book FIVE THAT GRABBED THE GOLD.

From the Memphis Magazine blog 901:

Titled Five that Grabbed the Gold, this volume contains the grand-prize winning stories from the Memphis magazine fiction contest from 2008 through 2012.

The authors, several of whom now have published novels to their credit, include Courtney Miller Santo, Richard Alley, David Williams, Ellen Morris Prewitt, and Jackson McKenzie. Each of them won $1,000 for the grand prize and publication of their story in the magazine.

We’re pleased to give area writers a chance to compete in a well-respected contest, which we have sponsored since 1989. And now, by making this book of stories available on Kindle for your mobile device, we give the contest and some our winning authors wider and much-deserved exposure.

Click here to purchase e-book from the Amazon Kindle store.



Lincoln charged with selling Memphis to the world

Memphis Standout profile for The Memphis Daily News

May 24, 2013

There is a surge these days in Memphis boosterism, but there may be no one else with their pulse more on what is new and exciting and worth celebrating in the city than Rashana Lincoln.

As director of community engagement for the New Memphis Institute (formerly the Leadership Academy), Lincoln is charged with selling her greatest passion: Memphis.

Born and raised in Memphis, the White Station High School graduate went on to Clark Atlanta University, a small, historically black college that shares a campus with Spelman College and Morehouse College. She graduated in 1996 with a degree in business marketing.

Lincoln returned home as the Olympics descended upon Atlanta, and became caught up in the campaign for Harold Ford Jr.’s congressional run. She joined the staff as an advance person moving out in front of the campaign team. Lincoln said the experience was “intense, but phenomenal; it really exposed me to every pocket of the 9th District.”

Lincoln enjoyed working with the big-money donors as well as knocking on doors throughout the district and talking to the residents and those most affected by elections and legislation.

“I love people; that’s just my nature,” she said.

It was during the campaign that the importance of voting was instilled in her and it drove her to the University of Tennessee College of Law in Knoxville. Her father had a background in the law and she’d always seen a juris doctorate as “a great vehicle for any number of careers.”

She graduated law school in 2001, and though she never pursued a career in law she said the experience was invaluable. Her mother was ill when she came back to Memphis so Lincoln took over operations and management for the family business, Mayweather Catering … (read more)


Good seats still available on ‘Believe Memphis’ bandwagon

“Because I Said So” column for The Commercial Appeal

May 23, 2013

Good seats are still available on ‘Believe Memphis’ bandwagon

I was born and raised in Memphis, weaned during the 1970s on a steady stream of negativity flowing through a city whose dreams had slipped into the river and whose borders had become porous. Everyone, it seemed, wanted out. The grass must have looked greener in the next county over, a neighboring city, any other state.

But things have turned, haven’t they? Negativity is passed from generation to generation like a bad gene, and the only way to arrest it is to flip the off-switch in our DNA. My children are being raised in a new Memphis, one with possibilities imagined from the uppermost reaches of government down to the teacher in the classroom, from the 7-foot-1 defensive player of the year to the CEO to the waitress serving sweet tea.

And it’s borne upon one word: Believe.

It’s a directive being spread around these days on billboards, the airwaves and a little yellow towel, but the attitude has been growing in us all along. We have flipped that switch and begun believing in ourselves and our city, and to proudly share the stories that make us who we are.

Believe Memphis. So powerful is this simple command that it isn’t just for those born and raised here. It’s for everyone everywhere. We are all of Memphis. If you have a favorite pop star and dance to your radio, if you’ve stayed in a hotel, shopped in a grocery store, shipped a package or tasted the perfect pulled pork sandwich, then you are of Memphis. And we’re glad to have you. We welcome you.

The term “bandwagon” gets used in a negative way, but I say come on board. Ours is a wagon that has been hitched in the past to teams of Tigers, a couple of kings, two pandas and a Redbird. It has been loaded into the belly of a purple and orange cargo plane. More recently, it has been pulled behind a 400-passenger paddle wheel steamboat, a fleet of food trucks, and bicycles along a 7-mile Greenline, through a revitalized park, and eventually, it will cross the river over the Harahan Bridge. When there was no one to pull it, we stoked its steam engine with issues of Forbes magazine and the words of bitter columnists from afar. Currently, it’s being pulled by a grizzly bear. So climb on: It’s a bandwagon with an actual band led by Booker T. Jones fresh from a concert of American soul music at the White House.

My children already have their own memories of Memphis to share, their own stories of visiting the Memphis Zoo and the Levitt Shell, of standing riverside to gaze at the water, exploring Midtown’s cafés and riding the trails at Shelby Farms. They’ve visited the farmers markets and Botanic Garden, caught movies at the Summer Twin Drive-In and danced at the Stax Museum. They’re old enough to understand the news they see and hear, and open enough to understand that it’s not all perfect. But they have the sense that it can be changed for the better, and that is a brand new sensation.

I’ve loaded my family aboard this wagon, and I’m stopping the cycle of negativity for my own children. I am of Memphis, and my children believe because they’ve never known any other way.

Permanent link to The Commercial Appeal