Annual “20 under 30″ issue highlighting 20-somethings making great strides in the city for The Memphis Flyer

Jan. 23, 2014

Memphis Flyer

Memphis Flyer

They came together at the nascent Beale Street Landing. It was a cold, miserable, rainy day, yet you could almost hear the hopeful strains of Al Green’s “Take Me To The River” coming from the mist over the Mississippi. Despite the gray, the 2014 class of the Flyer’s 20<30 were chatty and eager and, it turned out, familiar with each other. Many of them knew each other already, whether through business, social connections, school, or any of the other networks that spread throughout this city like kudzu. Those who weren’t already friendly, soon became acquainted and, before long, as the flash of Justin Fox Burks’s camera lit up the building, they were inviting each other to events and friending each other on their phones.

Memphis is a big small city. Or a small big city. Either way, those who get things done, who continue to move this town forward, are accessible. A mere click or call, and a new resource is claimed, a new ally met. These young people get that. They have come of age digitally and understand the best use of those tools.

They’re using their strong alliances for good. Words such as “renaissance,” “growth,” and “opportunity” were thrown around.

They are involved with mentoring, teaching, and outreach, whether their jobs require it or not, because they require it of themselves. They are young, the next generation of leaders, yet they speak first and foremost of the generation coming behind them and how they might help them along the way . . . (read more)





Daughters’ rivalry riles dad

“Because I Said So” column for The Commercial Appeal

Jan. 16, 2014

Daughters’ clashes defy efforts to make peace

The definition of the word “rivalry” is “the act of competing as for profit or a prize.”

That would explain my confusion, then, with this situation of being a parent to more than one child. I always thought of sibling rivalry as brothers and sisters trying to one-up each other in their grades or extracurricular sports or for their parents’ attention and affection.

The rivalry between my daughters involves prolonged battles of control over the remote, in who touched whom first, and who is most annoying or most difficult. There is no profit. There is no prize.

A new bar has been set for competition around here, and it’s different from the clashes between famous siblings such as Venus and Serena Williams or Peyton and Eli Manning. Those kids, I’m sure, can each afford to buy their very own remote controls.

Mixing my 7- and 11-year-old girls is a volatile chemical combination with a potentially explosive radius that measures from the living room to my office. They rival each other for most sarcastic and loudest, most victimized and angriest.

I’m not sure what the recipe is for peace, either. We’ve tried timeouts and taking things away. We’ve promised rewards and promised full-scale punishment the likes of which they’ve never seen. There are times when their mother and I rival them for loudest and angriest.

Still they argue their points: “It’s not my fault It wasn’t me It was her Make her stop ”

I asked my sisters, who are also four years apart, if they had this intense of a rivalry as children. They both admit they did. They shared a room growing up as my daughters do, and many of their disputes, they say, were territorial.

Land control has long been at the root of disagreements. There were no mineral rights to battle over, though. No oil beneath their high-pile carpet. But there was the ever-present danger of one’s Cabbage Patch Kid being left on the other’s bed, or the breaching of borders with a Barbie Dream House. These were tiny molded-plastic acts of war.

Back in my daughters’ room, someone touched something or moved something or just won’t stop listening to Taylor Swift so loud (I picked sides on that one, I’ll admit).

The thing is, my sisters are the best of friends now. I tell my daughters that someday they will be too, and point to their aunts as examples. They can’t see it, though, not through the slammed doors and tears. Peace is something that comes with time, I suppose, and with age.

It also comes with distance. My sisters live exactly 979 miles apart now — Elizabeth is in Memphis, and Katherine is in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. They finally have their own rooms, and those rooms are in different time zones.

So I’ll continue assuring my girls that their bitterness won’t last, that their petty differences will seem silly to them as adults. But perhaps I should also buy them a map and have them choose their respective cities. I’ll give them that map, close the door softly, and leave them to argue over who gets to look at it first.

Permanent link to The Commercial Appeal


Battleground Lacrosse gives area players place to shop

The Memphis Daily News/The Memphis News


Damon Waxler was led into the world of memorabilia by collecting as a child. It would eventually lead to opening the store Dixie Pickers in October 2012 on Main Street in Collierville’s Town Square.

And it would be his son Dylan, a senior at Christian Brothers High School, who would lead him into the world of lacrosse.

Waxler and his wife, Dawn, opened Battleground Lacrosse, an equipment and supplies store for the sport, just across the square from Dixie Pickers on Nov. 1.

Damon Waxler and his wife, Dawn, have opened Battleground Lacrosse on Main Street in Collierville’s Town Square. 

(Photo: Andrew J. Breig)

Dylan plays for CBHS and with the traveling team No-Excuse, and on trips to the Northeast, the family would stop in at lacrosse stores, a common site in that region. In Memphis, though, Battleground is the only such store. When Damon began to consider it, he was introduced to Rhett Douglas who owns a shop in Nashville and was looking at coming to West Tennessee, and the two would become business partners.

“I knew nothing about it,” says Waxler, a former high school football player and shot-putter, of his knowledge of the sport before his son strapped on a helmet and took up the stick. “I’d love to say I had a passion for it my whole life, but I didn’t know that much about it.”

Lacrosse is a newer sport in the South, its popularity gaining purchase in the past decade or so with teams in area schools such as Collierville High School, Memphis University School, Houston High School and White Station High School. Rhodes College has had a men’s lacrosse team for years and has added a women’s NCAA team only this school year.

Being the only specialty lacrosse store in the area – a previous store, Stickhead Lacrosse, has since closed – Battleground has become a destination for those interested in the sport. Of the schools that offer the sport, and the youth-oriented Collierville Lacrosse Club, Waxler says, “All of those programs are big, they’re very big … so from a numbers standpoint, as far as how many people are playing lacrosse right now, the majority is on this end” of the city . . . (read more)


Malasri promotes importance of young Memphis leaders

The Memphis Daily News/The Memphis News

Jan. 3, 2014

Jittapong “J.T.” Malasri, a civil engineer with Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division, says his father probably knew his son would go into the engineering field long before he himself did. And his father, Siripong Malasri, should know – he was the dean of the School of Engineering at Christian Brothers University before returning to the classroom to teach and chair various departments.

“Pretty much my career choices were civil engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering or chemical engineering,” he said, adding that he chose “dirt and water compared to all the other hard stuff.”

J.T. Malasri ended up at the university as well, on the student side of the desks, gaining a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering with a minor in psychology before heading down Central Avenue for a Master of Science in civil engineering.

His first job in the field was as a land development engineer withPickering Inc., where he had interned for just less than a year during school before going to work for the area’s utility company. He has been with MLGW since 2007 and, though his specialty is in hydrology specifically, his day-to-day work finds him overseeing the utility design of residential use developments in Shelby County.

“I work with designers and developers and contractors to design utilities for apartments and subdivisions, so I’ve ventured out of my comfort zone a little bit,” Malasri said.

He is the past chair of Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell’s Young Professional Council, part of the transition team from the mayor’s election, an ad hoc council in which “Mayor Luttrell will bounce ideas back and forth to get a perspective on what younger people think.”

As a member of the Shelby County Sustainability Advisory Committee, he also works to further the practice of low-impact development.

Malasri is currently involved with the Urban Land Institute as the Young Leaders Chair, part of the management committee. The ULI is a facilitator for best land-use practices, and its members include developers, finance specialists, contractors, municipality representatives and engineers, among others associated with the real estate industry. As part of Young Leaders, he said, his role is “to promote what ULI is doing to younger people and getting younger people involved and engaged in the city.”

There were no more than seven young leaders when Malasri became involved, and the division now has 16 members. To see the next generation of real estate professionals grow into civic leaders, Malasri also created the Mentor Protege Program to align those with experience and wisdom to be shared with up-and-coming professionals . . . (read more)


2013 highlights are in the eyes, and ears, of the beholder

“Because I Said So” column for The Commercial Appeal

Jan. 2, 2014

2013 highlights are in the eyes, and ears, of the beholder

My daughter and I had a tea party the other day. She’d received a tiny play set for Christmas and, as we sipped a pretend brew with our pinkies in the air, we reminisced over the past year. Rather, I reminisced while she served and answered my interrogation.

“What was your favorite thing about 2013?”

She thought, sipped, declared a fake cookie delicious, and finally answered that it was getting her ears pierced for her birthday last May. It was no Grizzlies playoffs, Overton Square renovations or school consolidation, but it was a good answer, a milestone for her.

I’m normally not one to make any end-of-the-year lists of superlatives. Odds are good that the best book I read last year wasn’t published in ’13 and that my favorite album of the year wasn’t even recorded this decade. The best restaurant of the year for me was the last one I was in that my four children were not. But this time of year begs nostalgia and impels us to look back.

And to look forward.

This coming year will see my oldest son turn 16 and take his first solo spin in the family car. That will be at the top of the end-of-the-year list for scariest moments of 2014, I’m sure. Another son will see his odometer flip over to teenager with all of the aches and pains of growing bones and inner turmoil. That should place a close second on that scary moments list.

I’m not one for resolutions either. The attempt to better ourselves should be continuous and not dependent on a new calendar page. It is impossible, though, not to get swept up in the rushing current of self-improvement.

And as long as we’re planning ahead, the bigger the better, I say. New job? Career? A life-altering move across country? Vow to learn how to paint, make sushi, play an instrument, fly an airplane? Will this be the year I run a marathon?

This business of growing and evolving is good for us as individuals and the community in which we live. Every January brings us something new, something unplanned and unforeseen because the whims of children can’t be captured on any list.

It’s smart to look ahead, but it’s also good to slow down for a bit and consider where you are right now. Stop and have a tea party with a 7-year-old. Ask what it is that has made her happy and what her hopes and dreams are for tomorrow. Ask for another cup of tea and be sure to compliment her on her earrings.

As I sat sipping tea with my youngest daughter, I was happily in the moment while looking forward to the possibilities ahead. As a parent (and with apologies to T.S. Eliot), life isn’t measured in calendar days and months, but in tea cups and meals eaten by a growing teenager, by tantrums thrown, milestones and laughter carried across the house.

Permanent link to The Commercial Appeal



Shelton returns home after traveling globe

The Memphis Daily News/The Memphis News

Jan. 1, 2014

Before settling in for a career in law, Jack Shelton, an associate withHarris Shelton Hanover Walsh PLLC, needed to quench his thirst for travel.

Having graduated from Colorado College with a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and a minor in French, Shelton had different plans altogether.

“I thought I might be a writer after that. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do,” he said. “Turns out I wasn’t very creative, so I didn’t end up going that route.”

The route he did take led him to Tokyo to teach English and live the life of an expat for a year and a half. Shelton said the experience teaching what was essentially a foreign language was “amazing.”

“It definitely gives you a lot of respect for how difficult our language is and a lot of the nuances in our language that you don’t really think of and subtle differences in meaning that you don’t ever really appreciate until you’re trying to explain them to somebody else,” he said.

Shelton took a vacation to Thailand during that time, having stumbled across it in a traveler’s guidebook, and “fell in love with it.” He moved into a gym there to learn the martial art of Muay Thai, a form of kickboxing.

Though his father is Harris Shelton member Max Shelton, there was no pressure from his family to follow in those footsteps. But when he returned to the United States, he took his love for writing and the natural ability there to the University of Tennessee College of Law.

“I tend to be more on the analytical side of the spectrum than on the creative side, so it was really a better fit,” Shelton said.

Along with an interest in writing, he’d packed a wealth of travel experiences, an interest in sailing from childhood and a love of languages – he speaks French and Spanish – to focus on maritime law.

“I always wanted to do something international,” Shelton said of the unique practice he picked up in the mountains of Tennessee.

But it wasn’t only the school that piqued his interest. While there, through a professor, he met the chief legal officer for BBC Chartering & Logistic, a German shipping company with one of the largest fleets of special heavy lift cargo vessels in the world. Shelton moved to New Orleans to attend Tulane University Law School for his Master of Laws (LL.M.) in admiralty . . . (read more)


Worksite Consultants preps employees for job rigors

The Memphis Daily News/The Memphis News

Dec. 28, 2013

In an industrial park in Southeast Memphis is a facility that can best be described as an “adult jungle gym.”

Among warehouses, 18-wheelers and office space is the home of Worksite Consultants. With its 3,000 square feet of ladders and ramps, boxes and weights of all measure, owner Denise Higdon and her team put the employees of some of the area’s largest companies through their paces.

“Our goal is to help employers effectively place and maintain their employees in positions that they can safely perform,” Higdon said.

Jetry “Jet” McNeal undergoes physical testing under the supervision of Worksite Consultants occupational therapist David Brick.

(Photo: Andrew J. Breig)

She conducts physical capabilities testing and fitness for duty testing on those who will be expected to climb stairs or vertical ladders, push or pull product, lift packages or maneuver a dolly.

Higdon, an occupational therapist trained at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, was doing training and injury prevention for a company when she found herself laid off and pregnant with her son. When she told her customers she wouldn’t be with them any longer, they told her, “‘Well what if we write you a check, will you just keep doing what you’re doing?’ So that was really how it started.”

It was 1999, and work continued that way for a while, in this freelance model of injury prevention.

“I accidentally started a business,” she said. “Our customers started this business for me, really. We have some loyal customers who really saw the benefit of some of the things that we had been doing and just allowed me an opportunity to continue to do that with them.”

She counts among her clients the likes of Hardin’s Sysco Food Services, Barnhart Crane & Rigging, Ozark Motor Lines, Kroger and AS Barboro distributors.

She was going into the businesses and working onsite – Sysco had a space for her that was little more than a closet – until she finally crunched the numbers and realized her own space made better financial sense. Worksite Consultants, as a fully formed business, began in 2001 . . . (read more)


Childhood inspiration leads Jambor to fulfilling career

The Memphis Daily News/The Memphis News

Dec. 27, 2013

Like many children of the 1970s, Erik Jambor’s interest in film began with scrolling words on the big screen: “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away … .”

For Jambor, it wasn’t so far away in Birmingham, Ala., where he nurtured a passion for film with a Super 8 video camera in his backyard.

More than the films, though, he relished the “making of” specials for that inspirational film, “Star Wars” and for movies such as “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

“Then it became more about, not just seeing movies, but making movies as something that could be a career,” he said. “So I used to make stop motion films and Super 8 films in my backyard with friends or with ‘Star Wars’ figures.”

He made films throughout his childhood, as he interned at a local production facility in high school, and then through college where he was in the first film class started at Florida State University.

After graduating in 1993, he returned to Birmingham where he worked in film editing and, with a friend, opened a shop to do offline digital editing.

“I got to be one of the main folks doing nonlinear digital stuff when it was first coming out back in the day,” he said. “So that was the world I lived in for a number of years, making commercials, focusing on high-end, image-based spots for banks and hospitals and things like that.”

The narrative world of film still tugged at him, though, and Jambor made the short film “Gamalost” for the expressed purpose of getting into film festivals. It was accepted into the 1996 Seattle International Film Festival.

The process of getting that film into festivals led him to attend other festivals such as Sundance, which his film wasn’t in, though the experience would prove advantageous to his career.

“I kept coming home with these stories of these great films I saw,” he said. “My friends got fed up from me talking about them because, at the time, you would never get to see those sorts of films.”

In order to give his friends, and other regional film buffs, the opportunity to see what he had in his travels, Jambor and those friends started the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival in 1999 . . . (read more)


Harkavy happy mixing business with law

The Memphis Daily News/The Memphis News

Dec. 24, 2013

Lee Harkavy, partner with Wyatt Tarrant & Combs LLP, had a dream to work in the world of business and finance, so the native Memphian pursued and completed a Bachelor of Business Administration in financing and accounting at the University of Michigan.

Though he comes from a family of attorneys, Harkavy had no plans to become one himself, and no real course of action to see his business dreams realized after graduation.

He worked for Arthur Andersen and interviewed with other agencies and firms, but along the way, some career advice caught his eye.

“I read an article that said that more CEOs of public companies have law degrees than any other graduate degree out there,” Harkavy said.

To help him succeed in business, he knew he wanted a graduate degree and decided the week before school began to enter Vanderbilt University Law School.

“I viewed it as an entry way into the business world for me,” he said.

Following graduation in 1993, he worked at Wyatt Tarrant in transactions, mergers and acquisitions, and securities for the next five years.

In 1998, client Storage USA asked him to come into the acquisitions department. It would mean leaving the practice of law to enter that world of business and finance. Though he loved the law, he jumped at the opportunity and soon transitioned into running Capital Markets.

When GE Capital bought the company, he was asked to stay on as the senior vice president of business development. In that capacity, he helped facilitate the sale of the company a couple of years later to Salt Lake City-based Extra Space Storage. He was asked to stay on in the same role and to move to Utah.

He stayed on for a year but, unhappy with internal issues and looking to get back to the South, he left and took some time off to regroup and consider where he wanted to be.

“Memphis is where my heart is and I love Memphis and felt like it’s a great place to raise a family.”

It was 2006 and, though the recession hadn’t yet hit, those who traveled in the real estate world could see the writing on the wall . . . (read more)


Location is key for success of Downtown’s New York Pizza

The Memphis Daily News/The Memphis News

Dec. 23, 2013

As businesses expand and contract, corporations find homes in faraway cities and new technology means that law offices don’t have to adhere to the convenience of proximity the courthouse affords, so goes the Downtown workforce.

But one thing remains the same: those still working, living, visiting and playing Downtown need to eat. And those employees, fans and tourists appreciate variety.

The latest offering Downtown at 45 S. Main St. offers a simple name – New York Pizza – and a simple lunch: pizza by the slice. Of course you can get the whole pie as well, or a calzone or pasta.

“Something different, so people can come in every day,” said owner Saleh Ahmed.

Saleh Ahmed tosses dough at New York Pizza, a restaurant he recently opened on South Main Street across from One Commerce Square. 

(Photo: Andrew J. Breig)

He said he hopes to expand into baked goods with doughnuts and pastries in the near future to catch the morning crowds on their way to work.

Ahmed is a veteran restaurateur who perfected his trade in New York. In the midst of a soft opening that began in the middle of the month, he says he is prepared for winter to be slow, “but it will pick up in summer.”

Sandwiched between a jewelry store and Family Dollar, Ahmed can be seen in the plate glass window fronting Main tossing dough into the air, stretching it out and making it ready for the sauce, cheese and toppings. All pizzas are made from scratch, an art the Egyptian-born Ahmed said he learned working with Italians for years.

The restaurant is long and narrow at almost 1,000 square feet, and still with a hint of the cell phone store that previously inhabited the space. Some of the display cases are still vacant, but will be filled soon as a steady stream of deliveries come in on two-wheelers. Despite the sparseness of décor, Ahmed’s enthusiasm fills the space as he tosses his dough and welcomes the curious who cross the threshold with a resounding, “Welcome to New York City!”

There are no cars allowed on this stretch of Main, but a recent pedestrian followed his nose and curiosity in to order a slice intended to be eaten as he walked to work at Rizzo’s Diner on G.E. Patterson Ave.

“I was passing by, saw the door open and slices of pizza on the counter,” said sous-chef John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

When asked what his favorite type of pizza is as he waited for a slice to come from the oven, he said, “I just love pizza. I like pepperoni, but I’ll even eat vegetarian as long as it’s got good sauce on it.”

He said he plans to make New York Pizza a regular stop on his walks to work.

Vegetarian pizza is one thing, vegan is another. Visual artist and Downtown denizen Christopher Reyes lives a block from the new pizzeria and stopped in for the first time to inquire about vegan offerings. Though Ahmed didn’t have anything on hand as yet, he promised to have it very soon and offered a discount when Reyes returns . . . (read more)