Gibson Brands Inc. has sold its iconic factory building Downtown. Real estate investment firms Somera Road Inc. of New York and Tricera Capital of Miami teamed up to purchase the property, according to a Tuesday news release. The release did not disclose a purchase price but said the transaction includes much of Gibson's real estate in Memphis and Nashville. In a separate transaction, the firms paid $6.4 million for a half-acre property at 1102 Grundy St. in Nashville in November. The Memphis part of the purchase includes the 150,000-square-foot Gibson factory and showroom and the 350-space parking lot located across Linden Avenue on Pontotoc Avenue. The sale is expected to close on Dec. 13 “We’re especially interested in markets with a growing and buzzing millennial population, and we continue to invest in those urban cores,” said Tricera co-founder Scott Sherman in the release. “Memphis checked all of the boxes we look for in new markets. With the continuously growing Downtown population, we are eager to use this transaction to open the door to additional opportunities. "While other ‘millennial’ markets such as Nashville and Austin are experiencing saturation and pricing out many potential relocators, Memphis is owning its sweet spot with real estate occupancy costs and the costs of living at attractive rates.” Before the deal closes, the Center City Revenue Finance Corporation (CCRFC) is set to decide Dec.12 whether or not Gibson's 25-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) agreement, effective through 2023, can be transferred to the investors. Along with the transfer, the investors are asking for the PILOT's employment requirement to be eliminated, according to a letter written by Bass, Berry & Sims lawyer Richard Spore III, who is representing the investors. The investors are also requesting for permission to use the property for retail and offices, as well as for a potential brewery, according to that letter. Initially, Gibson will lease back the building from Tricera and Somera, while the investors decide what to do with the property. “Scott and I were aware of Memphis, but until we visited, we had no idea how unique this market is,” said Somera managing principal Ian Ross in the release. “The Gibson building is a prime location in the heart of Downtown Memphis, and it’s uniquely positioned at the epicenter of growth. We can’t wait to roll up our sleeves and get to work.” The companies have hired Colliers International for property management and leasing services. Andy Cates and Andrew Phillips will be the local leasing representatives.
Memphis College of Art (MCA) is no longer admitting new students and will close at the conclusion of fulfilling its obligation to existing students who remain in good standing, the college announced on Tuesday. The college anticipates the wind-down will last through 2020. Citing declining enrollment, "overwhelming real estate debt," and "no viable long-term plan for financial sustainability" the Board of Directors of Memphis College of Art voted to immediately stop recruiting new students and to make plans to close the college. “It is with great sadness that we move forward with this decision,” MCA board chair Henry P. Doggrell said. According to the college's news release, MCA will begin the "orderly dissolution" of its real estate and other assets to fund its debt obligations and other liabilities, including providing funding to serve existing students who remain at MCA. MCA said the board, after a long process, determined that "an independent, private fine arts and design college is no longer financially sustainable in Memphis." Over the last few months, the school's leaders have cost cuts, but it was not sufficient to sustain operations beyond the current academic year without continued significant community support. Through the wind-down, MCA will continue to offer Community Education programs, including its new Fashion Certificate program, summer camps, and adult art classes. MCA’s Holiday Bazaar will also take place as scheduled on November 17-18, with proceeds funding existing student scholarships. “This has been a heartbreaking process,” said MCA interim president Laura Hine. “But, we remain proud of the creative energy MCA artists have long brought to Memphis and are eternally grateful to the donors and foundations who have sustained us throughout our 81-year history. The tremendous value of the artistic contributions made by MCA faculty, students and graduates, over many decades, simply can’t be captured in words.”
A new business has taken flight and it is aimed primarily to help and supply bird lovers all over DeSoto County and beyond. A Southaven couple last week opened the latest franchise location of the Carmel, Ind.-based Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop. It is located at 5847 Getwell Road in Southaven. Sandra and Dave Ehrlichman both have been involved in the aviation industry, so it almost seemed natural that the winged creatures that they enjoy in their backyard would be the catalyst for them to land from their careers a bit and head into the business world. “I’ve always enjoyed the birds and sitting in the backyard watching the birds with my husband one day, I remembered some friends of ours had the store in Memphis,” Ehrlichman said. “I dashed off an email to the corporation and asked for information about the franchise, and they called me within about 24 hours.” Ehrlichman said the couple then started a process of learning about the industry and learning about the corporation, a process that was quite extensive. “We just on faith kept moving forward,” Ehrlichman said. “They have criteria that you need to meet and one of those is interviewing other franchisees to ask them questions. I really didn’t know anything about running my business, but the corporation has a wonderful support system.” That support system includes a business coach who checks in with Ehrlichman each week and IT support if there is a problem with the store computer programs and cash register systems. Her previous work as a flight attendant and flight attendant instructor for Delta Connections airline has helped her bring strong customer service skills to the store. “That was my big thing as a flight attendant,” Ehrlichman said. “That was my job, to interact with the customers. I want people to feel happy when they come into the store and happy when they leave. It really is a joy!” Ehrlichman said they reviewed several locations for their store to settle into once they determined to move ahead, but the Getwell Road spot couldn’t be topped as their ideal spot to be. “Goodman Road is getting so busy, and Getwell Road is getting that ready,” Ehrlichman said. “This was actually the first place we looked at and I liked it for two reasons. We get good visibility for people traveling on Getwell north and south and the space is as much as we need now. It also helps that we live a mile behind us.” Ehrlichman said there will be more than just birdseed found inside her store. “They will find an assortment of different kinds of food for your backyard birdfeeding hobby,” she said. “If you like squirrels, we have things for the squirrels and if you don’t like the squirrels, we have ways to deter them. We have nature-themed gift items and yard ornaments, pretty much anything that you need to feed whatever that you want to feed in your backyard.” Ehrlichman also knows there is a demand for the type of merchandise Wild Birds Unlimited can provide and customers are glad the store is open. “I had people come by, look into the window and see that we were getting product in,” Ehrlichman said about the early visits while they were getting the store stocked for last week’s opening. “If people came by and we were in here before we opened, we would let them in. We’d explain we weren’t open yet, but we would show what we were going to have, thank them for stopping by and give them a little starter bird feeder and bird feed for them to try.” The bird seed that is found is not similar to what may be purchased at other stores. Ehrlichman said it is better, because studies have shown birds are more apt to eat more of their seed than other brands, kicking out the extra “chaff” that birds don’t like. “A lot of the ‘big box stores,’ in order for their seed to be less expensive, put fillers in it that the birds don’t like and they tend to kick out what they don’t like,” Ehrlichman said. “In our feed, you’re still going to get some of the stuff that the birds will kick out, but it’s stuff the ground-feeding birds, like the doves, are going to eat. While it appears to be more expensive, it is not, because everything in there is going to be edible by the birds.” That means, get ready to welcome a host of birds to your backyard, from cardinals, hummingbirds, goldfinches, Carolina chickadee, and other varieties, all common to the area. Wild Birds Unlimited is open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday and from 1-5 p.m. on Sunday. It has a Facebook presence at Wild Birds Unlimited of Southaven and may be reached by phone at 662-510-5626. Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.
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