Sun Studio is a tiny spot - but really, really big events in the history of music happened here. The most famous of all, of course, was Elvis Presley recording 'That's Alright, Mama' in 1954; within a year, he was a superstar and the Sun label was known throughout the world. Those whose names would become synonymous with rock, country and even the blues recorded at Sun including Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and B.B. King. The famous Sun facade is one of the most photographed sites in Memphis. A 1950s-style diner / gift shop offers up snacks a selection of music souvenirs.
The local bookstore lives on - and lives on in splendorous existence at the Booksellers. Locals still call it Davis-Kidd, as the store was formerly known before it was bought out by the staff in order to ensure its survival. This is the kind of store where you can pick up a gift as well as a book - and we guarantee you can't stump the staff - they know everything. The delightful Bistro in one corner of the store serves up a fantastic breakfast, lunch, or dinner with signature items including a bleu cheese-topped tomato soup, and scrumptious offerings from local and regional cookbooks.
Located on historic Beale Street since 1876, this general store is a Memphis institution. Schwab's has changed hands over the years, but the employees and inventory seem to remain the same.The dusty and vast inventory includes everything from kitchen flatware to overalls and knick-knacks. Be sure to visit as you'll feel as if you have stepped back in time and are visiting the only store in a small town – and boys particularly love this place, as it is full of essentials like whoopee cushions and other staples of boy-toys. You need to pay the old-fashioned way, too – no credit cards accepted!
You never know what you'll find at the super-fun and super-funky Flashback,a vintage store that focuses on clothing, accessories and home decor - and that's what makes it so much fun. There's always a great selection of mid-century furniture and home decor, a great selection of women's dresses and finery, and plenty of wide lapels and skinny ties for men to peruse. But what we love the most - next to the amazing seasonal window displays (and during Elvis weeks) - is the retro holiday decor. From grinning 1960's pumpkins to cheery light-up Frostys and Santas, Flashback always amazes during the holidays.
This is the only outlet (sometimes called Graceland Outlet, sometimes called Memphis Outlet) of all things officially Elvis sanctioned by Elvis Presley Enterprises, and is full of officially licensed, past-season Elvis merchandise. Switchplate covers, clocks, key chains, mugs, t-shirts - you name it, it is for sale here, at prices definitely better than the full retail pricing up the street for similar merchandise. The best part is the exhibit-themed objects which were part of previous exhibits, as they tend to show or use photos or images that may have been in reserve, or simply just discovered, by the folks at Elvis Presley Enterprises. In addition to Elvis souvenir, the outlet stocks more general rock and roll-themed items
The totally talented Stephanie Jones set up shop in Cooper-Young, and talented DIY-ers across the region are celebrating. Jones, who shudders at the use of the word 'faux', notes that fine finishes are what her artistry is all about. She teaches hands-on workshops in her studio, sells painted furniture, Annie Sloan chalk paint and Miss Mustardseed Milk Paint; she also sells brushes, books, custom stencils, interesting knobs, local travel guides, flea market finds and whatever else strikes her fancy. If you, like yours truly, doesn't have the ability or patience to paint, fear not - Jones and company always have the shop stocked with a number of finely painted furniture pieces.
Stax is one of our favorite museums and must-hits in Memphis - and the gift store at this museum of American soul music is one of our favorite stores in town, too. In addition to all the greatest music from the label, Stax offers music-themed gifts - plenty with retro flair. We've bought silk ties with a print of 45 adapators (if you have to ask, then forget it) and colorful paper coasters, as well as more traditional t-shirts with the funky Stax logo. Since Grammy-winning saxophonist Kirk Whalum came to Stax as head of the Stax Foundation, the shop has also started carrying lots of colorful logo'd baseball caps...very likely a nod to Whalum's signature style.
Dinstuhl's makes an official line of Elvis chocolate bars, chocolate albums, and CDs which you can buy in their store as well as at locations throughout the city. The 100-plus year old Dinstuhl's stores - there are three stores and a dozen others carry the Dinstuhl's line - keeps the city's dentists employed, as the candy is just too irresistible. The Grove Park location reminds us of the old-fashioned candy counter one used to find at every department store; the ladies behind the counter are sweet, and there's an array of the locally-made specialties on tantalizing display. The chocolate pecan fudge is made with the same recipe from 1902 - the year the store opened - and the selection of candied or chocolate fruit slices, nut brittles and cream-filled delights can make one weak.
We find it utterly ironic that a man who didn't drink has a line of wines named after him. You can buy Jailhouse Rock Merlot, King of Rock 'n' Roll Cabernet, Blue Suede Chardonnay and Blue Hawaii Riesling at Busters; we think they should have named the Riesling Private Presley, since he served his time in the Army in Germany - but no one asked us. Buster's is a one location, family-owned operation that runs like clockwork, has a friendly staff and the fastest check-out in town --and opens at 8 a.m., which was a real surprise when we hit the store on the off chance on the morning before Thanksgiving. What a treat to load up on wine before anyone else was out of bed! The store is laid out with wines to the left and liquor to the right as you walk in; wines are arranged mostly by country and then by appellation. Being in a central location right on the East Memphis / Midtown border, there's hardly ever a down time at Buster's, but these folks know how to staff for peak hours and around the holidays. There's always someone nearby to answer a question or point you in the right direction. Prices are reasonable if not better than most spots in town, and there is a discount for case purchases - including mixed cases.
Lansky Brothers fashions are a part of Memphis history, and their upscale designer clothing stores are a local fixture. While musicians like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and B.B. King provided the sound of Memphis, Lansky Brothers provided their fashion sense. Most well known for Elvis's Hi-boy collars, peg-legged pants, and pink/black combinations, they have been bringing the funkiest and hottest looks to Memphis for more than 50 years. The shop is small yet well-stocked, and they even carry blue suede shoes (and they're quite stylish). They also know how to tie a bow tie, if you're staying at the Peabody and need a rescue. Even if the prices are out of your range, browsing the 2000-square-foot store inside the lobby of the Peabody is quite an experience.