Category: Memphis Story

The Blues Foundation is Pure Memphis

Who they are:

The Blues Foundation is Memphis-based but world-renowned as THE organization whose mission is to preserve blues heritage, celebrate blues recording and performance, expand worldwide awareness of the blues and ensure the future of this uniquely American art form. Founded in 1980, The Blues Foundation has over 4,000 individual members and close to 200 affiliate blues societies representing another 50,000 fans and professionals around the world. Our signature events, The Blues Music Awards, International Blues Challenge and Keeping the Blues Alive Awards, make our organization the international center of blues music. Our HART Fund provides the blues community with medical assistance while Blues in the Schools programs and Generation Blues scholarships expose new generations to blues music. The 2015 opening of The Blues Hall of Fame Museum in downtown Memphis adds the opportunity for music lovers of all ages to interact with the music and the history. Throughout the year, the Foundation staff serves the worldwide blues community with answers, information, and news.

Red Deluxe is Pure Memphis

Who they are:

Red Deluxe Brand Development is a Memphis-based advertising agency that develops marketing strategy and campaigns for local and national clients, including the Memphis Grizzlies, Baptist Hospital, and – one of our favorites – Old Dominick Distillery. We also work across the country developing public service campaigns for national non-profits, and recently completed campaigns for Wounded Warrior Project and the American Lung Association that have generated close to $100 million in donated media space.

What downtown means to them:

We’ve been located in downtown Memphis since 2002. Today we sit right at the corner of Union and Main — if there’s a spot more in the center of downtown, we don’t know about it. Our business runs on creative energy, and the culture and density Downtown is an important part of that inspiration.

What they are doing to better Memphis:

Red Deluxe is involved with a long list of local causes. We have worked with Youth Villages – both as a client and a cause – for more than a decade, supporting their important work of giving every kid a family. We are currently developing the Riverline maps and signage for the Memphis Riverfront and the new wayfinding system for the Memphis Zoo, as well as pro bono projects for the Soulsville Foundation, Neighborhood Christian Centers, and poverty disruptor Slingshot Memphis.

How they define pure Memphis:

To us, Memphis is invention. Memphis is so authentic and quirky and sincere, it tells you to stretch out on whatever you have to say or do. It’s why Memphis has been and continues to be where we invent the next big thing.

Signal Flow PR is Pure Memphis

Who they are:

Signal Flow Public Relations is a boutique music media firm providing publicity and marketing services for independent musicians and music businesses. Signal Flow – named for the path an audio signal takes from source to output in sound/music recording – launched in July of 2011. The Signal Flow portfolio includes solo artists, bands, venues, recording studios, music start-ups, music tourism destinations and music non-profits.

Signal Flow’s founder and CEO is Elizabeth Cawein, a publicist, marketing/public relations strategist and music advocate (and born-and-raised Memphian).

What downtown means to them:

Downtown means innovation and creativity. It is a microcosm of all the best things about Memphis: medical innovation and our spirit of generosity at St. Jude, entrepreneurs and business innovation at StartCo., AutoZone and ServiceMaster, grit and grind at the FedEx Forum, music past and present on Beale Street.


Initiatives they’re doing to better Memphis:

Though it’s a for-profit business, I’ve always seen Signal Flow as something I’m doing to try to better our city. A central motivation for me in starting this business was keeping musicians in Memphis. I wanted – and still want – to be a reason that a musician can decide to stay in Memphis and build a career here. That desire also led to the creation of my nonprofit, Music Export Memphis. It’s an export office for Memphis music that is focused on creating opportunities for musicians to showcase outside our city, driving music tourism and talent attraction. Ultimately I’m driven by the belief that musicians want to live where there are opportunities – and given what technology has done to change the way that fanbases are built, that doesn’t necessarily mean they need to live in an industry hub city like Nashville, L.A. or New York. They can (and could and will) choose Memphis, as long as they feel that there are opportunities for them here. Creative, career-advancing, money-making, or all three. Everything MEM does is focused on creating opportunity.

How they define Pure Memphis:

Pure Memphis to me is DIY, entrepreneurial, original. We are a city of firsts, and it’s one of the reasons I’m so bullish about Memphis. From soul music to distribution to grocery stores to hotels, we’ve been innovating for a long time. We are strong-willed, bootstrapping and creative. We’re scrappy and smart and tenacious. That spirit is what flows through all of my favorite things about our city.

Rachel’s Salon is Pure Memphis

(Not all team members are featured in the photo)

Who They Are

Located at 10 N. Main Street in the historic Dr. D. T. Porter building, overlooking Court Square Park, Rachel’s Salon & Day Spa is a full-service Aveda Concept Salon and spa offering services for men’s and women’s hair as well as massage, facial, body treatments, nails, makeup, and waxing. Founded by Rachel Hill in 1987, Rachel’s was purchased by Paige and Chris Garland in October of 2014.

Our mission is to create a 5-star experience to every guest, every time.  Offering an environment that allows our guests to relax & enjoy their time with us while maintaining the highest standard of excellence.

In a world that has made a shift from personal interaction to technology, where service has been lost in the marketplace, our business is one that is working to redefine guest experience. Our business is built on the healing power of personal touch and sustained by relationships. Our primary goal is to create a space in the day of each guest that walks through our doors where they can see their personal beauty, enjoy a moment of respite in a too busy world, and to care for them wherever they are in their day. We work to show a different side of the beauty industry, to see a change from superficial to true beauty, which we believe is internal. While it may appear as a luxury industry, we are one of the few professions outside of the medical industry licensed to physically touch clients. The healing power of touch is one that is too often overlooked. We offer each guest the opportunity to be cared for in the way that they need in that moment through ancient Ayurvedic rituals and stress relieving practices, a complimentary part of each guest experience.  Additional points of difference in our service include complimentary Aveda comforting tea ritual, finishing touch makeup application, and aroma sensory journey all with a high touch approach.

Why Downtown and What it Means to Them:

Rachel’s has been a hidden gem in The Core of Downtown Memphis for just over 30 years. Previous ownership built the business on relationships with her clients and current ownership continues that core principal of business. We are in an industry built on people, and sustained by the same. You have to get out of the doors and meet your neighbors if you are going to keep those doors open. Rachel’s has sustained through the peaks and valleys that Downtown Memphis has seen, our Downtown community is thriving once again & we are here to support that. Downtown is a walkable community, it’s a real neighborhood where people live, work, visit from all over the world, and enjoy real community. Investing in a local business is investing in our city, and it means doing something to continue to support the growth and opportunity for future generations. We want Memphis to be somewhere our kids want to come home to after college, the more we put back into the city the more we have to give to those future generations of Memphians.

Initiatives they’re working on to better Memphis:

Our primary goal is to bring our mission to life each day, to continue to be leaders in our industry, in our city, and our local community through service, contribution, & participation. Our commitments to small yet impactful practices such as recycling, making changes to energy efficient lighting options, and working to re-use and upcycle certain materials for marketing and visual displays have become the norm rather than the exception. As we plan for future renovations to our space, preserving the historic integrity of our property will be at the forefront; combining that with improvements we will make to create an eco-friendlier, energy efficient, green, community centered space we hope to create a true place of respite that will continue to be an asset to the Core of Downtown.

Currently our business participates in annual Earth Month efforts, raising funds for the Global Green Grants foundation and the Tennessee Clean Water Network.  We are involved in fundraising efforts for Breast Cancer Awareness for both the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and a local organization, The Pink Wig Project. Our outreach to St. Jude Research Hospital has become a passion, allowing us to connect with hospital staff, patients & their families and offer either our thanks for the work they do, or a place or rest and comfort for the patients and caretakers during a time when they are in need.

We are committed to creating a positive energy both inside our business as well as out into our community and we have created a small way to send that out with our guests by ending each of our services with a “Pass it on” ritual.  This has become one of our favorite ways of sending positive energy out into our community.  We have created small cards, each with a different positive affirmation and a message below the affirmation reading “pass it on…”  Our guest simply reaches into a bucket, selects one of the affirmations as we share the rules.  The “rule” is that they hold on to the message until they cross paths with someone that needs to receive it and they “pass it on.” It’s a simple way of sharing a positive thought with someone, and hoping that they will in turn do the same.

How they define Pure Memphis:

We think maybe Tony Allen said it best, Pure Memphis is simply “All Heart. Grit. Grind.”  We’re not sure there are better words to summarize Pure Memphis. Memphis is genuine & real. We care. We care about our city, about the good, the bad, and about each other. We have grit and determination to keep moving forward for a better future. We have the opportunity to cultivate a culture of caring, that gives us an edge.  Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a LIFE by what we give.” Our business definitely believes this is true.

What Old Dominick means to them:

As a local business, we love the opportunity to partner with another local business who believes in the whole of our city. Old Dominick was, in our eyes, a perfect pairing in our search to offer a little something extra to our guests and enhance their experience. The commitment the family at Old Dominick has for the growth of our city is to be admired and their willingness to partner with even the oddest of pairings shows they are innovative thinkers, something every city needs more of!

Envision Fitness is Pure Memphis

Who They Are:

Located at the top floor of The Cadre Building, Envision Fitness is a 9,600 square foot full-service fitness center. Their community of 170+ members and staff work 7 days a week to create an environment where anyone can be accepted, respected and encouraged to work hard at an intensity level they decide is appropriate for their needs and goals. In addition to providing free weights, cardio and boxing equipment, and over 20 group exercise classes a week, they encourage their members and staff to approach fitness as one part of a path to a better quality of life. Competition is fun, and we love to challenge each other, but the number one reason to work out is to feel better. Comparing ourselves to others is rarely productive, so we believe in providing an environment where doing your best is good enough. We strive to meet members where they are physically and mentally to help them push themselves without getting discouraged or giving up.

Why downtown and what it means to them?

As everyone knows, downtown is rapidly growing again! They are honored and humbled to be a part of this exciting time and look forward to further growing into the kind of gym they believe will best serve the needs of our dynamic neighbors. Downtown to them is truly a community of hard-working entrepreneurs who believe Memphis is THE place.

Initiatives they are working on to make Memphis better:

They are currently working with the Downtown Memphis Commission to get downtowners out and walking during their lunch breaks! Called “Walk It Wednesdays,” its an opportunity for anyone to walk up and down Main Street, measuring their distance by using fun A-frame signs the DMC has provided. The signs are placed a quarter of a mile apart, and participants can win prizes by checking in and using specific hashtags.

They also host free self-defense training the third Saturday of every month. These hour and a half sessions focus on using your brain as your bodies best weapon, but they also cover easy to remember gross motor movement physical tactics. These classes are grounded in discovering what works to keep our loved ones and us safe.

Lastly, every Wednesday they have a run group at 6pm. This group is open to the public and usually runs around 3 miles. It’s fun, and all levels are welcome!!

How they define Pure Memphis:

Pure Memphis is determination. We do not shy away from hard work, and are solely focused on bettering our community. Memphis is so much more than Beale Street, blues, and BBQ. We are just here working hard every day, supporting each other, loving, hugging, high fiving and moving forward. We got this.

Creative Works is Pure Memphis

We at Old Dominick are proud of our Pure Memphis roots and strive to evolve the overall downtown Memphis experience by supporting those who work to better our city. As we kickoff our Pure Memphis digital series, highlighting organizations that are committed to a better Memphis, we are pleased to shed light on the efforts of our pals at Creative Works.

Who They Are:

Located downtown in the Emerge Building, Creative Works started as a design and creativity conference in October 2014. By May 2016, they were able to become a year-round organization with regular programming. It is their mission to build an ecosystem that grows and elevates the Memphis creative community in order to accelerate cultural and economic change. They’re a nonprofit organization fiercely focused on the power that design and creativity can have in people’s lives.

Why downtown? What downtown means to them:

Creative culture thrives in vibrancy and activity. Downtown is the heart of Memphis, and the density of people and amenities foster collaboration and creative collisions.

Initiatives they’re doing to better Memphis:

Whether it’s bringing over 400 people to downtown Memphis for the national Creative Works Conference every October, setting up a free Branding 101 workshop for 75 people on a Sunday, teaching a 12-week Design Bootcamp for adults, hosting a monthly meet-up for anyone interested in the creative community, or teaching creativity and design to 7th and 8th graders at Grizzlies Prep, they’re wholeheartedly committed to educating and exposing a broader audience of people to the power of a connected creative community.

How they define Pure Memphis:

To Creative Works, Pure Memphis is all about authenticity. This is a city that doesn’t make time for imitators. But if you’re true about who you are, what you do, and why you do it, Memphis will give you its support and respect.

What Old Dominick means to them:

We have to take a moment to appreciate the Old Dominick commitment to craft, quality, detail, and above all – Memphis. Each Creative Works Conference has its own theme, and the very first conference was, “Commit to Craft”. Old Dominick is a daily reminder of what a successful brand looks like when you fully commit to craft. We’re proud to share this commitment with a brand that has so heavily invested in the continued growth and future success of our city.

The Story of Memphis’ Old Dominick Distillery

The story of Memphis’ Old Dominick Distillery begins, like most great adventures, with a dream and a voyage. The birthplace of this dream was the Ligurian coast of Italy in the middle of the 19th century, and the dreamer was Domenico Canale, a boy of modest background from an undistinguished hamlet called San Pietro di Reveneto.

Sandwiched between picturesque mountains and the austere, azure beauty of the Mediterranean, it is a part of the world that has long called out to dreamers. Known today as the Italian Riviera, the sun-baked stretch of fishing villages has been cherished by artists and explorers for centuries. From nearby Genoa, Marco Polo recounted his journey to a strange new world to the east, and ChristopherColumbus envisioned one he would take — to the same destination, he thought — to the west. From the colorful harbor of Portofino across the bay from San Pietro di Reveneto, thousands of painting masters and even Walt Disney have drawn inspiration. And a few miles west at Porto Verne, just two decades before Domenico’s birth in 1843, the words and exploits of Lord Byron, who famously once swam across the the Gulf of La Spezia there, and his friend Percy Shelley, who famously drowned in it, would inspire a new name for the body of water, the Gulf of Poets.

Against such a backdrop, it is easy to imagine a boy from even origins as humble as Domenico’s dreaming large about a new world where anyone could rise as far as their talents as could take them. And in the mid-19th century such dreams pointed to one place, America.

As idyllic as Liguria could be, it was a good time to leave. The period from 1848 to 1861 was one of remarkable upheaval for Italy, which at the time was little more than collection of city-states. Over this span a series of conflicts were fought — including no fewer than three wars of independence — that would ultimately lead to the unification of Italy under one kingdom in 1861. The Kingdom of Piedmont to the north of Liguria was a major hub of revolutionary activity, inspiring many young men from the area who wished to be no part of the conflict to flee to America. That is what Domenico’s uncle, Abraham Vaccaro, did in 1851. And eight years later, Domenico, just 16-years-old set off to follow him.

After a two month voyage Domenico landed in New Orleans and immediately boarded another boat to travel up the Mississippi to Memphis. There he was met by his uncle who had established a wholesale liquor and wine business where Domencio would work.

The city that Domenico now called home was quite different from the one from which he had come. His hometown predated the glory of the Roman empire, but his new home was barely 40 years old when he arrived in 1859. For much of that early history it more closely resembled a wild west town than a Southern trade hub. It was dirty and ramshackle and crime and vice were notoriously rampant.

By the time Domenico arrived, however, Memphis was on the tail end of its first boom. Between 1840 and 1860 the city experienced 1,200 percent growth fueled mainly by the cotton trade. As a result of this new prosperity, a new cultured elite had begun to take hold, living in grand mansions in places like Victorian Village. And in their wake had started to develop institutions like theaters, concert halls, and civic organizations.

Memphis in those days was a surprisingly cosmopolitan place. By 1860 it was estimated that a third of the population of 22,693 was foreign born. The Irish, most of whom had arrived after the potato famine that had begun in 1845, made up the bulk of the immigrant population followed by the Germans, who were likewise escaping strife at home. The year before Domenico arrived, the city’s Jewish population had established its first synagogue.

But there were very few Italians in Memphis in 1860. Indeed in all of North America there estimated to be just around 25,000. The vast bulk of Italian immigration to the United States would come between 1880 and 1900, driven by economic hardships in Southern Italy. Many of the families to come across in that wave would go on to play large roles in the business and cultural life of the city, but it would be up to newcomers like Domencio to trail the path for them.

Domenico had been working for his uncle for only a few years when he branched out and opened his own roving fruit cart. Because of Italy’s agricultural and culinary reputation, grocer was a natural profession for Italian immigrants. And in the 19th century selling food stuffs also meant selling wine and liquor. From the start Domenico was selling jugs of wine and whiskey from his cart, most likely bottling product from his uncle’s business.

Domenico's cart advertising Old Dominick Whiskey

Domenico’s cart advertising Old Dominick Whiskey

Domenico’s grocer business continued to grow during the Civil War. While his uncle and brother, Peter, served in the Confederate army, Domenico stayed behind and arguably served a more important role. Memphis fell quickly and relatively quietly to the Union in 1862, and the city soon resumed its importance as a hub of trade both sanctioned and illicit. Domenico himself braved enemy lines frequently to bring much needed groceries to the city.

After the war, both Domencio and Memphis resumed their rise in prosperity. The city doubled its population between 1860 and 1870. In this booming peace-time economy, Domenic and Peter started Canale & Bro., a wholesale grocery, confectionary, and liquor supplier. And In 1866, the new company rolled out its own brand of bourbon whiskey. Old Dominick.

In just seven years, Domenico had watched his adopted hometown change tremendously. The roughhewn river town was becoming more prosperous, more sophisticated. Domenico, likewise had matured. From his humble beginnings, he had recast himself as a successful, urbane, and sophisticated businessman known for his tastes in drink, food, cigars, and clothes. In 1869 he married the cultured and refined Catherine Solari, sister of Mary Solari, the first woman admitted to Florence, Italy’s the Accademia di Belle Arti and a major figure in Memphis cultural and philanthropic circles.

Domenico's carriage advertising Old Dominick Whiskey

Domenico’s carriage advertising Old Dominick Whiskey

As one of its leading suppliers of drink, Domenico, felt Memphis deserved its own drink to reflect its and his own new, more worldly outlook. He poured that vision into Old Dominick. Working closely with Milton, Kentucky’s Richwood Distillery, founded by a family with a rich heritage in whiskey making, Domenico crafted a beverage to his liking — smooth, robust, complex. Inspired perhaps by famed distiller James Crow’s Old Crow, one of the most popular and respected bourbon brands of the mid-19th century, Domenico turned to another winged creature for his label, his proud-looking namesake the Dominique chicken or Dominicker.

Pre-Prohibition Main Street, Memphis. Old Dominick Whiskey painted ad on Memphis building.

Pre-Prohibition Main Street, Memphis. Old Dominick Whiskey painted ad on Memphis building.

Domenico’s vision and hard work paid off. In a short amount of time Old Dominick became the drink of choice in the fast growing city and its environs. Old Dominick was sold from grocery carts and in stores and advertised in newspapers and prominently on the sides of downtown office buildings. Besides its signature line of bourbons (aged five, seven, 12, and 15 “summers”), the Old Dominick brand adorned a rye whiskey and its signature Dominick Toddy, a fruit and spice-infused whiskey “recommended by doctors” and “used by the best families all over the United States.”

Despite the series of near calamitous yellow fever epidemics that decimated Memphis in the 1870s, Domenico, the Canale family, Old Dominick, and the D. Canale Company, as it came to be known after Peter left the business, all thrived into the 20th century. The company branched out into the growing beer market. Its base of operations at the crossroads of American shipping made D. Canale one of the largest food and liquor suppliers in the country.

In 1917 the city’s leaders, including Piggly Wiggly founder Clarence Saunders, gathered to celebrate Domenico’s 74th birthday. A picture from the celebration shows a man content in life, the father of eight healthy children, a growing brood of grandchildren, and prospering business empire. A dozen years earlier the book Notable Men of Tennessee had profiled him, saying: “Mr. Canale is what is rightly termed a self-made man and has won his position in the social and commercial life of Memphis by his industry, his native ability, and the exercise of correct business principles.”

Not even Tennessee’s attempt to enact alcohol prohibition in 1909, a measure that went largely ignored in Memphis for years as evidenced by the glasses of wine on the table and inventories showing large supplies of whiskey in the D. Canale stores, could dampen his spirit. Of course, in the coming years the prohibition fever would overtake the entire country, and D. Canale would be forced to take a new direction in a whiskey-less world. But Domencio Canale would not have have to see the cap placed on his beloved namesake Old Dominick. He died in his Midtown mansion on January 12, 1919, an immigrant whose Italian vision had become the American dream and whose love of family and friends and community are embodied in the spirit that bears his name.

By Mark Jordan, April 7 2017