It was my friend P.C. Magness, the brain behind The Runaway Spoon, who said she hoped that someone would buy the old High Point Grocery and "keep it the same, only better." True, that's a tall, tricky order, but this is a lady who wrote a cookbook that actually makes you look forward to funeral food. So, anything is possible. As it happens, she got her wish.
For anyone who has actually lived in the neighborhood, the small, '50s-era grocery store is almost always known as "the Little Store." It was quaint, timeless, friendly, and convenient. It looked a little tired, sure, but it was such a fixture, the regulars ignored it. Even embraced it. Then COVID happened, and in April the Little Store closed with nearly everything else. With the lease coming up, and longtime owner C.D. Shirley eyeballing retirement, he made the decision not to reopen.
- Richard Murff
Like losing naptime when you graduate to first grade, you just don't know what you've got until you've lost it. Then Mrs. M announced that the fella from Cash Saver had stepped in to buy it and wasn't changing the name. The fella's name is Rick James, by the way, and whether he knew it or not, he did exactly what P.C. had hoped for: kept it the same, but better. I'll admit some selfishness here because I was hoping that he'd recreate that great whacking hall of beer they've got in Midtown. Did that, too, up to a point.
Obviously, the Little Store is still pretty, well, little. You may not find some random Czech pilsner there, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a Memphis beer that isn't on the shelf or in the cooler. And Memphis beer-can art is something to behold. To be sure, there are some solid non-local crafts to choose from, as well as Budweiser and other summer cooler-stuffing brands. It is still the Little Store, but Memphis beer is the star of the show. And there is a lot to choose from.
Since this foul year of our Lord went sideways, it's been hard to keep up with the local craft scene because so much of it involved hanging around the taprooms, which have largely been closed. I've made a few attempts to turn my patio into a Murffhaus taproom, but it was just missing something — like other people (including that one guy who takes it a little too seriously) and that kid-in-a-candy-shop selection on tap.
I was pleasantly surprised at the simple variety being put out locally: standbys like Memphis Made's Junt and Wiseacre's Ananda, to newcomers like Beale Street Brewing's 528hz of Love & Hoppiness. High Cotton has come out with its Oktoberfest, which, because this is Memphis, has a swine in lederhosen on the can. If memory serves, back in the spring October became our backup May before being re-canceled altogether.
To recreate a rescheduled and re-canceled May, you can always grab a can of something local and go get barbecue takeout for every single meal for a long weekend and get roughly the same effect as Barbecue Fest. To recreate Music Fest, go to Rachel's and buy enough garden statuary so that your backyard seems crowded, drink enough so that you think taking your shirt off is a good idea, and then listen to music you thought you liked but really don't. It's not a perfect fit, but it'll do.
For everything else that has gone away this year — crowded festivals and bars, schools, common sense, and an even remotely professional concern for personal appearance — the Little Store survived, the same just better. The local beer scene has managed to float along as well. That's not by luck or government policy (or lack of). That's just people sticking together through a really bad year.
And if that's not worthy of a toast, I don't know what is.