In many Memphis neighborhoods, the corner store is king. It connects people in their daily routines, and provides groceries when the big box stores aren’t present. In short, it’s a bedrock of the community. And while some corner stores are disappearing, one Memphis neighborhood has found a way to bring new life to their landmark.
The Alcy Ball Development Corporation (ABDC) has a vision for an economically and socially restored Alcy Ball community, and they recognized the anchor that the Rogers Store had been for decades, helping to connect neighbors in the Alcy Ball neighborhood.
Established in 1947, the Rogers Store building had been an iconic place for Alcy Ball neighbors to gather and connect, but it had fallen into disrepair over the past decades, as families and businesses moved out.
Alcy Ball native Candace Walsh remembers Rogers Store from her childhood in the ‘70s: “It was really a treat to skip down the street with the older kids and go to Rogers.”
Candace’s parents were part of the original homeowners in historic Alcy Ball—which began as a predominantly middle-class, African-American neighborhood. For them, Rogers Store was a safe gathering place where everyone felt known by the store owner, Mr. Rogers.
When Candace moved back to the neighborhood in 2004, Rogers Store was totally different: Mr Rogers had stepped back and “the neighborhood-feel was gone”.
“There was always a desire to see that store be something more than a quick-e-mart type place, something more meaningful for the neighborhood. But no one really knew what to do.”
In 2019, ABDC purchased the store with Mr. Rogers’ blessing and began renovations. Earlier this year, Rogers Store reopened its doors to the Alcy Ball neighbors as a resident community hub.
“To be able to see it come to life again was really exciting,” Candace shared.
Rogers Store is now home to educational training, pop-up shops, and other neighborhood uses—a space for neighbors to be neighbors. It’s a new community hub that’s preserving long-time neighborhood history.
“There’s just so much…Black Memphis history in this community, and it means the world to me and my peers that we preserve that history. And one of the ways to preserve that history is to preserve the physical structures in the neighborhood.”
Candace noted that not everyone in Alcy Ball shares the same high opinion of the new Rogers Store, “and that’s what family’s like—everyone’s got different perspectives.” Still, Candace and so many other neighbors are over the moon for what the space will be for their community. If it’s safe in terms of the pandemic, Candace is looking forward to hosting a Neighborhood Night Out event at Rogers Store this fall. And in the midst of social-distancing, opportunities like that to connect with neighbors are more important—and maybe even more appreciated—than ever.
“I’m standing here looking out my window [at Rogers Store] now, and I’m proud. I think our parents would have been proud, too.”