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Memphis is home to one of the largest shipping hubs in the Mid-South, a reputation that dates back to the Civil War era. Today, the city has one of the busiest domestic airports in the world. This economic activity has attracted some of the biggest corporations, including Fortune 500 companies such as FedEx, International Paper Co., and AutoZone. As a result, the city ranks as the third-largest retail center in Tennessee and is a major player in the U.S. To keep up with this overwhelming demand for services in a wide array of industries, the city relies heavily on professionals from the construction and architecture industries to design and build spaces that represent their brands, embody their culture, and take part in establishing their identity through modern, functional, and innovative retail and commercial structures.
This article highlights the best retail architects in Memphis. The firms here are either based in the city or have completed commercial and retail architecture and interior design projects in the area. These companies qualified for the list based on the awards, press features, and the industry memberships that they have acquired through the years. The article also looked at the quality, performance, and client satisfaction reviews from these projects. The listing also considered the background of each of the firm’s principal architects, their contributions to the field, and their years of practice.
3009 Davies Plantation Rd., Lakeland, TN 38002
A2H’s design team is led by its senior architect and principal Stewart Smith, AIA. With over three decades of background in design and planning, Smith has completed a variety of projects for a diverse range of markets, all of which highlight the client’s unique brand aesthetics by curating architectural details that define the project owner’s vision for each project. The company’s portfolio for the commercial market exhibits these characteristics.
As an architect for the commercial and retail sector, the company has contributed greatly to the revival of Memphis’s urban landmarks. The firm partnered with a local developer to take on Memphis Cycle Shop’s complete renovation project. This project was a response to the urban area’s efforts to revitalize its spaces and cater to the growing needs of the modern market and customers. This retail facility is housed in one of Edge District’s historic structures.
The same restoration and renovation efforts will also introduce a new, mixed-use building that will accommodate a coffee shop and welcome tenants in need of retail spaces on the first level and office spaces above. The building’s interiors will undergo most of the structural and functional changes; its façade will be restored to its original state. Aside from additional daylighting, the structure will feature new windows. An additional patio area to the west side of the center will provide generous space for a coffee shop and drive a significant and much-desired pedestrian activity.
ANF Architects Inc.
1500 Union Ave., Memphis, TN 38104
ANF Architects Inc. constructs a highly collaborative environment where creatives and design experts come together to produce a multi-perspective and diverse architecture portfolio recognized by leading institutions, especially by the regional and national AIA. Aside from its focus on interior design, architecture, and planning services, the firm also delivers sustainable architectures that answer to the growing demand for green design solutions. Lee Askew, III, an AIA Fellow and a former AIA-Memphis president, established the firm in 1975 and led his company to embrace the latest in design technologies, such as REVIT and other BIM software.
As an architect for the commercial retail sector, it produces modern and high-performing spaces. One of the firm’s most significant projects for the retail industry is its work for Palm, Inc., a global brand that offers easy-to-use mobile products. For this commission, the firm worked on producing a prototype that would transform how retail stores can encourage and facilitate a more hands-on retail experience. More importantly, the aesthetics and visual elements of the retail space were designed to bring out a relaxed, welcoming, and interactive atmosphere.
As a global brand, the firm chose a neutral, white-on-white color palette, a choice that appeals to an international audience. To be consistent with the company’s identity, the firm incorporated telltale blue and hints of orange, in reference to Palm’s official logo. Upon its completion, the project gathered national acclaim and won several awards. These include AIA Tennessee and AIA Memphis’s Design Award of Merit. It also earned Floor Focus Vision Awards and the NASFM Nat’l Retail Design Award of Outstanding Merit in the Hardline Specialty Store Under 3,000 square feet category.
109 N. Main St. Suite #200, Memphis, TN 38103
As a full-service and multi-awarded architecture and planning firm headquartered in Memphis, Architecture Inc. remains one of the most reputable companies that have contributed to the revitalization and modernization of the region’s major metropolitan spaces. The company is composed of a compact, high-caliber team of architectural professionals led by three licensed principal architects. With a combined experience of over 85 years, these creatives specialize in preservation, restoration, renovation, historic buildings, and existing structures, especially those that cater to the commercial and residential market.
Memphis, being home to some of the country’s most iconic and historic commercial and residential structures, provides some of the most fascinating preservation and renovation works for the region’s daring architects. One of the firm’s most unforgettable design projects for the commercial market is the renovation of the Court Square Center, a mixed-use complex in the city. Included in the project’s scope is the redesign of the Columbian Mutual Tower, which was built way back in 1924, as well as the o century-old Lowenstein Brothers Department Store.
To respect the significance of this landmark and preserve the historic character of the site, the building shell and its structure were retained. The Tower’s original terracotta façade and clay tile roofing were restored to their original grandeur. Lowenstein Building’s signature ornate cast iron remained. Its famed stone and terracotta detailing, lost during the 1960s, was recreated to reintroduce its original appeal. These careful architectural considerations did not prevent the firm from adding contemporary touches for the new construction.
5101 Wheelis Dr. Suite #215, Memphis, TN 38117
Multi-awarded and highly featured architecture and interior design projects, recognized by the AIA and the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), represent Fleming Architect’s comprehensive and diverse portfolio. Clients from local and established brands have relied on the firm to deliver high-quality built environments that not only contribute to the region’s emerging markets but also enhance the lives of its surrounding communities.
Collaborations helped the company assemble an extensive portfolio of modern spaces, especially spaces that cater to the commercial and retail industry. For instance, the firm collaborated with local professionals to transform a former medical office building into a community butcher shop with an equipped kitchen and a beautiful dining space. To head the architecture and interior design work for Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen and Porcellino’s Craft Butcher, the firm partnered with Sarah Spinosa, a local designer, and consulted with renowned chefs and project owners Michael Hudman and Andy Ticer.
Completed in 2015, the overall project for the two establishments involved careful consideration of the store’s origins and main products. For the 3,250-square foot Porcellino’s Craft Butcher’s concept and design, the firm incorporated the classic elements of typical Italian grocery stores: black and white tiles, vintage fixtures, Carrera marble, and large windows that allow bypassers to see the prep and cut room. Renovation and expansion were needed for the existing Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen space. The resulting work introduced a back patio, outdoor seating, and a huge stone fireplace.
John Harrison Jones Architect
431 South Main St. Suite #102, Memphis, TN 38103
Architectures that represent the unique brands, lifestyles, and goals of its project owners can be found in John Harrison Jones Architect’s commercial and residential portfolio. As an independent practice capable of delivering full-service architecture and design projects, the company has built an award-winning track record. AIA Memphis, AIA Tennessee, AIA Gulf States Region, the University of Arkansas School of Architecture, and the Memphis Landmarks Commission all commended the firm for its contributions to the region’s growing architectural scene. The firm has been operating for over twenty years and it has established long-term relationships with some of the most renowned local and regional commercial brands.
One of the firm’s projects for the retail sector was for the major renovation of Joe’s Wines & Liquor, a local retail store located in Midtown Memphis. As a local landmark, the client wanted to transform the over 60-year old store enterprise into a modern, exciting fine wines and spirits destination. The original building was a single-story structure with simple interiors that did not vividly portray the culture and passion of this homegrown brand. The building is a historic site and a part of a nearby historic district’s protected landmark. The firm was careful about respecting the heritage of the building while still incorporating modern fixtures and upgrades to achieve the client’s vision.
The project expanded the building’s space and doubled the size allocated for the retail space. The firm fully renovated the interiors to produce a spacious, more convenient path where customers enjoy optimized walkways and freely browse the merchandise. The register cage was elevated so that it can have an unobstructed view of the entire floor. One of the most iconic parts of the original building is the neon-spike star called the “Sputnik.” Using the star as an inspiration for the renovation’s theme, the new design features mosaic tile “boxes” and perforated metal panels to add character to the space. The new color palette is a nod to its original terrazzo flooring, another element that defines the identity of the site.
50 South B.B. King Blvd. Suite #600, Memphis, TN 38103
Working from eight locations across some of the biggest regions in the US, LRK has been designing transformative public and private spaces since its inception in 1983. The firm understands the importance of its people and how its willingness to “ask, explore, and evolve” has fueled its success for many years. Aside from pursuing quality architecture, the firm’s advocacies include sustainability and community involvement. Memphis Business Journal lists the firm highest in terms of the number of LEED-accredited professionals on its local team. Its projects were recently recognized by the Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards.
For the firm’s projects for the commercial retail sector, it has delivered commercial complexes that greatly benefit the community. For instance, the firm collaborated with Peter Cully, the project’s associate architect, to work on the Curb Market, a boutique grocery store that focuses on providing healthy and locally-sourced products. The work is a part of a bigger redevelopment of a ten-story Sears building. The project transformed the property into a “vertical urban village” that accommodates various residential, retail, health and wellness, education, and arts and culture venues.
As a part of this bigger purpose, the Curb Market was designed to cater to this diverse community and at the same time, aesthetically align its interiors with the vision of the store to make use of natural, eco-friendly materials. Its use of wood for its wall cladding, display cases, and in-store furniture highlights its advocacy of all things organic.
Noble Johnson Architects
8005 Church St. E Suite #104, Brentwood, TN 37027
Formerly known as William C Johnson Architect, LLC, Noble Johnson Architects works on commercial and residential projects. Despite being a small company, it has the ability to deliver mid-range to large-scale projects in the state and in nearby regions. Its comprehensive services and diversity of portfolio can be attributed to the rich background of its principal architect, William C. Johnson. Johnson is an NCARB-certified architect, a LEED-accredited professional, and a member of the US Green Building Council.
One of the firm’s commercial and retail works is for Belmont University’s The Belmont Store. The retail space sells university apparel and other merchandise for students and alumni. The store’s interiors match the classic and aged aesthetics of its home campus, with wood cabinetry and display cases to showcase its products. Large, wood-framed windows allow natural light in and provide a good view of the school’s green landscape. Exposed beams and industrial light fixtures grace its ceiling and provide warm lighting to complement the natural materials below it. The overall design presents the nostalgia and homey ambiance of belonging to the university’s rich history and welcoming campus culture.
Similar projects for the market can be seen in its portfolio, some of which can be found in Memphis, Nashville, and Brentwood. These clients have not only relied on the firm’s expertise in architecture and interior design, they are returning project owners that commissioned the firm to work in several locations in the past. StorPlace, a leading provider of self-storage units, assigned the company to complete multiple locations in Tennessee and Mississippi.
Pickering Firm Inc.
6363 Poplar Ave. Suite #300, Memphis, TN 38119
Founded in 1964 as Pickering Engineering Company, Pickering Firm Inc. has grown over the decades to offer full-service engineering and architecture services and expand its reach across Mississippi and Arkansas. Behind its success in the industry, it has relied on a simple yet enduring philosophy to “provide service and good work.” Today, the company has established lifelong relationships with some of the biggest companies in the commercial, transportation, and industrial sectors. The firm has also worked with retail corporations to design and develop some of the most iconic commercial spaces today.
In recent years, the firm has been tasked to lead the architecture design, civil site design, structural work, and mechanical, plumbing, electrical, and fire protection installation for Kroger’s grocery store located in Memphis’s Union Avenue. The project was part of the retail company’s decades-long goal of setting up a prime location in the city’s densely populated area. Designed to provide a contemporary supermarket that answers to the modern needs of neighboring communities, the result is an urban-style commercial retail space that pays respect to the nearby historic district’s architectural significance.
Instead of opting for a standard, big-box development, this Kroger location features a wide pedestrian space for a more customer-friendly environment, a hidden truck dock and parking spaces, and most importantly, a carefully designed façade that aesthetically connects the new structure to its surrounding architecture. The firm also used a neutral color palette, mostly earth tones, and incorporated modest features so as not to detach from the neighborhood’s historic theme. Since the commercial building sits across a historic church, it made sure that it stays unimposing but dignified.
9700 Village Circle, Suite #100, Lakeland, TN 38002
FedEx, US Postal Services, Hilton Hotel & Resorts, University of Memphis, YMCA, Olympus, New Hope Christian Church, and Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center are just some of Renaissance Group’s notable clients that represent the firm’s extensive portfolio of designs and developments for a diverse array of markets. Since its founding over 20 years ago, the firm has focused on architectural designs that champion sustainability and efficiency. As a designer for the commercial industry, it has produced structures that have a vision beyond aesthetics: the goal is to produce a high-performance structure that ultimately contributes to a store’s bottom line.
One example of their work is a great example of the result of these goals. The firm was commissioned to design the Germantown Station, a mixed-use retail center. Measuring at 18,335-square-feet, this uniquely designed complex was completed using innovative practices and on-budget delivery. This space, owned by Gill Properties—and designed to attract top-notched retail companies and high-end clientele—was one of the firm’s most challenging yet fulfilling projects. Aside from the project’s strict budget requirements, the client wanted to create a center with interesting design components as opposed to the straightforward architecture that currently houses many retail complexes.
The approach: incorporate innovative design and cost-effective practices while also focusing on building performance, accurate representation of the client’s brand, and ultimately, ROI. The result is a bold, visually appealing, high-quality commercial center that has successfully built its brand to both tenants and consumers in a soft market.
480 Dr. ML King Jr. Ave. Suite #201, Memphis, TN 38126
For Self+Tucker Architects, architecture and design are not just about structures and buildings; they should be more about how they impact people, enhance the lives of the neighborhood that they serve, and transform the way communities interact with each other. This philosophy has been central to the firm’s practice since its founding in 1995, and it has always applied this vision to every project that it takes on—especially when it comes to designing spaces for the commercial market.
One of the company’s largest projects for the commercial and retail sector is the New Towns Center located in Soulsville, a part of a larger historic area along McLemore Avenue. The 68,000-square-foot retail facility is a mixed-use project conceptualized as a part of the community’s revitalization efforts. In order to provide more modern spaces to modern customers, the firm was commissioned to design the center’s commercial and retail building, as well as another space for a grocery store. Situated in a busy residential neighborhood, one of the client’s goals was to create a space that would easily fit into the surrounding architecture and community culture.
The firm made use of design elements that parallel its surrounding structures, including the careful choice of materials and color palette. Some of the buildings’ façades are dominated by brick tapestry while other structures are made of metal sidings. Awnings and display windows on the first level of the buildings provide the feel of a corner store. These buildings feature massive windows that allow their indoors to connect to the busy outdoors. Administrative offices, meeting rooms, and communal spaces where people can interact and socialize are also covered in the project scope.
Thoda & Associates PLLC
5159 Wheelis Dr. Suite #100, Memphis, TN 38017
Even before Thoda & Associates’s inception over ten years ago, its pioneer design team had already contributed forty years of design services to transform the Memphis Metropolitan area’s architectural landscape. Led by its principal architect and AIA School Medal for General Excellence in Architecture recipient William R. Thoda, Jr., the firm has completed recognizable city landmark projects, especially for the commercial sector.
One of the company’s current commissions is the White Oak Shopping Center in Memphis. The project, set to complete construction in 2021, will provide retail spaces to local and national tenants to offer products, dining options, and other services to the nearby community. Designed to provide a more modern and pedestrian-friendly commercial space, the project highlights green spaces and interiors basked in natural light through floor-to-ceiling glass walls.
Aside from its projects in Memphis, the firm has also designed some of Memphis’s most iconic commercial landmarks. One example is the 6450 building located at Poplar Avenue. This retail complex was completed in 2016 and measures 29,000 square feet and accommodates locally and regionally-renowned tenants, including Club Champion Golf, Babalu, and Pimento’s Restaurant. About 5 miles away is the Stone Creek Retail Center, built and completed in 2008. The structure is home to four retail buildings that house local and household brands. It was also designed to include two, single-story office buildings.
498 South Main St., Memphis, TN 38103
UrbanArch’s reputation as an award-winning architecture and planning firm is defined by the quality of its work and the thoughtfulness of its designs. Its projects for the industrial, medical, restaurant, residential, recreational, educational, commercial, and retail sectors are all completed through the guidance and inspiration of three major factors that define the firm’s practice: cost-effectiveness, sustainability, and efficiency. These characteristics can be seen in how it took on the challenge of major renovation work for a favorite local coffee destination.
Coffee Comeback is a Memphis neighborhood icon known for providing a comfortable and cozy environment for coffee and conversations. The firm was tasked to head the architecture and interior design work for the renovation and addition work of this local landmark. Since the commercial space is located in a historic brick structure, the firm was careful to incorporate new elements into the design while making sure that the client’s new vision is also realized.
To accomplish these goals, the new interior’s materials and color palette had to be selected to create an appealing environment, a relaxing atmosphere that inspires customers to hang out and “stay awhile.” One of the highlights of its interiors is its vibrant lumber framing, arranged in a lattice-like form to create the illusion of a floating ceiling element. Below is the cafe’s service counter, which features a unique wood-clad, waterproofed, Japanese-inspired shou sugi ban technique. In reference to the historic nature of its home building, the firm added touch eroding plasterwork and exposed bricks to give the space an aged charm. The interior’s soft lighting completes the warm, homey ambiance.