Neighborhood Watch: Broad Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee

Broad Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee, owes much of its rebirth to the Broad Angels, female investors who banded together to support female- and immigrant-owned businesses

WORDS Beth Ann Fennelly
March 2020

Back in 2015, when taking lunch breaks from her Broad Avenue gift shop, City & State, owner Lisa Toro would walk by a long-shuttered liquor store, envisioning its rebirth as a cool retro diner. But when Toro and her husband, Luis, an immigrant from Venezuela, applied for loans to open a business, they were denied by bank after bank. Over cocktails with Pat Brown, another small business owner on Broad Avenue, Toro complained about the bankers’ good ol’ boys’ network. “You know what we need?” asked Brown. “A good ol’ girls’ network!” They reached out to friends and community leaders, and shortly after the Broad Angels were born, a group of female investors dedicated to encouraging female entrepreneurs to open stores on Broad. Two years later, The Liquor Store is a successful diner, but Toro, Brown and the other Angels aren’t resting on their haloes. They’re mentoring other women and demystifying the loan process. And they’re getting results—the majority of businesses on Broad are women-owned, with over 20 nationalities represented across the neighborhood.

Core Collective Broad

Memphis, Tennessee, United States

Jenna Goode had a thriving backyard Pilates studio when her husband pointed out a down-at-the-heels building on Broad. “You should bring your light and positivity to that building,” he urged. Core Collective Broad now “grows wellness within the community” by providing balanced exercise programs that can be sustained for life.

Falling Into Place

Memphis, Tennessee, United States

The eclectic boutique features jewelry, ceramics, stationery and crafts made by mostly local female artists. The owner, Mary Claire White, makes the shop’s signature hand-poured soy wax candles and teaches candle-making on-site—with wine included in the price of the workshop.

The Liquor Store

Memphis, Tennessee, United States

The eatery Lisa Toro envisioned now plates classic diner fare and Latin flavors such as the Cuban plate with rice, beans and plantains. Drinks include micheladas and cocktails such as the mezcal mai tai (mezcal, rum, Creole shrubb, orgeat, lime, orange and mint). Or head over in the morning and visit her gift shop, City & State, for artisanal goods, before brunching on a sweet potato sofrito bowl.

Mbabazi House of Style

Memphis, Tennessee, United States

Grace Byeitima, a Ugandan immigrant, opened this clothing boutique to “celebrate the beauty of the African diaspora.” Byeitima designs the prototypes and ships them to Uganda, where her team of 13 local women, who earn a living wage, bring her colorful “Afro-bohemian” designs to life.

T Clifton Art

Memphis, Tennessee, United States

In 2009, after retiring from a 25-year career in banking, Pat Brown opened the first full-time retail space of Broad Avenue’s resurgence, a gallery that specializes in art glass, featuring over 60 artists. And her banking background has come in handy; in the past 10 years, Brown has helped raise $30 million for the Broad Avenue revitalization.


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