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Longtime Frayser residents excited about new business openings, ripple effect for other developments

Community leaders say new businesses - primarily along Watkins St. - could eventually add around 350 new jobs.

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — In Frayser, for decades, the area struggled with poverty, crime and other challenges. Longtime residents are changing that, by transforming abandoned buildings, opening new businesses and adding potentially hundreds of new jobs in the coming months.

"It's just excitement and overwhelming at the same time," Ms. D's Wings co-owner Queen Cunningham said.

That's the vibe Cunningham feels these days, as she witnesses new life in the Frayser community she grew up in and still calls home.

"When the neighborhood grows, we are going to grow, more customers, new customers," Cunningham added.

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Now, just yards from the Watkins Street restaurant she opened with her sister a few years ago, blight and abandonment is being replaced by hope and new opportunity.

"There is an economic revival I believe is happening in Frayser," Pursuit Of God Church Pastor Ricky Floyd said.

Across the street from the church he leads, Pastor Floyd and others are finalizing the purchase of a row of businesses. It will include a family clothing shop, with a targeted opening next month.

"Our desire is to form - as we are celebrating Juneteenth - a modern day Black Wall Street type of thing here: live in the community, own the community, employ the community," Pastor Floyd added.

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The upcoming opening of new businesses in Frayser will do more than bring new jobs and opportunities. They also instill new pride and new momentum for other business owners to follow suit and set up shop.

"Frayser is hot out here and we want to be a part of it, we want to be a part of it and we want others to join us," Peggy Jefferson said.

Jefferson and her husband recently bought another shopping center on Watkins, that includes multiple furniture stores and dozens of jobs.

"We have a lot of developments in Frayser, we want to be part of it," Jefferson added.

As for Cunningham, as new investments spring up around her, she's optimistic for her neighbors now and into the future.

"It is just wonderful and it makes the kids in the neighborhood kind of believe, gives them hope," Cunningham said.

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