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'This whole area was dead' | Starbucks, AutoZone coming to Southland Mall, supporting greater Whitehaven area

Public Storage (Aug. 1) as well as Starbucks and AutoZone (early 2023) are confirmed to open at Southland Mall—announced a year after a push for property cleanup.

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — The Southland Mall in Whitehaven has sat dilapidated—looking partly abandoned for years. 

Now, a Starbucks plus other stores are opening at the first enclosed mall in the Mid-South.

Public Storage (Aug. 1) as well as Starbucks and AutoZone (early 2023) are confirmed to open at Southland Mall—all announced a year after a push for cleanup on the property.

Sears and Macy's, the property’s previous two flagship stores, vacated leaving over 30,000 square feet empty.

"We cook with love on the spot—Whitehaven’s finest,” Chef Precious Thompson Jones said.  

It’s a momentous move for the historic Whitehaven neighborhood—one that businesses on Brooks Road are feeling. The restaurant that Jones owns, Fabulous Flavors, is no exception.

“This whole area was dead," Jones said. "All these businesses mostly were closed down. My food truck burnt up one night, and I put on Facebook ‘God I need you to release me some land.’" 

Chef Jones purchased the space for her restaurant on faith.  

Soon after that post, someone told her the whole building was on sale. 

“I was like what? My husband just lost his job too, and I was like 'are you ready to trust god with me?'” 

So Jones poured her love of cooking into her new culinary endeavor.  

The road to opening wasn’t easy.  

“I’ve been a convicted felon since ’18," Jones said. "When I came home my first job was the Waffle House.” 

The former Memphis City Schools cafeteria lady got into the Second Chance Program to get on her feet.  

“I believe in giving other people chances because I got another chance, and that was the best thing to ever happen to me—to lose my freedom,” she said.  

The entrepreneur said about new businesses coming to Southland,  "It’s a blessing—Whitehaven coming up. More jobs—we need less crime.” 

Chef Precious knows that first-hand.  

Her restaurant was vandalized and burglarized multiple times.  

“They bust my TVs, they bust the doors, they knocked my cameras down and he took him a drink of water.” 

It’s an issue Whitehaven is seeing more of with a recent upswing in property damages and burglaries.  

The Greater Whitehaven Economic Redevelopment Corporation is expanding grants to include exterior cameras. They will be plugged into MPD's network to solve more crime. 

“We always need good cameras to catch photos of everything going on," Jones said. "The good parking lots—we need that, as you can see, we got holes in the parking lot. The signage falling off the building.” 

The list goes on.  

Jones said to keep new investments from pulling out, security is needed. 

"People want to feel safe," she said. "I have people calling me ‘like is it safe around there?’ Yes, it’s safe."

Safe while serving, “Strawberries on each plate. That means it’s cooked with love on the spot.” 

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