In a city full of history, Front Street Deli in downtown Memphis has a special place in many people’s hearts.
Front Street Deli might look unassuming, but when Lee Busby opened the eatery in 1976, it quickly turned into a place the community could call home.
“That’s what made it so unique, the traffic from the regulars and the offices here,” says Shelby County Historian Jimmy Ogle. “Lee was always up on his sports, his Memphis politics. Knowing the news of the day. The business of the day.”
When Busby passed away in 2013, Front Street Deli almost closed, but Lance and Carol Silkes bought the deli to make sure that legacy continued.
“It was a staple since 1976. It’s worth saving. It’s worth visiting,” says says Carol Silkes.
Four years later, the Silkes are selling Front Street Deli to focus on their Memphis food tour business. They are now hoping someone else can preserve the deli’s many stories, like being in the hit 1993 movie, “The Firm” starring Tom Cruise. To this day, you can still order a fried egg sandwich, just like in the movie. It’s stories like this that inspired one of the most famous storytellers in Memphis.
“My first ever tour was May 9th, 2008 and we had 91 people on the tour. Right through here,” says Ogle. “That’s what spring-boarded me into doing walking tours.”
So as the deli prepares to change hands, what is the hope for the new owners?
“Love Memphis. Love food,” says Carol Silkes. “Love people and just continue the hospitality that happens at this corner with residents and visitors alike.”