Sulphur Bluff, Texas, USA


The Shop of John Simmons

This is an excerpt from an article I found in a Memphis Magazine describing downtown Memphis in the 60's.

First to come was a collection of retailers, moving into storefronts along Madison that just a year before had housed a bicycle shop, insurance agencies, a drug store, and other ma-and-pa businesses. The first — and most memorable — shops in Overton Square were operated by John Simmons, a talented young man with a keen eye for what was new and avant-garde. "He was kind of 'in' with what was happening all over the city," says Saig.

"I had shops in Laurelwood and on Union Avenue," says Simmons, "and Ben Woodson called me and asked if I would move my Union Avenue shop to Overton Square. I said no, but if you will give me five leases on my terms, I will open five shops, and that's what I did."

Simmons brought to the Square such places as Sycamore (antiques and fine gifts), Forty Carrots (kitchen gadgets and a cooking school run by Frances Averitt), The Potting Shed (hand-crafted pottery), Little John's (cards and candles and "trendy things"), and Swings (contemporary furnishings, described by a reporter as a place "where you can outmod Joe Namath").

Other merchants jumped aboard. "Right after it came out in the paper that we had signed five leases," says Simmons, "every other space was leased." Eventually, almost 40 different businesses would cram into Overton Square.

"John Simmons was one of the first people in town to have art shows," says Arthur. "He was the first to have shows for Mary Sims and Sophie Coors. And everybody would go crazy going to those, because back then young people had never really thought about buying art."

That John Simmons seems like an alright fella.