Made In Memphis


Beyond our obvious contribution to BBQ, Memphis has a history of innovation. That’s why, in honor of National Inventors’ Day (February 11), we’re highlighting 6 innovations that arose out of Memphis.

  1. The first Self-Service Grocery Store (Piggly Wiggly) – You can thank Memphis every time you select your preferred brand in a grocery store. Prior to Piggly Wiggly’s founding in 1916, clerks were responsible for gathering a shopper’s goods from the store shelves, wasting time and limiting options.
  2. The first modern hotel chain (Holiday Inn)– After a subpar family road trip, Kemmons Wilson decided to introduce quality and consistency to the hotel industry in 1951. Guests at his original hotel were greeted with air conditioning, television, telephone service and no additional surcharges for children. Revolutionary.
  3. Everything Logistics (FedEx) – Memphis is the proud headquarters of FedEx. First to the line in almost all things logistics, FedEx delivered everything from overnight shipping to money-back guarantees and free proof of performance. In addition to the runways, Memphis also has access to the river, roads and rails, making it a magnet for others tackling logistics innovation.
  4. Musical Diversity – In addition to being the birthplace of Blues and Rock n’ Roll, Memphis was home to the first all-African American formatted radio station, WDIA in 1947. The first all-female station, WHER, was also founded in Memphis in 1955.
  5. Sewage Systems – Memphis was the first community in the US to pioneer separate sanitary sewage collection systems, which had smaller pipes (and were consequently more affordable).
  6. Cutting-Edge Cancer Research for Children (St. Jude) – Located in Memphis, the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is a pioneer in childhood cancer research. But their innovative approach doesn’t stop at research. St. Jude’s fundraising branch, ALSAC, raises the required $2M daily operating cost through cutting-edge campaigns and strategies. Plus, parents don’t pay a dime and research is freely shared with other hospitals. Social Innovation for the win.

Other Innovative Bragging Rights:

  • The Rotary Lift – Invented in 1924, the rotary lift is found in almost any auto garage. What’s so special about it? It rotates, making it possible for cars to drive onto the lift in forward gear.
  • AutoZone – Founded by Memphian Joseph R. Hyde in 1979, AutoZone is in over 4,000 locations. The organization also supports Memphis innovation through programs like Start Co. & ZeroTo510.
  • Bicycle Infrastructure – Though Memphis is yet-to-rival Amsterdam or San Francisco in bicycle infrastructure, it is seeing more and more spotlight for innovative approaches to grow the cyclist community.
  • Sports FranchisesThe Memphis Grizzlies Foundation is leveraging one of the nation’s most popular sports franchises to mobilize support and mentor youth in new and creative ways. Moreover, Memphis’ baseball team, the Redbirds, is the nation’s only not-for-profit sports team and facility, with proceeds going toward youth programs.