Categorized | Business

Back in the Kitchen

By Thomas Sellers Jr.
mls-12-08-bus-leach-family-3cMillington is a city full of family legacies when it comes to business.
Names like Howard, Percer, Boatwright, Hodges and more still make an impact on commerce in Flag City today. Down the road in Memphis, a rich history of hard-working individuals starting a family business exist as well.
On November 21 a part of a Bluff City’s institution opened in Millington when Michael Leach brought Leach Family Restaurant to 4750 Navy Road.
“My family opened up a restaurant Melanie’s Fine Food about 30 years ago,” Leach’s owner said. “So the whole family eventually quit their jobs to go into the business with my Mother.”
Jimmie Leach’s restaurant had a divine beginning. And from that birth, her children like Michael have branched off to other eateries with the latest being Leach Family Restaurant in Flag City.
Michael’s brother Aaron was called into the ministry and was giving a shotgun church by Lucille Morris. One Sunday a near tragic event sparked the beginning of the Leach family feeding the public.
“For some reason He told everybody to move to one side of the church and the roof collapsed on that side,” Michael recalled. “So my Mother said we’ll just have to try to raise money to buy the building and try to build ourselves a church. What she started doing was baking cakes taking them to work selling them. In one year, they sold more than $6,000 in slices of cakes.”
That dough led to the purchase of a church and a small bakery. With Melanie’s operating on Watkins and Brown in North Memphis, Jimmie’s children were ready to step out on faith in the restaurant business.
“We got started off a $1,000 on a credit card,” Michael noted. “We took a $1,000 and built a business known all across Memphis.”
Part of the Leach family legacy was the first Leach Family Restaurant that was located on Madison and Orleans for a decade. Michael said the business was thriving until the construction of the trolley system on Madison.
The bulldozer that cleared the path for the trolley line became a symbol of the demolishing of his once successful eatery.
After closing his restaurant, Michael worked through a temporary service and even manage meals and banquets for former Memphis Tigers Head Basketball Coach John Calipari.
Itching to get back to his passion of cooking Soul Food and serving the public, Michael wanted to open a food truck in Millington.
“I thought Millington would be a perfect spot because I knew Ryan’s had closed,” he acknowledged. “In the process of me buying the food truck and coming up here setting up, I found out Millington has a ‘No Food Truck’ policy.”
Moving his idea to the Navy Base, Leach still had a need for a place to cook his food.
“This was the smallest place I could find,” he said. “I got in here and did a little work. Then I thought to myself, ‘Maybe I can turn this into something. This place is too big just to be cooking in. It could be a banquet hall.’
“So then I thought to myself, ‘I can turn this into a restaurant,’” Leach continued. “I changed my mind and thought I could open up a restaurant with Ryan’s closed. I know this area there are not a whole lot of home-cooking restaurants.”
Leach Family Restaurant has been received warmly in Millington as customers have enjoyed the cafeteria-style dining.
“The people out here are more laid back,” Leach noted. “They’re not violent minded. What I mean a lot of young people I have run into out here seem to have their heads screwed on pretty good. Just being out here over the past 5 months and process of trying to open this place up, I feel like I’m at home.”
Leach said residents of Millington and the surrounding area will enjoy a menu featuring the food that has been served in Memphis for decades.
“We want to bring this product and share with them something different with a soul food restaurant,” he said. “We’re just hoping people can come in here and dine with us and enjoy. Cooking is what I love. And I just love people.
“You can run a business and have people come in and patronize with you…shows you’re doing something right,” Leach added. “I teach my staff, ‘We’re open minded and color blinded.’ Everybody is somebody and if you don’t understand that just hand me your application back. It’s mandatory that everybody who walks through that door is treated special. You can put out a good product and provide decent service people are going to dine with you.”
Leach said although he knows the recipe for success, the arrival of Leach’s in Millington will take time to marinate like some of the items on the menu.
“We have a ways to go,” he acknowledged. “Right now we’re experimenting with our menu. We’re trying to add other things. But right now we’re trying to get a clientele built. And I think it eventually will.
“Once people come in and try it, the best advertising is word of mouth,” Leach concluded. “We just want people to feel like they’re home when they come to eat here.”
Leach Family Restaurant (home cooking) located at 4750 Navy Road. The restaurant has future plans to be open on Sunday but for now the hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, call 873-0464.

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