Trolley Stop Market is On Track to Locally Grown
When Jill and Keith Forrester opened Trolley Stop Market in Memphis in June 2010, they weren’t sure exactly what to expect. The couple, who also owns Whitton Farms in Whitton, Ark., knew their status as the only farmer-owned restaurant in the city – a distinction that’s still true today – would be a draw for some, but they had no idea how popular the restaurant would become and how quickly they would find success.
“The day we opened Trolley Stop Forrester Market, there was a line out of the door,” Jill Forrester says. “We didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into.”
Located in the heart of Memphis’ thriving Medical District on Madison Avenue, the restaurant serves lunch and dinner, as well as brunch on Saturdays, with menu items created using foods grown or produced within a 100-mile radius. In addition, Trolley Stop Market sells locally made goods such as jams, jellies, honey, soaps and candles.
“One of my friends calls us the ‘hippie Cracker Barrel,’ and I’d say that’s pretty accurate,” Forrester says.
Although the menu is full of healthy choices, including salads and veggie-packed wraps and sandwiches, there are plenty of options for diners looking to indulge, too.
“We want people to have the best of both worlds,” Forrester says. “Our customers can come here and order something healthy.” But, she adds, if they want to splurge and have a cheeseburger, they can rest assured the patty is made from “basically the best beef available in the area.”
In addition, Trolley Stop Market’s expansive menu features specialty pizzas made with from-scratch dough and toppings like pepperoni, sausage, sun-dried tomatoes, green peppers, jalapeños, sweet potatoes and mushrooms. The restaurant also makes milkshakes using in-season fruit served in a frosty mug.
From Farmers Market to Brick-and-Mortar
The Forresters’ journey to establishing Trolley Stop Market began at the Memphis Farmers Market, where they sold fresh produce from Whitton Farms for several years. Forrester says their participation in the farmers market helped connect them with area farmers who would eventually help supply their restaurant, as well as customers, and she’s grateful for the experience.
“If it weren’t for the Memphis Farmers Market and the people who volunteer their time to keep it going, Trolley Stop Market would not exist,” Forrester says.
After six years of participating in the farmers market, the couple had saved enough money to open a brick-and-mortar operation. Their original concept was a year-round farmers market with the goal of making locally grown foods more mainstream in the area. However, after choosing a building with a kitchen, the Forresters decided to open a restaurant and use the rest of the space to promote products from local vendors.
“We’re trying to generate income for local people who are interested in starting their own business,” Forrester says. “By partnering with us, their products are visible in a place that gets high traffic.”
Formerly a nightclub, the building that houses Trolley Stop Market appears warm and inviting, thanks to a unique mural created by local artist Calvin Farrar. The interior includes tables with brightly colored cloths and vases of fresh-cut flowers from Whitton Farms, as well as funky artwork, and a case filled with cakes, pies, fruit cobblers and other goodies.
“We try to reinvest in this place a little at a time,” Forrester says. “Each time someone comes in, there’s something a little different about Trolley Stop Market.”
A Taste of Tennessee
While Whitton Farms supplies a substantial portion of the food served at Trolley Stop Market – including arugula, lettuce, kale, okra, zucchini, strawberries, figs and blackberries – the Forresters also partner with several Tennessee growers and producers who supply the restaurant with meats, dairy products, produce and other items.
One of the restaurant’s suppliers is Jones Orchard, a Millington-based operation owned by Henry and Dayna Jones. The Forresters developed a close relationship with the couple through the Memphis Farmers Market, and today they supply the Trolley Stop Market with peaches, apples, pumpkins, plums, jams and jellies.
“We’ve been able to help each other out,” Henry Jones says. “It’s a win-win situation.”
The restaurant’s other Tennessee suppliers include Wolf River Honey in Moscow, a company the Forresters came across at the Cooper-Young Community Farmers Market in Memphis; Ripley Produce in Ripley; Rosecreek Farms in Selmer; Claybrook Farms in Covington; and Bring It Food Hub, a nonprofit distributor of local fruits, vegetables and other farm products in Memphis that Forrester helped establish.
If You Go...
Location: 704 Madison Ave., Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 526-1361
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; closed Sundays.
“It’s nice to know the money generated from Trolley Stop Market is actually feeding back into other local farms that we have strong personal relationships with,” Forrester says. “It’s a good feeling.”
Forrester predicts the farm-to-table movement will continue its steady growth as people grow more conscious of where their food comes from, and she says Memphis is the perfect place for a restaurant like Trolley Stop Market because of the city’s deep appreciation for high-quality, fresh food.
“It’s amazing how the community has wrapped their arms around us and taken us in, and we feel like we’re here to stay,” Forrester says.