Beale Street in Memphis is a place with mojo. It flows freely in the breeze buoyed by the rhythms emanating from places like B.B. King’s and the Rum Boogie Cafe.
But, I unexpectedly found some mojo in a place called A. Schwab, a funky old mercantile store that’s reveled in the Beale Street mojo since 1876.
There’s so much to love about Schwabs. It’s an immigrant success story. Abraham Schwab coming here from France to live the American dream. His is the only original business left on Beale Street. This story is also the oldest store in Tennessee, I was told.
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An Original Store on Beale Street in Memphis
You’ll find a mish-mash of everything for sale on the two stories here and that’s part of the fun. Schwab’s advertises that they specialize in hoodoo items. There’s vintage clothing and old-fashioned candies, along with an old-fashioned soda fountain. The soap collection is pretty rare and apparently includes several lines that Mr. Schwab personally enjoyed more than 100 years ago.
There’s a little museum about Beale Street on the second floor. Most of it is old pictures, a few sale bills and personal items from the Schwab family, but it’s worth a few minutes of your time to better understand this funky, historic area of Memphis.
I loved the bow ties for sale, handmade from his grandma’s sewing scraps, by a little boy named Moe – Moe’s Bows. Darn if they weren’t cute! And quite popular in a city where bow ties are fashionable thanks to hometown boy Justin Timberlake.
The latest in bow tie fashions
Mojo and Hoodoo at Schwab’s on Beale Street
As I was admiring Moe’s Bows, the sign pointing upstairs caught my attention: “Mojo.” That deserved some investigating.
The mojo for sale at Schwab’s is a selection of hoodoo items: incense, candles, herbs and charms. It’s something I would have expected to find in New Orleans, but didn’t expect to find it in for Memphis.
But everything about Schwab’s represents the idea of mojo — Abraham Schwab setting out to America to find his way; a store that today doesn’t conform to the ordinary; that allows a little boy named Moe a place to sell his bows; a place where candy like my grandma kept at her house is still for sale; a place where the blues wafts in on the air each time the wooden door squeaks open.
That’s a place with mojo, a place with individuality and freedom to be just what it wants to be. It’s not something you can buy or sell. It’s just something you have. And A. Schwab’s on Beale Street in Memphis has it.
Get Your Beale Street Mojo