March, 1970: Good Burgers Wanted
Huey’s has come a long way since its founding by a local Memphian, Alan Gary, in March of 1970. The name Huey’s comes from his childhood nickname, Huey. He came up with the idea of creating a bar that was fun and unique, and a place where he and all his friends could have a good time. Of course, no good time is had without a good burger, and he didn’t have to go far to find the best meat in town. It was just a block down the road, at John Gray Big Star, where he had them grind his secret mix daily. In 1973, Gary sold his business to Jay Sheffield and Don Wood. In 1974, the majority of sales were beer and liquor and Huey’s was getting a great reputation for live music.
1976: Thomas Boggs Arrives
Thomas Boggs became involved with Huey’s in 1976 at the Midtown location. He always had a knack for the hospitality industry. At age 14, he started work at Rexall Drugstore as a soda jerk. In regards to this job, he was quoted as saying, “I’d been bitten by the bug of the restaurant industry.” He credited Davis Rexall for teaching him the basics of service and providing him his true start in the hospitality industry.
Later, Boggs married Charlotte Edge and had three daughters- Lauren, Ashley and Samantha. He eventually went back to finish his degree at the University of Memphis and waited tables at TGI Fridays. He went on to work in the corporate offices of Friday’s in Dallas, traveling to open their new outlets. After leaving Friday’s, he moved back to Memphis and started working at Huey’s as a bartender in 1976. The experience he gained from Friday’s allowed him to move into management and quickly became a partner with Jay Sheffield. Huey’s was just a bar at that time, but Boggs saw a new trend coming. He began building a menu, transitioning Huey’s from a bar into a casual dining restaurant.
In 1982, Thomas Boggs remarries to Wight Fulton and they added to two sons to his legacy, Alex and Fulton. Thomas and Wight were both very involved in the Memphis Restaurant Association and Wight was the MRA Executive Director for over ten years.
Boggs and Jay Sheffield decided to expand and open Huey’s East in 1991. Cordova, Downtown, and Collierville quickly followed. Then Southaven, Southwind, and Poplar opened in 2000-2002. Boggs’ three daughters helped open and manage Huey’s East, Cordova, and Collierville.
Eventually, Boggs became the CEO and co-owner of Huey’s. He was also partner in other successful high profile restaurants in Memphis, including Folk’s Folly, Tsunami, Molly’s La Casita, and Half Shell.
Huey’s Gives Back
Giving back to the community is very important to Huey’s and its employees. It all started with Thomas Boggs. He was deeply involved in his community, inside and outside of the restaurant industry. He believed that contributing to the growth of the Memphis community was vital, and his leadership ability shone through in many organizations. He was president of the Memphis Zoological Society from 1982-1983, vice president of the Memphis Restaurant Association from 1986-1993, president of Memphis in May in 2002, and president and advisory board member of The Food Bank. He served as Food and Beverage Co-Chair of The Blues Ball and chairman of the Memphis Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
He participated in the Leadership Memphis program, and organized the annual golf tournament fundraiser for the Church Health Center. He was an avid supporter of Rhodes College, University of Memphis, Christian Brothers High School, Center City Commission, Fire Museum of Memphis, Memphis Police Department, Red Cross, Youth Villages, Memphis Food Bank, MIFA, St. Jude, Church Health Center, and Memphis Zoo, donating food and money to fundraisers and events. He also founded the Huey’s Corporation Scholarship at The University of Memphis, served on the Vestry Board of his church, Grace St. Luke’s, and was a board member of Paragon National Bank.
The Legacy Continues
Mr. Boggs passed away in May of 2008, but his children carry on the Huey’s legacy and continue to honor the philosophy that Boggs built his business on. Lauren McHugh Robinson is President of Huey’s Restaurants, Ashley Boggs Robilio is Vice-President and Samantha Boggs Dean is Special Project Coordinator. Eventually, Alex and Fulton Boggs plan on joining the family business and Jay Sheffield still books the bands for each location to this day. In Thomas Boggs’ honor, the section of Madison Avenue between Rembert and Barksdale has been renamed “Thomas Boggs Boulevard”, dedicated to him on what would have been his 64th birthday.
Today, the Boggs belief of giving back along with the blues, brews, and burgers legacy is still alive. Huey’s continues to be voted “Best Burger” by Memphis Magazine, serves cold, refreshing beer, plays live music on Sundays, and is involved in many local organizations.