South Main artist plans new restaurant, chef dinners, teaching space

Ephraim and Sheila Urevbu have ambitious goals for their renovation of 412 S. Main Street. The space, they hope, will soon be the home of art business instruction, in-depth community conversations and a restaurant from the minds of Ephraim Urevbu and one of the city's most successful restaurateurs.


Since Onix restaurant moved out of the space last year, the Urevbus have already invested $60,000 cleaning up and overhauling the space to better accomplish their mission of "diversity through the arts."

"The word 'art' encompasses every medium of art, [including] culinary art," Ephraim Urevbu said.


Urevbu has owned 410, 412 and 414 S. Main for more than 15 years, operating his Art Village Gallery in the 410 space throughout that tenure. Before Onix launched at the 412 address, Urevbu ran his own restaurant, Zanzibar, in the space, where Urevbu said Morgan Freeman spent his 15th wedding anniversary.


But Urevbu is excited to get back into the restaurant business, and he hopes to have the yet-to-be-named eatery opened by May. Jimmy Ishiii, owner of eight local restaurants, is consulting on the project.

Urevbu is also excited for the monthly dinners he hopes to host in the space.

"Once a month we will bring in a guest chef ... to display the diversity of the culinary art. ... It will be family-style dining with one pre-selected community topic to be discussed over dinner," Urevbu said. “The goal is to eventually film it and make a mini-series of it. ... If people can learn to come together, maybe it will push this to be a city where people want to come.”


To make the dream happen, the Urevbus are looking for corporate sponsors for the dinners.

Below the restaurant space will be place where Urevbu and wife Sheila, who spent 20 years in human relations before taking over operations of the gallery in 2015, hope to train young artists in business. The pair want to partner with local college art programs to teach artists how to write press releases; present their work to galleries and exhibitions; and price, photograph and ship their work.

"Me and my colleagues who graduated from the University of Memphis had no idea how to survive in the real world, and it’s still not taught," Ephraim Urevbu said.


February 24, 2017