5 Star Stories: A look inside the Peanut Shoppe’s new downtown location

Published: Apr. 6, 2022 at 9:12 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - This 5 Star Story is about a Memphis institution that’s a little “nutty.”

In a nutshell, it’s been a downtown mainstay for 72 years and counting giving generations of Mid-Southerners the perfect snack and, thanks to its current owner, a friendly smile and conversation.

Peanuts, peanuts get your peanuts here!

The Peanut Shoppe, the oldest business on Main Street, has a new home. It’s just a few doors down from where it sat for more than seven decades.

Though the new layout is different, the store’s legacy -- and roaster are still the same.

“We are repeating the legacy. It is in the window case but he’s not rocking ‘cause he retired. The rider, they say, roughly was made in 1947, 1948 that’s when they started to make them,” said Rida AbuZaineh, The Peanut Shopper Owner. “The roaster was made 1929.”

Vintage display cases with new lighting are still filled with dried fruits and freshly roasted nuts that generations of Mid-Southerners know and love.

“Okay, we have all kinds,” said AbuZaineh. “We have Spanish, blanched peanuts, also, seasoned, spicy peanut. Plus the famous peanuts in the shell, right there. Pistachios, walnuts and almonds comes from California. Pecans, comes from Alabama. Hazelnuts and other kinds of stuff, it comes from all over the world it depends on what’s on the market, available and the quality-wise.”

If nuts aren’t your fancy, there are chocolates, old-fashioned candies, pralines and more.

For more exotic tastes, mouthwatering Middle Eastern Pastries like cashew fingers, baklava with pistachios, king-sized burrma and date cookies.

”It’s specially made for us overseas in Amman, Jordan,” said AbuZaineh. “We get it at least once a month.”

The old popcorn machine, with a fresh coat of paint, is on and popping too.

Cheese and caramel cooked in coconut oil -- But word to the wise, do not ask for Chicago-style popcorn here.

“Okay we are famous for our popcorn mix and it’s called Memphis Trio,” said AbuZaineh. “Cheese, caramel and regular and it’s to die for, I’m telling you.”

The old photos and wall hanging are also back.

“This is over 85 years old,” said AbuZaineh. “It used to say Planters Peanuts.”

And the peanut wallpaper stored away for decades. AbuZaineh and his family are the fifth owners of the Peanut Shoppe, originally established in 1929 by Planters Peanuts.

There have been multiple locations but AbuZaineh is most thankful for the store’s newest digs.

“Unfortunately, by the end of last year, ‘21, we had to relocate because the new owners of the building wanted to renovate the building,” said AbuZaineh.

The thought of costly renovation in another downtown building was overwhelming to AbuZaineh but his loyal customers paid back his kindness and concern over the years, with a GoFundMe account that raised more than $14,000.

“If it wasn’t for them for a good number of customers,” said AbuZaineh. “I would of not made it. Of course, after the help of God.”

That and a $30,000 center city development corp. The retail tenant improvement grant put the move within reach.

“The legacy’s still going and thank you, God, for that,” said AbuZaineh.

Now it’s onward and upward.

“Brighter, wider, beautiful ceiling and high ceiling,” said AbuZaineh. “What else do I ask for?”

With a devotion, Peanut Shoppe customers have come to count on.

“I work with passion and that peanuts, or cashews or pecans you taste has taste of love in it,” said AbuZaineh.

A fun fact for downtowners, AbuZaineh bought the Peanut Shoppe with his sister-in-law Sue Lauck - who owns another downtown legacy business, The Little Tea Shop and Kismet!

The Peanut Shoppe’s new location, 121 Main Street, is catty-corner to the location of the very first Memphis Peanut Shoppe at 134 Main where the Post Office is now located.

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