Silky O' Sullivan’s sold to new owners

Published: Nov. 15, 2022 at 11:07 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Change is the one constant in life. And Action News 5 learned exclusively on Tuesday that change is coming to one of the most legendary businesses on Beale Street.

The world-famous Silky O’Sullivan’s is being sold, after being owned by the same family for half a century.

The Silky O’Sullivan’s on Beale has been an iconic fixture on the historic street in Downtown Memphis for three decades.

But the OG’s in Memphis know that Silky’s started out 50 years ago in Overton Square in Midtown Memphis.

Before Irish eyes were smiling down on Beale Street, Silky Sullivan’s... no “O” on that name yet… opened on Madison Avenue.

“The first Silky’s, plain old Silky’s, was across the street from the first Friday’s in the state of Tennessee in Overton Square,” " said Joellyn Sullivan, owner of Silky’s and widow of the club’s founder, Silky Sullivan. “It opened in 1973.”

Twenty years later, Silky was one of the first to move his business to Downtown Memphis, opening his namesake club on Beale in 1993.

He added the “O” to the name, Joellyn said, because it’s tradition to give descendants the “O” and apostrophe, and the club was the couple’s only child.

It’s where The Diver bucket of booze was born, the Boll Weevils sprang to life, and Wednesday night quarter beers became a tradition. 

Silky’s offered live music, good food, and service with a smile, with live goats watching nearby.

And customers were hooked.

Silky passed away in 2013, and for the past decade, Joellyn continued operating the club as Silky would have wanted it.

And now, she said, she has decided to sell to David Hooper, a manager at Silky’s, and his wife Anna, a longtime employee of Huey’s.

The time seemed right, Joellyn said.

“I asked him, ‘Why do you want to do this?’” she said. “And he said because Silky O’Sullivan’s is an iconic brand. We have a real family here. We have a real concept here. And I don’t want to see it go to anybody else. I want to take care of this brand, I believe in it. This is what Anna and I want to do.”

Joellyn said she’ll stay on as a promoter for Silky’s, and she will be instrumental in organizing the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Memphis.

Silky, she said with certainty, would be proud.

“I think he would think it’s fabulous,” Joellyn told Action News 5. “I think he would say, ‘Wow, here we are, meeting every business benchmark. Here we have found a way to move forward to assure that future decades are teed-up and ready to go.’”

She said the sale should be done by Dec. 1.

She did not disclose a sales price.

The City of Memphis must sign off on the agreement. A spokesperson said the legal team is currently reviewing it.

Read the full statement from Joellyn Sullivan below:

Joellyn Sullivan announces David Hooper and his wife Anna Cade as new stockholders of Southern Fun, Inc. dba Silky O’Sullivan’s at 183 Beale Street, effective December 1, 2022. David Hooper has been a manager at Silky O’Sullivan’s for fifteen (15) years. He has extensive knowledge of all aspects of the business model of Silky O’Sullivan’s. Anna Cade is a long-time employee at Huey’s, holding several different leadership positions and specializing in customer service. Both have worked at numerous successful restaurants and have a wide array of experience. “David and Anna have chosen the hospitality industry as their career. It is a great honor that they wish to live this dream by preserving Silky O’Sullivan’s as the vital part of the Beale Street and Downtown community it currently it holds.” “Everything is being done to assure that David and Anna have every advantage for great success. Our mutual goal is for Silky O’Sullivan’s to thrive for decades to come. They understand that for Silky’s to be successful, Beale Street and Memphis tourism must also be successful. They will be vital to a bright future for us all.” Joellyn Sullivan will continue to be a promoter and producer for the Silky O’Sullivan’s brand, most especially regarding St. Patrick’s festivities. Silky Sullivan’s namesake businesses began in 1973 [50 years]. Silky O’Sullivan’s has been on Beale Street since 1992 [30 years]. Silky Sullivan passed away May 31, 2013 [10 years].

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