Article and Photography by Kendra Lyons
“It just sounded like the coolest thing, going to Memphis to study music.”
I pulled up to Jack Simon’s house, close to the University of Memphis,
his alma mater, on Memorial Day afternoon. It was sweltering hot and I was feeling anxious to celebrate with my friends afterwards and to be entirely honest, slightly unprepared for this interview. I pulled the keys out of the ignition and turned to my left to double check the house number, when I spotted a lanky 20-something with long curly hair and a pirate hat trudge across the yard and enter the house. I guessed I had the right place.
Simon greeted me with a wide smile and warm hospitality, as if we had been friends forever. “I just cleaned the whole house,” he explained as he showed me around. We headed out back to the grassy yard to chat so I could learn more about the company he founded as a student at U of M, Brister Street Productions.
“It’s so cool. This is just how it happened. One day I’m walking to the corner store...It’s at the end of Brister Street. And I’m walking down the street and I hear this music coming out of this house and I just thought, this sounds good! I’m just going to post up and hope they’re cool with that. So I just hung out at that house. I just posted up on the front porch and every time there was a break in the music I’d knock on the door. Come to be one of my best friends answers the door and says, 'yo, you like the music? Come on in!'”
From there, the Brister Street family was born. The guys in the Brister Street house did everything from movies to music videos to throwing parties featuring local bands, without necessarily realizing they were in the early phases of establishing their own company.
Today, Brister Street Productions primarily does event planning and music production, but also promotes local artwork and even just launched a clothing line, which features art from local artists on high quality jersey-like t-shirts, as well as a classic logo tee, and fun pieces like the “fourties” baseball sleeve-inspired shirt.
One of Simon’s proudest Brister Street accomplishments to date is hosting Bristerfest,
“a grassroots music festival founded in 2011.” The first three events were held at Levitt Shell
, and this year, it moved to the Cooper-Young neighborhood.
Bands who performed included Dead Soldiers, Free World, Mighty Souls Brass Band, Paul Taylor, and Ghost Town Blues Band
(Note: Simon and co. now sport GTBB’s van to transport equipment and people to events), just to name a few.
Simon exemplifies the new businessman we are seeing in Memphis; and by that I mean, you cannot define him. The new Memphis businessman might be wearing a suit and look “corporate,” or he might be wearing a pirate hat. He might be a business major, or he might be a Communications, Media, and Political Science major (Simon’s own conglomeration of communications, journalism, political science, music business, art, and philosophy). Simon and Brister Street Productions show the great variety of businesses that are “taking over” as Simon likes to say, the business culture in our city.
I asked Simon how he managed to balance what he loves and how he makes money. Simon lives by his mother’s advice, “do what you love and money will follow,” which taught me that in the new business world, there does not necessarily have to be a balance or compromise when it comes to striking happiness and building a successful career. The days of sacrificing passion for the sake of income seem to be numbered, as entrepreneurs like Simon pioneer the way for a new kind of business- and so far, I find this version much more inspiring.