Ask anyone who ever entered the retail store at Sears Crosstown what they recall most clearly and the answer is almost universal: the smell of roasting nuts, emanating from the candy counter within the entrance of most Sears stores at the time. Today, Terri Fleming is bringing that same sensory experience back to Crosstown with her company, So Nuts and Confections.
“My dad often went to the Sears department store in Whitehaven at Southland Mall to buy my mom the nut clusters, the chocolate covered peanuts and raisins,” says Fleming.
“Sears was heavy into nuts,” chimes in Fleming’s father, Willie Johnson. “It would smell so good in the building— that aroma, that flavor. It brings memories back.”
Located at the entrance of Concourse’s central atrium, So Nuts and Confections will similarly evoke those sights and smells present for so many years in the building.
“The first thing you’re going to smell when you enter is the savory, sweetness, and spices of the nuts being cooked and seasoned,” says Fleming.
But So Nuts goes beyond their candy counter predecessors. Fleming recalls that the initial inspiration for her venture came from a spiritual vision.
“I wanted to have my own business, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. And so I prayed. I fasted for weeks and months on end— and the Lord gave me a vision of nuts,” she remembers.
Soon after, Fleming opened her first So Nuts location in Horn Lake, MS, building her offerings as she continued to pray and visualize.
“I had another vision of creating not just roasted and salted nuts, but flavors such as sour cream and onion, barbecue, bacon and cheese. And, of course, praline,” she laughs. “Jalapeño, white cheddar— all varieties of nuts, all flavors, all seasonings.”
The confections Fleming offers come in the form of chocolate covered treats, such as strawberries and apples— a decadent evolution from the peanuts and raisins of the Sears days. A confectionary creation particularly unique to So Nuts are the Nannie Pups, named after Fleming’s mother’s nickname, Nannie— Belgian waffles dipped in gourmet chocolate, topped with whipped cream, and sprinkled with nuts.
Originally from Chicago, Fleming says her parents moved all six of their children to Memphis to have “a better life— a different type of lifestyle.”
“They built a foundation in us: education, church, business, and independence. Now all of their children have their own businesses— all six of us,” Fleming says.
“It makes me feel amazing,” beams Fleming’s mother, Jearlean “Nannie” Johnson. “I’ve always had faith in my daughter that she could do it. After she told me about her vision, I believed in her and believed that she could do it.”
Fleming’s daughter, Lori, expresses that she feels a great sense of pride from being on this journey with her mother and shares the same entrepreneurial spirit she inherited from her elders.
“I feel very proud and I look up to her seeing this all come together. It’s something that she’s always wanted. I’m very proud,” Lori says. “I want to have my own business like her.”
The younger Fleming then pauses and shyly giggles, “But I may stray from nuts.”
When asked why she chose to move So Nuts and Confections to Concourse, Terri Fleming answers without hesitation, “Because Concourse is Memphis.”
“It’s a representation of Memphis’s diversity— Memphis’s vision of where we’re going in the future. This is Memphis and I am Memphis,” she explains. “I graduated from Whitehaven High School and I graduated from the University of Memphis, where my daughter is a student. My son, Allen, is about to be a Memphis police officer. I want to represent my city by creating something that many people have never heard of.”
“I just want to tell young moms and single women that your dreams can come true,” concludes Fleming. “Just stay faithful and press on. All good things come about when you are focused.”