The first Krystals in Memphis probably opened long before you'd expect. We had two of the little hamburger joints open here the same year — 1939 — downtown. One of them was located at 106 South Main, and the other one (shown here) was located at 143 Madison.
These weren't free-standing buildings like the Krystals of today, you understand, but were tiny diners tucked into the ground floor of existing buildings. The South Main location was shoehorned into a row of shops that included Dailey's Clothing, Stein's Furs, O.K. Houck Pianos, and Hale's Drug Store — quite a cross-section of small-town America in one block.
The Madison Avenue branch was squeezed between Carter's Barber Shop, Model Hatters and Cleaners, the Federal Bake Shop, and A&A Cafeteria — again, a reminder of the incredible variety of small, usually family-owned businesses that once thrived downtown.
I never found a photo of the Main Street Krystal, but the Memphis and Shelby County Room of the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library has this nice shot of the one on Madison, taken in 1952.
106 South Main is now a vacant lot. The location you see here remained a Krystal until it closed in 1962. Another eatery with the catchy name of Skippy Burger moved in, but didn't last long, and that particular address has attracted a long string of restaurants over the years. And during all this time, the distinctive crescent-shaped window that marked all the original Krystals has remained unchanged — or at least it was, the last time I drove by.
PHOTO COURTESY MEMPHIS AND SHELBY COUNTY ROOM, BENJAMIN L. HOOKS CENTRAL LIBRARY.