TOUCHED BY ELVIS: Businesses break out rock ’n’ roll flair to cater to tourists this week

TUPELO – Businesses are putting out the welcome mat this week for visitors to the Tupelo Elvis Presley Festival.
And this welcome mat comes with an Elvis flair.
Several downtown restaurants will add Elvis-inspired items to their menus this week. Other business owners will have their employees wear Elvis-related T-shirts or glasses. And, of course, Elvis tunes will be the soundtrack of the week.
“The Elvis fan has traveled a long way to get here,” said Jan Pannell, sales manager at Sprint Print. “They are looking for anyone who is excited about the festival and our connection with Elvis.”
Sprint Print decorates its windows with posters from the festivals. The employees wear shirts that have been redone with an Elvis flair.
On South Gloster Street, Rob Hudson chose to go all Elvis all the time at his McDonald’s franchise.
“It’s good for business, but it also demonstrates our commitment to the community,” Hudson said.
A large metal guitar sculpture is outside the restaurant at the corner of South Gloster and President streets. Inside are Elvis timelines, wall art and a decorated guitar that Hudson bought at the GumTree Festival years ago.
“If there is an opportunity to tie in with tourism, it’s not only good for Tupelo tourism, but it’s good for business – period,” Hudson said.
His efforts have been rewarded by Elvis-related tourists, who visited his former location on South Gloster and listed it on fan sites as a must-see destination while in Tupelo.
Cafe 212 in downtown also has been popular with the tourists, so co-owner Amanda Hayden makes a point to cater to their enthusiasm.
The restaurant switches to Elvis music when tour buses stop in. And, this week, Cafe 212 rolls out a special Elvis menu with names such as the Blue Suede Grill, the TCB Grill, the Hounddog and the Blue Hawaii. The Elvis menu will become permanent in a few weeks, in addition to the regular menu.
“We need to embrace what Tupelo is about and do what we can to help our tourist industry,” she said.
The restaurant also will change its hours to be open Saturday for the festival.
The goal for the businesses, said Craig Helmuth of the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association, is to make the Elvis fans feel appreciated.
“Even if they don’t come in your store, make them feel Elvis,” he said.
Bernard Bean, a partner in the Eat With Us Group, which owns Fairpark Grill, Harveys and Peppers, began encouraging businesses several years ago to decorate for Elvis’ birthday and for the festival. His restaurants get into the spirit with special menu items, costumed servers and special T-shirts.
“I just think with Elvis being born here, he is probably what we are best known for and citizens need to celebrate it,” he’s previously said. “Anything to have a little fun and celebrate our community is good.”

Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or

Last-minute Elvis decorating?
Have no fear if you haven’t decorated your business yet for the Tupelo Elvis Festival, which kicks off Thursday night.
Several businesses in town are ready to help you get in the spirit.
The Elvis Presley Birthplace is the go-to place for Elvis paraphernalia. For $30, you can get a standing life-size Elvis cutout that would make an impact inside your business or in your store’s window.
“You can use it any time you want,” said Rhonda Lamb, who runs the gift shop at the birthplace.
The gift shop also sells birthplace T-shirts, hats, glasses, notepads, beach towels, cups, plates, puzzles and Elvis music.
Costume World is happy to help get your employees looking the part. Owner Carolyn Shelby has various Elvis costumes available for rent or for sale.
She also has jumpsuits, capes, wigs, glasses, shoes and poodle skirts. The items can be bought or rented.
“I’ll work with you,” she said.
Party Works also has costumes available, along with wigs, glasses and plastic cutouts of Elvis.
The Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association has plenty of Elvis Festival posters to decorate your windows. Some of the posters are free – as long as you hang them up – and others start at $10.
“We have all the posters from this year through the first year,” said Craig Helmuth, a program associate at Main Street.
The office on Broadway also sells festival T-shirts and Elvis cutouts.
Stop on over at Tupelo Hardware and you can pick up the original Elvis guitar for your window. The guitars start at $90.
Tupelo Hardware also sells T-shirts, hats, DVDs and books, said employee Judy Hite. Plus, the store sells a stuffed hound dog that comes with its own guitar.
The Main Attraction and Beauty Motif also sell Elvis-related items that can add flair to your business.
If you are looking for permanent art, The GumTree Museum of Art opens a music legends exhibit Tuesday featuring portraits of musical greats. Most of the paintings are for sale, said Kit Stafford of the museum.
– Carlie Kollath

Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal