Edward Bogard is the creative force behind BOGARD, the first black-owned concept restaurant in Overton Square. (Photo: Johnathan Martin)

Things we know:

Memphis is a city where poverty is an issue.

Approximately a quarter of our people live below the poverty line.

That’s not counting folks who are homeless and unaccounted for or teetering on the brink, one paycheck away from dire straits.

The average person doesn’t have enough savings to last even three months.

Then there are food desserts in places like South Memphis, with 38126 being one of the poorest ZIP codes in the country.

Enter Edward Bogard. He’s been the creative and philanthropic force behind the SoGiv brand, the world’s first nonprofit shoe program, for just shy of seven years. The company is making a huge impact across Memphis via 20 adopted causes, each of which receives 100 percent of the proceeds generated through each shoe sold.

It was Bogard’s work with the Mid-South Food Bank that inspired him to reach higher and expand the footprint of his giving. The Hunger Awareness shoes provided 13,000 meals and the endeavor moved him to introspection.

“How do I top myself? I wanted to do something bigger, on a grander scale…how do I do something like this on a more consistent basis? Then God gave me Bogard.”

That would be BOGARD as in the first black-owned concept restaurant (versus franchise) in the history of Overton Square!

Edward Bogard earned a degree in product design from Savannah College of Art and Design and had plenty of job offers after graduation. Now he has standing offers to bring the BOGARD restaurant concept to six cities.

BUT he is a Memphian first and by choice.

“I feel like there is enough need here in Memphis….You bloom where you plant…it’s our responsibility as native Memphians to come back and do these things for the city or else (things) keep getting done out West or North first.”

Edward attributes the spirit of giving to his mom, who instilled social responsibility in him at a very young age. She led by example, showing him the importance of paying it forward. As a teacher at Hanley Elementary in Orange Mound, she stored his old clothes and (some new/current!) in the locker room for the families that needed them.

“I would be looking for something then go to school and see ‘so-and-so’ in my clothes!”

Despite, missing his favorite things from time-to-time, he absorbed this lesson: These are just things and there are people who need them more. He kept the lesson top of mind, leading to the formation of SoGiv.

Now, he has taken his name and put it in lights and not for the sake of hubris or self-aggrandizement. BOGARD  = Buying One Gives Another Rare Dish and Buying One Gives Another Rare Drink. A variation on the SoGiv model, the restaurant will donate two percent of net sales to the Mid-South Food Bank.

We all gotta eat. Why not eat and give? Memphians are a giving people, whether we have a little or lot. Whether it’s time, talent or treasure. And Lord knows we love to eat about as much as we love to give!

On a serious note, hunger is one of the largest issues in Memphis and warrants our attention. No one should be hungry, especially kids. I know we individually and collectively have talked about this ad nauseum. But we have to keep talking and keep doing.

“There are over 400,000 food-insecure people across the region, and in every zip code including where Overton Square is,” said Andrew Bell at the Mid-South Food Bank. “Highlighting that problem and reminding people about it while they enjoy fine dining…is very helpful for (the) Mid-South Food Bank.”

Bogard the entrepreneur has pulled in some other Memphis heavyweights as partners, including Ben McClain (Belly Acres), Ed Cabigao (owner of Zaka Bowl, SOB) and “our” Coach, Lionel Hollins. Coach Hollins has always been a huge supporter of the Memphis community and continues to make a home here.

“I am excited to be a partner in this new venture,” said Hollins, a huge supporter of the Memphis community and who continues to make his home here. “The restaurant concept captured my attention but giving back to the community really sold me. I have worked with Edward in the past and was impressed with his creativeness and look forward to what BOGARD is going to accomplish.”

Edward promises plenty of Instagram-worthy moments and images such as potential cameos with Coach Hollins,  plates of Southern-inspired comfort food, the swanky upscale design scheme, the Saturday Jazz Brunch and the Sunday Gospel Brunch.

And he has other surprises in store as well. Look for Bogard to open its doors in early August.