Welcome to The Dean’s List! The Dean’s List will profile up-and-comers in Memphis who are certain to be the next group of leaders in the nonprofit, corporate, government, and faith communities. The Dean’s List is curated by Kevin Dean, the Executive Director of Literacy Mid-South.
With large organizations like St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and FedEx located in Memphis, nationwide searches for talent are important for filling important positions. The Memphis talent pool grew when Chris Miritello, 32, recently moved from Manhattan to Memphis to become Deputy General Counsel of Mueller Industries Inc. Chris grew up in Long Island, NY (his accent is a dead giveaway.) Memphis is a far cry from his life on the East Coast, but he’s been impressed with the sights, sounds, food, and people of Memphis.
Chris has a BA in government from Harvard and a JD from Fordham Law School. Chris has made the Dean’s List because of his potential to become a valuable asset not only to Mueller Industries but Memphis as well!
What brought you to Memphis?
I came to Memphis to fulfill a professional goal of serving as General Counsel of a publicly traded company. It’s not necessarily an opportunity I expected at this stage of my career, but the stars aligned as they did, and I am really glad I took the job. My colleagues at Mueller have been awesome, and the opportunity to advise our Board, executives and business groups on a wide variety of legal issues has made the position incredibly rewarding. At 32, and having spent the last ten years living in midtown Manhattan, uprooting my life and relocating away from everything and everyone familiar to me was daunting, but life sometimes calls upon us to take a leap of faith, so here I am. Fortunately, I was at a place in life where I was still able to have a bit of an adventure, and an adventure it has been.
What do you think is Memphis’ greatest challenge?
As someone who likes to travel and has family and friends in another part of the country, Memphis International Airport’s continuing struggle to recover from the impact of the Delta-Northwest merger really resonates with me. The ability of people to travel to Memphis and experience for themselves all the city has to offer is such an important economic engine for the city, but the lack of flight options and prohibitively high airfares creates an obstacle. The Memphis – Shelby County Airport Authority has made some great strides this past year, and for somewhat selfish reasons, I hope the trend continues. I want my family and friends to be able to visit! I think that Memphis has a great story to tell, but has perhaps been a bit overshadowed by other southern cities. The word will get out, but people first have to be able to get here.
You’re new to Memphis. Describe what your experience has been like so far.
Life in Memphis has been great. I have been overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of spirit of the people here. Southern hospitality is a very real thing. Whenever I meet people and tell them I just moved from New York, they immediately ask me about the culture shock, but to be honest, the adjustment has been nowhere near as extreme as I anticipated. Yes, the pace of life is a bit slower, but that is not necessarily an unwelcome change. And it’s easy to meet people when everyone is so friendly and welcoming. I’ve made some great friends, and as someone who grew up near water, living in Harbortown has been great. (The water has certainly been a lot closer these days.) As a newcomer to the city, I wouldn’t live anywhere else. With Miss Cordelia’s and Harbortown Fitness within steps of my apartment, I have just about everything I need to be happy. I have also loved going to Grizzlies games, training at Corey Klein Fitness, and checking out the bars and restaurants in Overton Square and Cooper-Young. As a theater lover who used to attend a lot of Broadway shows, the Orpheum is a great venue and they are doing some really innovative and creative things at Playhouse on the Square. My biggest failure is that I haven’t yet been to Raiford’s. I need to get there soon.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen (so far) in Memphis?
Wow. Coming from the northeast, a lot of things here are certainly different. I would say it was pretty surreal seeing Emmanuel Lewis from the TV show “Webster” dancing on stage during a Justin Timberlake-Sam Moore duet of “Soul Man” at the Memphis Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Second place goes to the random recliner that was sitting in the middle of 240 for what seemed like weeks this fall.
If one of your friends was coming to Memphis to visit and wanted you to build their itinerary, what would it look like?
Let’s just say I’ve already been to Graceland enough times to make an annual membership pay for itself. It seems I’ve been there more than most native Memphians have. Those who have visited have been really impressed by Harbortown, and I enjoy showing people around that area. I think the National Civil Rights Museum and Lorraine Motel are very inspiring and must-sees. Throw in a Grizzlies game, a stroll down Beale, a duck walk at the Peabody, a trip to Old Bass Pro, and a pilgrimage to Gus’s, and I feel like I’ve been a pretty good host.
What’s the one Memphis restaurant you couldn’t live without?
Personally, I love Beauty Shop. I think the menu is so creative and interesting, and the food (along with the white wine sangria) is excellent. For a late night drink, I think the atmosphere at Mollie Fontaine’s is so unique and special. I love the dynamic and diverse crowd there. For southern cuisine specifically, I’m a Gus’s guy.
What makes Memphis different from other cities?
Memphis is a tough place to define. It’s got that “gritty” sensibility people speak of, but it is also a very warm and down to earth place, with a very sophisticated business, legal, and medical community. I truly do believe that the city’s greatest asset is its people, and folks here can’t be put in a box. I think that’s fantastic.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
If this latest move has taught me one thing, it’s to expect the unexpected. (Memphis was certainly not part of my 2006 answer to this question.) Planning can be futile, but in the spirit of answering the question: Married, kids, a dog or two. Continuing to do rewarding and challenging work I care about, alongside people I care about. Giving back to my community. And happy.
What’s the one misconception people have about Memphis that is simply untrue?
I think the biggest misconception I heard prior to moving was that I would find Memphis somehow “boring” and “slow.” I don’t think Memphis is boring at all. It offers a tremendous amount in terms of food, live music, theater, outdoor sports and recreation, an NBA franchise people are passionate about . . . the list goes on. And as I drive on 240 and 385 to and from work every day, I know this city is definitely not slow (except on Front Street and Riverside where the timing of the traffic lights makes it fairly impossible to get anywhere quickly).
What can Memphians do to make a difference in our community?
Given Memphis’s relatively small size, it really is the type of city in which individuals can make an impact – far more so than in New York, where it’s easy to feel like a small fish in the middle of the ocean. I’d encourage anyone to think about whatever it is they’re interested in or passionate about, and then find a way to channel that passion in the service of others. Maintain a positive attitude, be grateful, take pride in our community, and spread the word (both near and far) about the great things happening here. These may seem like small things, but when done collectively, they can make a really meaningful impact.