Elvis Presley Enterprises is taking over the last two independent souvenir shops at Graceland but says it has no immediate plans to expand. Graceland spokesman Todd Morgan said, however, that closing the independently owned shops gives EPE freedom to move quickly on new ideas for more company-owned stores, museums or the like.
The independent shops, Memories of Elvis and Loose Ends, are in a strip mall owned by EPE next door to Graceland Plaza, the company's main shopping complex. Their leases won't be renewed when they expire in November, said Carol Light, owner of Memories of Elvis. "It's a tragedy with the big people squeezing out the little man," Light said.
The company is just going about its business, Morgan said. "It doesn't make a lot of sense to lease space to a competing business," he said. For years after Presley's death in 1977 at Graceland, his Memphis residence, independent trinket hawkers controlled the Elvis souvenir trade.
In the early 1980s, Presley's estate lobbied the state legislature and went to court to gain the legal rights to his name and likeness. The independent shops then were restricted to selling souvenirs licensed by the company.
Presley's last living heir, daughter Lisa Marie Presley, sold majority ownership of Elvis Presley Enterprise in February to CKX Inc., a company run by Robert F.X. Sillerman, the founder of music and sports promoter SFX Entertainment.
Lisa Marie Presley retained ownership of Graceland, with an agreement to continue allowing public tours of the white-columned house her father bought in 1957 for $102,500. Sillerman's ownership group is expected to expand EPE's worldwide business, but no major projects have been announced.
When Presley's estate opened Graceland to the public in 1982, a small strip mall across Elvis Presley Boulevard from the home held a hodgepodge of shops selling the tackiest of trinkets, from American eagle toilet seats to small vials of "Elvis sweat."
Graceland eventually took over the shopping center and built Graceland Plaza in its place. In 1997, EPE bought the nearby strip center that became Graceland Crossing.
EPE contracts with more than 100 licensees to produce a wide range of Elvis and Graceland souvenirs, such as coffee cups, T-shirts, concert jackets and teddy bears in Presley costume.