Sugar Avenue Bakery owner Edwin “Ed” Crenshaw died suddenly Nov. 2 after suffering a heart attack. He was 60 years old.
Chances are, most Memphis residents have probably enjoyed a treat from Crenshaw’s bakery.
You might not know that, because he’s been a wholesaler for area restaurants and grocery stores for more than two decades, baking cakes and other treats for others to sell under their own brands.
In 2020, Crenshaw launched Sugar Avenue Bakery, an online store that allows them to sell their high-end baked goods directly to customers. Crenshaw also operated Memphis Cold Warehousea cold and frozen warehouse for the food industry, in the same building as its commercial bakery.
According to his obituary: “An entrepreneur at heart, Ed founded Memphis Cold Storage and Sugar Avenue Bakery, shipping cakes all over the country. Never one to start a sentence with ‘I’, Ed’s mantra was ‘ what can I do for you today?'”
Crenshaw, who grew up in the Mississippi Delta town of Crenshaw, is remembered by friends and business associates for his kindness and ever-present smile.
“The best human being I have ever met”
“There will never be a man who could light up a room like Ed or a man who loved his family more,” said Elizabeth Heiskell, a caterer and cookbook author from Oxford, Mississippi. “There is a huge whole on this Earth now that Ed is gone.”
She recalled how Crenshaw created a one-of-a-kind cake for her daughter’s wedding.
“We planned his daughter Miller’s wedding, and he just had to bake the wedding cake for Miller. I asked Ed if he had ever made a wedding cake and he said no but that I don’t care. Well, I got worried and simmered,” Heiskell said. “Then I kicked into high gear when Mona Dunlap, the wedding coordinator, called me to say he was putting a light dance floor on the cake. … But I’ll tell you he has pulled it off and it was the most amazing wedding cake it was made with more love than anything I have ever seen or eaten.
Tom Flournoy owns Tom’s little kitchen. Its line of chili cheeses are made in the building adjacent to Sugar Avenue Bakery.
“Ed was the best human being I have ever met. He was always there to help me when I needed it and he was there for many others too,” Flournoy said. “His whole life revolved around of Rhea and her three kids – they were everything to him. I saw Ed several days a week, and I don’t think we’ve ever had a conversation without him saying something about at least one member of his family and how proud he was.
“Ed always had a smile on his face”
Crenshaw was a regular customer of Elwood’s Cabin and also supplied the restaurant with cakes.
“Ed has been dining at Elwood’s since the very beginning. One of our best repeat customers, and he has become a friend to me and the staff,” said Elwood owner Tim Bednarski. “Years passed before we realized he owned a bakery down the street. We started selling his cakes and fell in love with his cakes. Ed was a true master baker. Every cake was perfect every time. Our friend will be truly missed by everyone at Elwood.
Eastern Wild Hog is also a customer of Sugar Avenue Bakery. “Ed always had a smile on his face,” recalls Hog Wild owner Ernie Mellor.
Longtime friend Dudley Lee – the two met when their now adult daughters were at school together – described Crenshaw as “a giant among men”. “And it’s not just because he was tall,” he added of his friend, who was 6ft 4in tall.
Thomas Williams, a Nashville real estate agent and close friend of the Crenshaws, said: “He was kind and funny and always willing to try something new. He was truly one of the best humans I have ever known.
Crenshaw leaves behind his wife, Rhea; daughters Miller Crenshaw Cowan and Alice Crenshaw; son, Clay Crenshaw; and her new granddaughter, McNeilly Cowan.
The family said it would continue to operate both Sugar Avenue Bakery and Memphis Cold Storage. The three children worked alongside their father in the family business.
A private celebration of life will be held on Sunday.
Jennifer Chandler is The Commercial Appeal’s Food & Dining reporter. She can be reached at [email protected] and you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @cookwjennifer.