Edward Bogard: Bringing Charitable Giving to the Table

by Melinda Lejman | photos courtesy of Edward Bogard

Memphis knows how to feed its people, and you would be hard pressed not to find at least a few restaurants that offer something for your culinary preferences. Whether your palette is one that longs for fresh and healthy fare, our world-famous barbecue, or something for your sweet tooth, the Bluff City has got you covered. But what if you want your meal to do more than feed your appetite?

Meet Edward Bogard, Founder and Philanthropic Designer of SoGiv, a Memphis- based nonprofit shoe design company which has partnered with the likes of Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and the Down Syndrome Association of the Mid-South. SoGiv’s model is similar to Tom’s, but instead of giving shoes, proceeds from sales of SoGiv’s limited edition kicks benefit the charity directly.

Bogard designs each shoe, incorporating the organization’s logo and promoting their mission through fashion and branding. He founded SoGiv as a nonprofit in 2011, launching its first charitable shoe design to benefit the Mid-South Food Bank. Through this partnership, more than 13,000 meals have been provided to those in need. Now he’s taking giving to the next level with a charitable restaurant which is slated to open this year.

“People don’t necessarily buy shoes every day, but they eat every day,” says Bogard, who had been looking for a new venture following the success of SoGiv. Thus, began the dream of BOGARD, Memphis’ first philanthropic restaurant which will help alleviate food insecurity through a continued partnership with the Mid- South Food Bank.

Named after its founder, it’s also an acronym – Buying One Gives Another Rare Dish. “Every time you sit down at our restaurant and have a meal, another meal will be donated to someone in need, and the goal is 100,000 meals in year one.” According to Bogard, it’s a very achievable goal based off 2% net sales of food.

Bogard has been working on the concept for the past year and is close to securing a venue in either downtown Memphis or Midtown. The menu will offer southern- inspired comfort food at a casual-upscale price point, and the bar will serve cocktails, a selection of wine, and of course local craft beer. A percentage of the proceeds from the bar will also help provide clean drinking water, because at BOGARD, Buying One Gives Another Rare Drink, as well.

The vision for the interior design has been curated to create an ambiance of warmth with touches of greenery that will make it “Instagrammable.” “It’s going to feel very warm, because giving is very warm,” says Bogard, who based the design off “summer house in Santa Monica” inspiration.

The restaurant will also sell an official BOGARD awareness shoe. “We’re going to come out with different versions, sort of like the Jordan 1, 2, 3 and so on. It’s going to be a new beginning, a new birth,” says Bogard. It won’t be an espadrille, but one that is kitchen-friendly and non-slip, and they will be worn by all restaurant staff. A percentage of the proceeds from the shoe will also benefit the Mid-South Food Bank.

Bogard grew up in Memphis, attending Campus School and later graduating from Overton High School. As a kid, he spent hours designing his own version of Air Jordans, which he called Air Bogards, giving away autographed copies for classmates. He was accepted at Savannah College of Art and Design on a portfolio scholarship with the intention of following in the footsteps of Tinker Hatfield, the designer of the iconic Air Jordans, who was educated as an architect. But Bogard had no passion for architecture.

At one point, he changed his major to photography, but his parents encouraged him to reconsider. “My mom told me, ‘You’re a shoe designer. What major is a shoe designer?’” That’s when Bogard discovered product design and switched his major again. Smiling, he told me, “I minored in photography because I knew I had a love for photography. I still do.”

SoGiv recently launched a partnership with the Memphis Urban League, with each purchase including a year’s membership to the organization. “I’m always trying to one-up myself,” says Bogard. “With the success of the (Mid-South) Food Bank shoe, a hugely successful campaign that provided over 13,000 meals, that was so gratifying as a designer.”

Bogard is currently looking to partner with an LGBTQ organization locally, and possibly nationally. “I’ve been wanting to do a pride awareness shoe for years,” says Bogard, who has reached out to Friends for Life and OUTMemphis about a potential partnership. Stay tuned for more information about BOGARD and SoGiv’s continued philanthropy in the Mid- South and beyond.