Cooper Street Revival!

101 Things to See & Do Along Midtown's "Magic Mile"

illustrations by Tyler Hildebrand

(page 1 of 5)

Madame Irwin, “The Iron-Jawed Wonder.” Roller-skating whiz Rollo the Limit. A re-enactment — in fireworks — of “Admiral Dewey’s Victory at Santiago.” A century ago, bizarre entertainment like this drew Memphians to East End, the amusement park at Madison and Cooper. In time, businesses developed around the intersection at the “east end” of our city: Whitmore Bicycle Shop, Purdy-Jester Drugs, Burkle’s Bakery, Pappy’s Lobster Shack.

Just a few blocks south on Cooper — five minutes away by trolley — a separate community sprang up around Young Avenue, where the streetcar turned east towards the fairgrounds. Hardware and grocery stores opened, along with the Peabody Theatre and lots of eateries: Herman’s, the Lenox Café, the Two Way Inn.

Over time, these communities evolved into full-fledged “entertainment districts,” well-known to generations as Overton Square and Cooper-Young. But for years, we regarded them as separate domains, and when the fortunes of one (say, Overton Square in a dormant period in the 1990s) declined, the other seemed to prosper.

It’s just not true anymore. With new life being invested in Overton Square (thank you, Loeb Properties), and new businesses opening along Cooper, the heart of Midtown has never beat more steadily. On these pages, we introduce you to a hundred or so highlights of Midtown’s “Magic Mile.”



Begin your neighborhood tour by checking out the flashy neighborhood mural painted along the walls of the parking lot on Walker, just west of Cooper. We’re especially partial to that purple jaguar. Cooper, south of Young


First Congregational Church, or “First Congo,” as it’s known in the neighborhood, houses a multitude of activities, including a hostel, a coffee shop, and bike shop. And the sanctuary is gorgeous, complete with an inlaid Amiens labyrinth for meditational walking. 1000 S. Cooper


Revolutions Bike Shop (in First Congo) helps provide bikes for the underprivileged. 1000 S. Cooper


Also located in First Congregational Church, Theatre South is home to Voices of the South, Memphis’ only theater company dedicated to creating and producing original work. 1000 S. Cooper


Stunning leafy greens, perfect melons, fine root vegetables and tomatoes, delicious breads and homemade jams and pies — the Cooper-Young Community Farmers Market offers a fresh bounty each Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the parking lot next to First Congo. 1000 S. Cooper


Aptly named after a folk tale, Stone Soup Cafe & Market is legendary. From generous breakfasts (Big Rex) to comforting lunch choices (Southern selections, veggies, and sandwiches, and don’t skip dessert), you won’t quickly forget this dining experience. 993 S. Cooper


The sign on the quaint old house says Wilson Babb Workroom, but step inside and you’ll discover a furniture store that also offers custom-crafted items, and upholstery repairs. 984 S. Cooper


A former hair salon for Priscilla Presley, The Beauty Shop left its hair dryers in place before fusing mid-century kitsch with a global menu and updated American classics. 966 S. Cooper


The offerings at Allie Cat Arts lean in the funky/folk art direction. Think robots made out of cigar boxes, bottle trees, and purses created from old vinyl records. This cute little shop also frequently hosts art events featuring local artists. 961 S. Cooper


Does the tapas Bar DKDC have attitude? Well, of course. So embrace your crazy self with a pile-up in the photo booth and a pretty Mason jar filled with blackberry julep. 960 S. Cooper


A neighborhood fixture for music and Wednesday night pint night, Young Avenue Deli also serves good and affordable food. Try the Sam I Am sandwich and the deli’s awarding-winning fries. 2119 Young


Tucked into a former grocery store, Café Olé has anchored the southeast corner of Cooper and Young for 20+ years, dishing out tasty Mexican food on bright Fiestaware dishes. The next door patio, complete with misters to quench the summer heat, is one of the best in town. (As we go to press, the establishment is under new ownership.) 2127 Young


It’s a cliché, but don’t feel compelled to order from the menu at Mulan. Ask your server what authentic off-menu Chinese dishes are available. Or just ask the Chinese family at the next table what they’re having. 2149 Young


Whether you like your music new or old, recorded on LP, CD, 45, or 78, Goner Records has got you covered. The record label that is also Goner has put out singles and LPs by The Reigning Sound, Harlan T. Bobo, King Louie Bankston, The King Khan and BBQ Show, and Jay Reatard. 2152 Young


Sip a margarita or glass of vino at the Polish Bottle and unwind while getting dolled up with a facial, brow wax, or mani/pedi with a fun shade like “A Good Man-darin is Hard to Find” or “Turquoise and Caicos.” 2163 Young


Since 1992, coffee, community and music have shaped a charming trifecta for hippies and hipsters who like Java Cabana’s feisty chess games and the talent at open-mike night every Thursday. 2170 Young


A woman’s wardrobe isn’t complete without a handbag, and Kindred Spirit Style sells custom-designed bags that are more than just purses. They offer owners “freedom, fellowship, and fearless living.” 2172 Young


A charming shop for women’s clothing and accessories, Loudean’s is tucked into a cozy cottage built in the early 1900s. It’s the only place in Memphis to find the oh-so-comfortable FLAX linen clothing line. 2174 Young


Young Avenue Studio’s Studio A was designed by Alan Stewart, whose well-known clients have included Eric Clapton and The Beatles. The only other Stewart-designed studio in the U.S.: Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland in New York. 2258 Young


From the simplest designs — flowers or your significant other's initials — to full-blown, full-color works of art, they've got you covered (head to toe, if you prefer) at Underground Art, one of the best-known tattoo studios in Memphis for 20 years now. 2287 Young

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