Cooper Street Revival!

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



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.”

 

1

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

2

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

3

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

4

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

5

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

6

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

7

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

8

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

9

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

10

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

11

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

12

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

13

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

14

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

15

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

16

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

17

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

18

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

19

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

20

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

 

21

From vegan fried shrimp to BBQ pulled “pork” to dairy-free cheesesticks, Imagine Vegan Café serves classic comfort food sans the meat, eggs, or dairy. Don’t skip dessert: If we didn’t tell you, you’d never guess the moist homemade layer cakes, flaky pies, and gooey brownies were made without milk or eggs. 2299 Young

22

Just look for the curved façade — a holdover from when the trolley swung eastward here and headed to the fairgrounds — and you’ll find Ink, the new restaurant, bar, and lounge. There’s lots to enjoy here. Ever had a catfish burrito? Well, here’s the place to get one. 948 S. Cooper

23

One of the first indications that Cooper-Young was coming on strong was when the boat shop and yard — yes, a boat yard — that long dominated that particular corner was replaced by a bank. The location is now a Bank of America branch location, if you’re hunting for an ATM. 945 S. Cooper

24

In a cavernous space that gets rockin’ on the weekends, Alchemy marries hand-crafted cocktails with small plates to shape a metropolitan bar scene for professionals of all ages. 940 S. Cooper

25

Since opening in 2010, Sweet Grass has garnered repeated accolades, and rightly so. Chef Ryan Trimm’s Carolina specialties, served in small, medium and large plates, are sassy but familiar and locally sourced. 937 S. Cooper

26

For a more casual menu, head to Sweet Grass Next Door (the restaurants share a kitchen) for a Bloody Mary with pickled okra and the best fried egg, bacon, cheddar, and avocado sandwich on milk bread you will ever eat. 937 S. Cooper

27

When Burke’s Book Store made its move to Cooper-Young several years ago, it was a great fit for one of the oldest independent book stores in the country. New books, second-hand books, readings by local and nationally recognized writers: Owners Corey and Cheryl Mesler are keeping it all in the neighborhood. 936 S. Cooper   

28

Pet a pussycat, or better yet adopt one, at the House of Mews, Elain Harvey’s feline sanctuary and gift shop. 933 S. Cooper

29

A culinary anchor of Cooper-Young for 15 years, Chef Ben Smith updates the Pacific Rim cuisine at Tsunami with fun additions like izakaya, small Japanese plates to accompany drinks. 928 S. Cooper

30

Formerly Britton’s Watch Repair, Collin Britton revamped the family business for a younger generation of vintage watchmen. Memphis Mean Time boasts an extensive antique collection along with the expertise to fix just about any watch. You’ll want to make time to stop in. 917 S. Cooper

31

With its homey atmosphere, welcoming service, and generous portions, Jasmine Thai and Vegetarian Restaurant is a family establishment in every sense of the word. When they say spicy they mean it. 916 S. Cooper

32

Not just a head shop, Cooper-Young Glassworks & Gifts also sells unique hand-blown wine glasses, ornaments, and decorative jars. But their multi-hued smoking accessories are not to be missed. Just don’t let your budget go up in smoke. 906 S. Cooper

33

Start off your Sunday morning at Celtic Crossing, Cooper-Young’s genuine Irish pub — founded in 2005 by fair-headed lads from County Mayo — with the full Irish breakfast, or if you prefer, Galway Bay mussels or Scottish eggs. And if you sleep in, don’t worry: the Crossing is open into the wee small hours every night of the week. 903 S. Cooper

34

Unlike most salons today pushing expensive gels and products, Sally’s Hair Gallery has specialized in the basics — cut and style — since 1990. Sally herself even answers the phone when you call. 898 S. Cooper

35

For 10 years, the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center on Cooper has been offering support services (AA meetings, youth programs, free HIV testing) and social opportunities (film festivals, art auctions, and potlucks) for the LGBT community. 892 S. Cooper

36

The Memphis Drum Shop isn’t just a store where you can buy most anything that makes noise by being struck, scraped, or shaken. It’s a vital community hub for Memphis area percussionists. 878 S. Cooper

37

The kitchen is tiny at Soul Fish Café, but cooks still churn out po’boys like the Memphis: a stack of smoked pork tenderloin with bacon, coleslaw, and barbecue sauce. 862 S. Cooper

38

An old building doesn’t necessarily need an old (meaning: dated) interior. At GCD Interiors, Glennys Bryant and Jill Street can make your house a home. 852 S. Cooper

39

Whether you’re planning a wedding reception or a corporate fund-raiser, for three decades Heartbeat Productions has been the go-to company for providing bands, singers, and just about any kind of entertainment you’d like. 832 S. Cooper

40

Engage in an antiquated form of geekery by renting a cult classic film from Black Lodge Video. Take it home and pop the movie in your VCR or DVD player: no buffering! 831 S. Cooper

 

 

 

41

Kathy Katz, owner of a little grab-and-go spot called Cooper Street 20/20, offers a disclaimer with her famously good spanakopita. Once you try it, she says, “You are mine for life.” 800 S. Cooper

42

The personal training counterpart to their 24-hour gym location in Harbor Town, Inbalance lets Midtowners get their fitness on under the watchful eye of a certified personal trainer to make sure your butt is sufficiently kicked after every session. 794 S. Cooper

43

The New Ballet Ensemble is both a school and company devoted to classical dance with a twist. Ballet, Flamenco, and urban dance styles mix and mingle freely. 2157 York

44

Making custom T-shirts and apparel for the likes of sports teams, businesses, schools, and church groups has put Bluff City Sports on the map. Services like an online design studio have kept them there in a competitive market. 769 S. Cooper

45

A burned-out concrete foundation of a building — we can’t even remember what used to be there — isn’t the most scenic site on Cooper, but in 2011 artists Siphne Sylve and Brandon Marshall dressed it up with a can’t-miss-it “I Love Memphis” mural. Cooper, south of Central

46

Railroad trestles cross lots of streets in this city, but few of them have a miniature village atop them. The cool thing about this one is each of the structures is copied from a real building somewhere in the neighborhood. So study it awhile, and then go find the real thing. Cooper, south of Central

47

Occupying the same spot on Central since 1964, Albert Cook Plumbing has been the “King of the Kitchen and the Prince of the Bath.” The company’s elegant signage and great customer service never go out of style. 2101 Central

48

For garden lovers, Midtown Nursery, nestled under a train overpass, means fewer drives to East Memphis for all things green. 2120 Central

49

This architecture, planning, and design firm has left its mark on Memphis. Some of Haizlip Studio’s striking work includes Gibson Guitar, the Rock ’N’ Soul Museum, the Children’s Museum of Memphis, the U of M University Center, and My Big Back Yard at Memphis Botanic Garden. 2125 Central

50

Look closely among the pine chests and painted European pieces at Toad Hall and you’ll spy an actual toad or two. One, when dissolved in water, turns into a prince. 2129 Central at Cooper

51

This Mapco is the hub of the C-Y neighborhood, where everybody from all levels of the socioeconomic scale comes for gas, ice, cigs, hot-dogs, donuts, lottery tickets, and beer. And all leave hearing the friendly clerk say, “Have a blessed day.” 2142 Central

52

If you’re searching for exclusive clothing brands to spice up your wardrobe, or unique rugs, wall art, and tapestries for your apartment, Urban Outfitters is the place for you. You can even buy a set of turntables to play records, or a cocktail shaker to whip up that mixed drink you’ve been desiring. 2151 Central

53

Gary’s Antiques rewards the inquisitive, indefatigable, discerning buyer of old stuff who relishes the hunt as much as the quarry. What can you find on any given day at Gary’s? A shorter answer might be what you can’t find. 2158 Central

54

Just off our Magic Mile lies Palladio Antiques and Art, which houses 75 designer vignettes with fine European and American antiques along with original art primarily from local artists, all under one expansive roof. Spend a rainy afternoon wandering its maze-like corridors, and remember: one man’s junk is always another’s treasure! 2169 Central

55

In a short amount of time, Sew Memphis has, yes, woven itself into the Cooper-Young fabric. Celebrate the textile arts by buying cloth and patterns, taking sewing and quilting classes, or hosting parties. 688 S. Cox (off Central)

56

They clean, repair, appraise, and store ‘em. And with 120 years of history and four generations running the biz, it’s a pretty good guess Fred Remmer’s knows rugs. 2186 Central

57

A full-service veterinary clinic, Central Animal Hospital is also one of the few places in town that offers acupuncture for your pet, among other treatments for our four-legged friends. 2192 Central

58

Xanadu has a huge and eclectic selection of used books, from coffee table tomes to great literature to pulp fiction. And it’s a music store that features amps, guitars, and owner John Lowe’s hand-crafted “Lowe Bowes,” which have to be seen to be believed. 2200 Central

59

A perennial favorite with our readers, whether they’re fans of ribs or shoulder, the original location of Central BBQ also offers up one of the best barbecued-bologna sandwiches on the planet, and even a portobella salad for vegetarians. Nice cakes and cookies, too! 2249 Central

60

With a heat-busting splash area and a toddler-friendly playground complete with swing set and tunnel slide, Peabody Park is the escape you remember from your own childhood strolls. Kids’ laughter makes a nice soundtrack. S. Cooper at Higbee

 

 

 

61

The oldest and largest commercial printing company in the Mid-South (it turns 150 in 2014), Toof Commercial Printing moved to Cooper in 1965. A business that has, quite literally, brought color to the neighborhood for almost 50 years. 670 S. Cooper

62

Snuggle with a friend, a laptop, or a latte at Otherlands Coffee Bar, where the décor is thrift-shop chic and the beverages are hot, cold, frozen, or fresh-squeezed. 641 S. Cooper

63

The creative class at Combustion sparks Cooper Street with its design and advertising work, catching fire through its clients throughout the city, including Campbell Clinic, International Paper, Graceland, Memphis College of Art, and Tsunami. 630 S. Cooper

64

Evangelists for the entrepreneurial spirit, the Southern Growth Studio specializes in market growth strategy and innovation. 619 S. Cooper

65

Aches and pains getting you down? Holbourn Integrated Therapy specializes in the treatment of joint pain and weakness, whether it’s caused by a tennis injury or a car wreck. 612 S. Cooper

66

A longtime landmark, Easy Way’s loyal customers won’t shop elsewhere for fruits and veggies and a few “essential” grocery items — like coconut macaroons. 596 S. Cooper

67

Mid-City Barber Shop is old school. Don’t expect a masseuse, wifi, or flat-screen TVs. Do expect three old guys in white coats who will give you a shave, rinse their razors in sea-foam sinks, and take a little off the top. 567 S. Cooper

68

Need a card for your sister’s gay wedding? Inz and Outz, Memphis’ only LGBT pride-themed gift shop, has you covered. You’ll also find all manner of rainbow-colored everything (flags, wigs, candles, jewelry) and um, plenty of interesting adult novelties. Leather harness, anyone? 551 S. Cooper

69

For more than half a century Graham’s Lighting Fixtures has been keeping the lights on for us. You’ll find both new and antique fixtures at this splendid family run-business. 550 S. Cooper

70

And next door, at Graham’s Outdoor Living Center, check out the latest in deck furniture. 550 S. Cooper

71

Feel like something satisfying cooked to order at 3 a.m.? Stop by Slider Inn for mix-and-match mini-burgers and a mountain of shoestring fries with bourbon mayo for dipping. 2117 Peabody at Cooper

72

Find your balance at Midtown Yoga, where classes in vinyasa, yin, and hot yoga are offered alongside specialized classes for detoxing, for cancer patients, or for body alignment. Namaste. 524 S. Cooper

73

Stop into Cafe 1912 and pull up a chair at the bar. Barkeeps Ryan or Denise will be happy to pour you a Belgian beer or a nice pinot and serve you the best Lyonaisse salad in town. A friendly spot to get away from it all. 243 S. Cooper

74

Get framed in style by “eyewear architects” at the Eclectic Eye.  And the bright green sign with its clever logo is sure to pop your peepers. 242 S. Cooper

75

Beef tips over noodles or salmon croquettes? At Bob’s Barksdale Restaurant, plate lunch specials are as hearty as the café’s signature biscuits, hot cakes, and sausage gravy. 237 S. Cooper

76

Tie the knot at The Chimes with its high ceilings and feel of an old chapel and entertain the wedding party right next door at Occasions Reception Hall. No, it’s not a tiny church in a charming French village, but forget you’re on busy Cooper Street and perhaps you can pretend. 201 S. Cooper

77

For many in Memphis, DeNeuville Adult Learning Center is a little peace in the heart of Midtown. The nonprofit empowers women here from all around the world, with ESL, GED, computer skills, and other education and self-worth counseling. 190 S. Cooper

78

Sure, it’s now a Walgreens, sort of, but Ike’s will always be Ike’s, with its wooden floors and enormous stocks of oddball snack foods, auto supplies, pet paraphernalia, cheap gas, and a great optical center. Cooper and Union

79

In 2010 Memphis’ premiere professional theater company moved into a magnificent new building inspired by Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre. In addition to producing a wide range of plays and musicals Playhouse on the Square has frequently partnered with other performing arts organizations, most notably Ballet Memphis, Opera Memphis, and the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. Cooper & Union

80

Those with craft-beer aspirations can get the supplies and knowledge at the Winery & Brew Shoppe, which has been in the Overton Square area since the 1980s. 60 S. Cooper

 

 

 

81

For more than three decades, Sowell & Company Realtors have been making homeowner — and home seller — dreams come true, handing over the keys to a new house or getting that old house sold. 54 S. Cooper

82

Before this 1930s-era movie house was converted into a venue for live theater and cabaret performances the Circuit Playhouse was called The Memphian and it was Elvis’ favorite place to watch late-night movies with friends. The Memphian was also featured on the cover of Joe Walsh’s 1987 album, Got Any Gum? 51 S. Cooper

83

In a converted Queen Anne house called Restaurant Iris, Chef Kelly English pays homage to his roots with upscale dishes like “Surf and Turf,” a New York strip stuffed with blue cheese and fried oyster. In the bungalow next door, look for a fall opening for the Second Line, where English plans a more casual menu of Louisiana classics (meat pies!). 2146 Monroe (east of Cooper)

84

Theatreworks is a place where you can see an American classic one night and performance artists walking barefoot across live mouse traps the next. This versatile black-box theatre is home to several small theatre, dance, and comedy troupes. 2085 Monroe (west of Cooper)

85

Cheese lovers have the option of a 50-sample tasting of Italian cheeses at this pretty and cozy restaurant. Bari requests both 24 hours’ notice and a credit card in advance. After all, it takes some time to cut up and label 50 bites of cheese. The cost is $150 and feeds two to eight people. 22 S. Cooper

86

After you’ve gotten “cheesed off,” walk around the north side of the restaurant to admire the Bari Mural. Designed by David Lynch and painted by Anthony D. Lee, it’s painted on a flat side of the building, but the images that capture landmarks in Overton Square are strikingly three-dimensional. 22 S. Cooper

87

Trimble Place is the little street off Cooper that runs behind Bar Louie. And after a couple of cocktails, you may find yourself, well, trembling if you stumble upon the giant eyeball of the Salvador Dali-esque security building painted by Mary Norman. Trimble Place

88

Let your sweet tooth dance while telling your body it’s a healthy jig. At YoLo you’ll find triple chocolate yogurt (low-fat!) with toppings that range from Oreo pieces to pineapple and blackberries. 6 S. Cooper

89

Hot dogs and Mexican food may seem like an odd pairing, but at Chiwawa, the pair blend seamlessly when washed down with an adult sno-cone spiked with booze. Try a fried avocado Chubby Vegetarian Taco (named for Memphis magazine photographer Justin Fox Burks) or a spicy vegan Bianca Dawg (named for Memphis Flyer reporter Bianca Phillips). 2059 Madison

90

Step into Maggie’s Pharm and inhale the scents of the Seventies from herbs, candles, soaps, spices, and oh, the essential oils. Mix a little Aphrodite with, say, Juicy Peach — and voila, your very own perfume.  13 Florence at Madison

91

A stalwart in the Midtown culinary scene, Memphis Pizza Café is a perennial winner in the Memphis Flyer’s Best of Memphis poll — Best Pizza since 1994, seriously — that has expanded across the city, earning every bit of its fame. 2087 Madison

92

It doesn’t have quite the comfy claustrophobia of the old place across the street for two decades, but Le Chardonnay still offers plenty of vino for wine lovers, whether you like it in a bottle or a box. 2094 Madison

93

A taste of the subcontinent in Overton Square, Golden India rewards adventurous Memphis palates with a great weekday lunchtime buffet and meals of curries, Tandoori meats, kababs, naan, korma, palak paneer, gulab jamun … excuse us, we’re hungry now. 2097 Madison

94

Twenty years ago, Boscos opened Tennessee’s first brewpub. You can still buy growlers to-go at Boscos Squared, a popular match for the pub’s wood-fired oven pizzas, and enjoy locally made draft beers. Don’t give up the Ghost (River, that is). 2110 Madison

95

The first retail store in the “new” Overton Square, The Attic is the brainchild of stylish and savvy Alexandra Rushing, who also owns The Ivory Closet on Mud Island and makeup line Adel Amor. Rushing was coincidentally featured in the Memphis Flyer’s 2013 “Hotties” list. 2121 Madison

96

Back in the dear ole Seventies, this spot occupied by Bar Louie was Lafayette’s Music Hall. Now folks are applauding again — at the handsome interior, windows great for people-watching, a biiiig fine bar, and plenty of good eats. 2125 Madison

97

Yes, Local is a pub with an impressive beer selection, but the food is a step up (try the burger or lobster tacos) and second-floor tables are friendly perches for people-watching. 2126 Madison

98

It’s safe to say that Dabbles is not dabbling. This hair salon has been making Memphians more attractive since 1988. 19 N. Cooper

99

Dinner and a movie? Piece of cake (well, cheesecake) at Studio on the Square. Whether it’s the latest “art-house” film or a star-driven blockbuster, a movie is merely part of the experience, one a glass of wine never hurts. 2105 Court

100

Stressed out trying to make sense of all the places we’ve listed here? Hey, you should have sat in on some of our planning meetings. Put the magazine aside for a few minutes, and put your mind at ease with a visit to Calming Influence, which offers “massage of body and mind.” 74 N. Cooper

101

Elephants. Lions. Howler monkeys. Stingrays. Eagles. Golfers. Concerts. Hikers. Bikers. Bird watchers. The Old Forest. Sculptures. Paintings. Art galleries. Picnickers. War memorials. Lakes. If you can’t find something to do in Overton Park, good grief, you aren’t even trying.  

Compiled by Kenneth Neill, Frank Murtaugh, Marilyn Sadler, Greg Akers, Anna Cox, Susan Ellis, Chris Davis, Bianca Phillips, and Louis Coggans

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