Wishful Thinking on the Corner of Cooper and Young

Posted by Holly Whitfield | November 6th 2013 4488 0

The northeast corner of Cooper and Young doesn’t seem to be very sticky. The last couple of restaurants didn’t impress and didn’t last. Since this intersection is the namesake for the Cooper-Young Historic District, it seems like something decent and lasting should be there. 


I asked you on Twitter and in person what you’d like to see go in this space (formerly Ink, Cortona, Dish, etc.) and here’s what we came up with.

1. Fancy sandwiches and salads. Having another dining option in Cooper Young that is at least vaguely healthy and affordable would be good. Tamp & Tap kind of has this going on already downtown. 

2. Cheese shop. We’ve got Greencork wine bar down the street, why not some cheese to go with it? Side note: I met a cheesemonger once and she was awesome. Let’s get a Memphis Cheesemonger. Suggested by @justoffstage, who said specifically “Wall to wall cheese. And crackers.”

3. Butcher shop/salumeria/deli. Did I somehow miss Southern Meat Market’s reopening? I heard they were moving their location to Park Avenue, but I haven’t heard anything else…well, Southern Meat Market, here is a place for you or someone like you. Suggested by @like_a_spiral

4. Bakery. Muddy’s Midtown (opening in early 2014) will have cupcakes covered, but Cooper-Young could handle some fresh bread, pastries, and that heavenly scent of baking carbs that we lost when the Wonderbread factory downtown closed. Suggested by @choose901 and @therealmrhollis

5. A co-op studio for art, dance, or music. (Horray! We finally we pulled our greasy fingers out of the food idea pile and came up with something besides a restaurant.) This could be a shared studio where groups and classes would reserve times to use the space. Or something more organized like the Five-In-One Social Club on Broad, but with performing arts. Suggested by @ilikefwords

6. Retail of some kind. @wesmilligan suggested converting the space to retail. Nearby you have: a women’s boutique, Burke’s Books, Memphis Drum Shop and a few others. What else do y’all want to buy?

7. Educational center. This would be like a library meets an internet cafe meets a tutoring center. Free wifi, free computers to use onsite, with both individual desks and big tables. The staff offers free tutoring to students in need, and the sapce can be reserved for classes, study groups, and nerds in general. Lots and lots and lots of electrical outlets. 

Here’s a few more ideas, a bit more off the wall…

8. An arcade/game room. A fun place filled with lots of pinball, air hockey, those crazy dance games, Pac Man. By day, it’s fun for kids and there are prizes. At night the lights go down, the music goes up, local beer is served, and grownups can play until late.

9. A dance club. It is too much to ask for a dependably dancable club in midtown?

10. Indoor/hydroponic garden. The staff staff sells vegetables, etc. grown onsite, teaches classes on gardening, and sells gardening supplies and tools.

What’s your favorite? Got other ideas? Leave ’em in the comments. Maybe an ambitious Memphian will take notice and give one of these ideas a try.

Author: Holly Whitfield

I write about what’s going on with Memphis music, food, arts, events, sports, people, and culture. Memphians love Elvis and barbeque with a passion that must be seen to be believed, but there is so much more to this place.

Show Comments


  1. alexandria says:

    Cheese shop like Murray’s cheese shop in NYC. I would personally keep them in business.

  2. Michelle says:

    I can't think of anything that's stuck around in that spot for more than 5 years. It should get split up into two spaces – maybe then it'll be a viable place for a small business. If you're gonna keep it big, then maybe it would work as family friendly by day and adult friendly by night, like Portland's Ground Kontrol or LA's Barcade. Video games by day, drinks and video games at night. Work with Goner next door and host bands.

  3. An old school arcade with lots of games sounds pretty fun to me!

  4. Shade says:

    I say a open till 3am po boy and street food shop that has a walk up window. 

  5. Garnier says:

    Why not something about Elvis…? Or a restaurant as "golden corral",or a donuts shop!!!!!!

  6. The Dude says:

    I suggest something with a community vibe, yet has a destination appeal.  Something that will provide a service to the residents of Cooper-Young yet will appeal to others in the city to drive across town to shop there.  A cheese or butcher shop, a bakery, a fish market.  Or how about a temporary retail incubator that could serve to jump start small retail start-ups…

  7. Marina says:

    Memphis needs a good Greek restaurant to fill the void that Melos Taverna left when it closed.  It could be an ouzoria, with one half of the restaurant serving as a bar with small plates and the other half a sit down dinner concept!  Wait a minute…maybe I should open it!

  8. Rob says:

    Obviously, an eatery alone will not last in this location.  A bakery, cheese shop or butcher shop will surely fail.  Cooper-Young could use more live entertainment.  

  9. Catie says:

    Dish was pretty successful back in the day and when it was Maxwells it was awesome!  Perhaps a new business can learn from past history on that corner.  I would definitely stick with restaurant/bar and not go retail.

  10. Meredith says:

    Love the idea of a cheese shop!

  11. meghan says:

    I love the idea of a shared performance space.  There are so many active performing arts troupes around town and really not enough space to hold them.  I think a storefront performance space would be amazing!


  12. Michelle R says:

    Personally I like a mix of #5 and #7……. maybe with a small coffee shop and snack area in a corner?   

    I've never been in there, but if big enough…. why not divide up into smaller spaces and do both numbers 5, 7, and add an area for #8?   That way it can be a kind of community center and offer a variety of draws for the locals.   

    There is a place in Pittsburgh, PA called The Beehive.  They have art COVERING the inside of the building and then they have changing displays of art that come through by local artists.   You can buy them right off the wall.  Then there are all sorts of seating:   tables and chairs, sink into arm chairs with coffee tables, benches, etc.   They have books you can read on a bookshelf, all sorts of card and board games you can grab and play with friends at the tables, music playing, and offer all sorts of coffees and teas and baked goods/snacks at the food area.   They have special events and then regular events….  

    I think adding a quiet area with tutoring and web surfing during the day will bring people in…..  and then have a stage where at night you can have live performances of poetry reading or singing or whatnot for the grownups.   I think it would draw an eclectic crowd and judging by the performance of The Beehive…. it will stick and be a VERY popular joint.    

    Here is a link to The Beehive.   It has been going STRONG for 20 years or so!   https://www.facebook.com/beehivepgh     

  13. Ned says:

    Gosh, all of these sound good.  I love the art space/performing art space idea, but would probably fall in line with a good NY style bagel place.  The more I learn about Memphis water, the more I think we have what it takes to make great bagels.

    More than that, how great is it to live in a city with so many people so passionate about what to do on a single corner?  #awesomemphis

  14. Will says:

    Whoever buys this space needs to look north towards Overton Square. Bar Louie and Local on the Square have both used space larger than this location and are always packed when I go or drive by. A seemingly upscale yet affordable bar with decent food could do well. Something that bridges the gap between Young Ave. Deli and Alchemy would be nice.

  15. Holly Whitfield says:

    Ned – I know right? I'm a little blown away (in a good way) by the response. 

  16. Justin says:

    I've never really understood why Cooper-Young didn't have it own liquor store.  I would imagine it would be all fancied up with space for tastings and all that jazz.

  17. Julianna says:

    I've heard rumor that a good part of the problem with that location is lack of maintenance by the landlord and rent that goes up exponentially if you are remotely successful. Take a look at turnover on that whole section. 

  18. Brad says:

    I like the cheese shop idea…I don't think Memphis has one

  19. Rekia says:

    How about a nice hookah cafe? Hookah, cofee, drinks, food, live music and poetry????? I would love it

  20. Harry says:

    How about a nice Paleo/Local Market/non-GMO themed restaurant/store?

  21. Allie says:

    taco mamacitas!!!! or something like it. 

  22. If you're looking for dancing, art, music and performance, it's already going on in Crosstown! We're opening Co-Motion Studio in December which is all about dance, movement, and local performers and artists, not to mention all the other great music and arts businesses already in the area. Check out the Hi-Tone (Co-Motion's next door neighbors), Visible Music School, Amurica, and of course Crosstown Arts. Now we just need some of those tasty CY restaurants!

  23. Cory says:

    I like the butcher shop/eatery idea. I'd love to have something like Cochon Butcher in New Orleans in the neighborhood

  24. John says:

    Defininitley number 5, the co-op studio. Some place geared more to being a "listening room" that provides visual art display space and can offer libations. A much better idea than yet another bar/restaurant that also presents music you have to try and listen to over the din of people conversationally yelling at each other.

  25. Debbie D. says:

    I think it should be developed into a space with multiple outlets which would bring people in on a daily or weekly basis.  For example, bring a successful business in like Muddy's that will bring people in their every day.  And then, add two or three kiosks/outlets.  Maybe a wine bar for the weekends or evenings with live music/piano/duos.  Coffee shop.  Let it support some of these growing independent business people in the cooper young community.  That space is too important to hold just one business (IMO).  It needs to be developed by the community to meet the needs of the community.

  26. Michael says:

    It would best serve as a fresh bread and bagel bakery with a small deli counter. The space could be split in half and be utilized much better. Fingers-crossed my favorite Memphis baker grabs it up. 

  27. Joseph says:

    Ew, ew! Number 10, number 10! That would be awesome!

  28. Mar says:

    Considering what appears to be the success of the Urban Outfitters at Central and Cooper and the size of this space I bet an Anthropologie would thrive.

  29. Claire R says:

    With Fresh Market going in at Cooper and Union, I'm not sure a cheese shop would fly.  But…a liquor store?  AWESOME


  30. Elizabeth says:

    Debbie D, I think you're on to something. I was hoping Crosstown would go in the direction of Columbus, OH's North Market, but maybe we need to start a little smaller. This spot would definitely suffice for some small start-up incubator shops. I was hoping for a Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream, but guess where Jeni got her start?  http://www.northmarket.com/   Why not launch the next great local business right here? This concept has Midtown Memphis written all over it. It's like a flea market with permanent vendors who cater to upscale foodies, localvores, and food purists with specialty grocery, gift foods, and ready-to-eat items, co-op services, and in season, a farmer's market. Again, heavily day-time and weekend activity – no additional crowds competing for parking at night, and doesn't create further competition with the businesses that are currently operating – rather, balances them, with a destination spot that may even bring new customers to the neighborhood.

  31. R. says:

    “….Something that bridges the gap between Young Ave. Deli and Alchemy would be nice”

    What CY needs and even within the core of Memphis, is a lounge for good drinks, small plates and dance music- at the same time. Not as pretentious as Alchemy but not as “dive” as the Cove, a cocktail selection like Mollie Fontaine, but without the Victorian/trendy theme. IMO, one challenge with the space of Ink/Cortona was the design. When you enter, it has an L shape bar and tables and a couch, then in the back it’s a space for fine dining. The dining should be at the front and the space in the back should be expanded for dancing and a live DJ. I know a lot of ppl that complain there is no real place here outside of Beale Street to go and actually hear dance music/live DJ’s (80’s,90’s, hiphop, reggae, pop, dance, house, techno) and have a good drink

    There is a lounge in Baltimore that would fit perfect in this space; The Red Maple http://www.930redmaple.com.

  32. susan says:

    corkys resturant, their ribs are the best


  33. ashley says:

    i would like to see a live music venue that serves the best memphis foods and blues music and you can call it pigs on fire and have fun after all memphis is know for blues and bbq 


  34. Sarah says:


  35. Emily says:

    It would be nice to have something like a sandwich shop in there or even a club but remember that parking is getting more and more difficult, that properrty has a fairly high rent and there is a lot of water damage and aging that needs massive repairing. Maybe somebody with tons of money and patience would be a great fit.

  36. Charles says:

    La Baguette should move there, it'd be perfect for them.


    Or a liquor store.

  37. Linz Fred says:

    Arcade for sure!!!!

  38. David says:

    Newks would be awesome (or humdingers. ) The area really lacks in the fast casual department from living there. 

  39. lilla says:

    Buffalo Exchange, please!!

  40. lilla says:

    or some sort of upscale thrift store similar to buffalo exchange. 



  41. Jen P. says:

    From what I've heard it is the owner of the building that causes the problems for the renters. Any of those would be great!

  42. Sarah S says:

    Arcade + Local Beer = Perfect.

  43. Kim says:

    An old school arcade in CY (although I had the idea to put one in Overton Square if I had enough money) would be perfect.  Needs to serve beer and food!  Do it or give me some money so I can!!!

  44. Joe says:

    MIdtown has 2/3 midsize live music venues. The Buc, the new Hi-Tone and possibly Young Ave(not consistent with its schedule). Frenchman St in NOLA alone has at least 4-5. Not sure if that space would be conducive to la ive music/bar venue though. 

  45. Matt says:

    Would anyone REALLY go to an old-school arcade? Nice idea, but it would die quicker than any previous place in there. Arcade games aren't nearly as popular as they used to be 20 years ago and, in turn, aren't manufactured as much either. So a potential owner would be forced to buy mostly used games and worry about if they'll even work.

    There used to be a liquor store in Cooper Young but they weren't allowed to renew their lease a few years back and their building was torn down. There will never be another liquor store in the neightborhood due to the proximity of the elementary school there.

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