Starting in the late 1800s, the Midtown Memphis neighborhood, Cooper Young, was consumed with chic bungalow homes and a vibrant population. Like Binghampton and Broad Avenue and many Memphis neighborhoods, as railroad activity in the early 1900s soared, so did Cooper Young. It once boasted a movie theatre, trolley line, and throngs of middle class families. But as the railroad popularity shrunk and suburban grew, so did the life in this community. As the middle 1960s neared, most homes were abandoned and several store fronts stood empty. In a battle against suburban flight and urban decay, The Cooper Young Community Association manifested. Their mission: to make the neighborhood a safer and more desirable place to live, worship, work,and play.
Today, the Cooper-Young community includes over 1,600 households, with an owner occupancy rate of 61% (US Census data, 2000). There are more than two hundred flourishing businesses with thriving retail, restaurant, arts, and antiques districts as well as industries that employ local residents. Two schools and twelve worship communities are located within its boundaries. -Cooper Young Community Association
Identified as 1 of 10 Great Neighborhoods in the United States by American Planning Association, Cooper Young made its come back , always catering to the needs of its residents, neighborhoods, and fellow Memphians. With a focus on diverse Memphis art, culture, and family, the neighborhood allows for a laid back home-sweet-home attitude with an eclectic “let your freak flag fly” atmosphere. Travel back into the “center” of Memphis’ history and check out Cooper Young:
1. Park your car. Shared lanes, painted lanes, bike racks, you name it bike friendly, Cooper Young has it! Even if you don’t have a bike, with ease and accessibility you’ll have no problem traveling on foot. Do an earth friendly deed, get some exercise, and interact with Memphis.
2. Break fast in a wedding chapel. Okay, maybe not a chapel anymore, but Java Cabana is still a sanctuary for coffee and breakfast. Closing the Elvis themed wedding chapel in 1998, Java Cabana now weds Memphis to local artist and poetry readings. The talent displayed is awesome, and the food puts up a great fight for your attention. Begin your trip here for coffee unfolding with flavors, sassy cheese omelets, and even veggie friendly picks!
3. Get lost. Home to locally owned book store, Burke’s Book Store, and a Memphis recording label, Goner Records, Cooper Young is the perfect place to get “lost” in Memphis.
- Burke’s Books has survived over 3 generations and is still supplying Memphis with boundless literature. It offers your favorite classic, the most recent released you heard about, a myriad of magazines, and book store your Memphis ancestors enjoyed.
- Goner Records began in 1993, and 20 years later it is still rocking on. Selling Goner Record label artists and other popular artists and rock bands, Goner gives Memphis a head banging good time.
Stop by either of this unique shops and lose yourself for a little bit.
4. Browse eclectically. Surrounded by the peculiar and pleasantly strange Cooper Young neighborhood, there are a variety of antique and thrift shops you’ll want to hit up. From cat memorabilia to 60s trinkets, somewhere in Cooper Young has it.
- Flashback, Memphis’ vintage department store, has 1920s art deco, flower power in the 1960s, and groovy funk from the 70s.
- House of Mews, a cat rescue center and retail shop, is always stocked with fancy felines, their survival goods, and cat trinkets.
- Shenanigans, the name says it all, but offers a wide variety of antiques, trinkets, fun buys, and $5 lamp shades.
5. Get stoned. Believing it’s not the recipe or ingredients, but the community around it, Stone Soup isn’t just a folktale. It is a sweet brunch/lunch stop in Cooper Young. With daily specials like salmon patties and vegetable lasagna, there’s always a diverse selection of food to satisfy any palate.
6. Sew with Memphis. Cooper Young hosts two studies for major creativity and design. You’ll want to stop by, browse the selections, create something unique or just get some tips.
- Sew Memphis started out as two friends dream. Now a reality they have a large inventory of modern textiles, books, and patterns. Take a class; participate in a children’s workshop; learn to quilt; make a purse; master a new skill; book Sew Memphis for parties; sew with friends; or teach each other a thing or two.
- Kindred Spirit is known to engage your inner artist and douse your creativity. With many different local artists on display, you’ll enjoy the diverse selection in the store. You even have the option to collaborate and design your own hand bag!
7. Drum up a beat. Voted One of the Five Best Drum Shops in America, Memphis Drum Shop has the largest percussion inventory not only in Memphis, but the Mid-South. Venture in, turn up the beat, and browse 6 showrooms of vintage sets, the newest models, and get some tips from the friendly staff. You might even stop by at the right time, and catch an artist playing on their 2nd floor showroom.
8. Finish with the deli. With one of the best patios in Memphis, at Young Avenue Deli, you’ll have the chance to sit outside or dine inside. A pool hall, entertainment venue, and restaurant, The Deli will be a place to rest your feet after your Cooper Young exploration, and give you the chance to live and play with residents of the neighborhood. Locals enjoy the massive muffuletta, portobello mushroom burgers, pitas, own-built quesadillas, and much more. Housing one of the largest beer sections known to Memphis, you’ll have the chance to to enjoy good brew as you reflect on your Cooper Young experience.
9. Cooper Young Festivities. Complete this list and do it with the rest of Memphis.
- Annually the neighborhood hosts Cooper Young Festival, it will be held September 14th this year. An honest example of successful revitalization in Memphis’ inner city, Cooper Young Festival attracts thousands to the neighborhood.
- Open every Saturday, the Cooper Young Farmers’ Market provides a socially diverse, year-round marketplace that supports local farmers, producers, and artisans. With over 20 vendors of home grown and home made goods, you’re bound to find endless treasures.
Whether you do it with the rest of Memphis, your friends, your family, or even alone, Cooper Young is a must experience part of Memphis! We hope you get the chance to!