Let’s Roll

By Dan Conaway

GET IT TOGETHER. A year ago, right here, I suggested – and a flat ton of you agreed – that we should get something rolling up and down Cooper.


I said then that Cooper is on fire. It’s practically molten now.

Whether it’s a locally brewed heads up from Memphis Made or a Flaming Stone at Bosco’s, there’s a whole lot of flaming fabulous funkiness served up and down the street. Black tie at Brooks to black Thai rice at Tsunami. Lyonnaise salad at 1912 to black and tans at Celtic Crossing. Knuckle sandwiches at Iris to lobster rolls at the Slider Inn. The corners of Cooper and Young. And Central. And Union. And Madison. And the corner pockets at Young Avenue Deli.

Cooper is different.

Free concerts at the Shell and mussel shells at Bari. Books at Burke’s and bagels at Bogie’s. Curtain time at Playhouse and coming soon at Hattiloo. Double bogies at Overton Park, doubles on the rocks at bars at both ends, and double-shot espressos at Otherlands and The Edge in-between. Studios for movies, tattoos and music.

Cooper connects.

If I was a bright young promoter, I’d buy a 24-seat bus, paint it fabulously funky, and start it up and down Cooper from Overton Park to First Congo, from the new garage in a resurgent Overton Square to the nascent garage in Cooper-Young to the needed one at the zoo. I’d put somebody entertaining at the wheel, give away more coupons than Kroger, and pitch Memphis like a carnival barker.

If I’m the bright people at both ends of the street, I’d pull everything together and promote the whole wide experience. I wouldn’t do what Memphis so often does – lose opportunities by fighting among ourselves, killing the body by cannibalizing the parts, failing to see the good because we’re blinded by bad vision.

Come to think of it, while everybody else waits for the city to build a trolley line, or for some conservancy to save what we tried so hard to kill, I’d buy several of those buses, make a loop between what’s happening on Cooper to what’s happening on South Main to what’s happening on Broad, and make it the hottest ride in Memphis since Elvis’ Harley.

And I’d put rent-a-bike stations all along the way like Denver is doing, and Nashville, and probably everybody else while we stand around, waiting for air in our tires.

While so many sit in houses just like the one next door complaining to people just like them about nothing to do here, I’d give them a ride to places where very different people are doing everything. I’d give a lift to parts of the city on the rise, to the quickening pulse of places so many would give up for dead or dying, to the heart of what’s happening, y’all.

Let’s all get on board and go there together.

I'm a Memphian, and it’s time to get rolling.

Dan Conaway is a lifelong Memphian, longtime adman and aspiring local character in a city known for them. Reach him at dan@wakesomebodyup.com.