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VOL. 8 | NO. 42 | Saturday, October 10, 2015

Craving Cooper-Young

Markets, restaurants and businesses burst onto the scene in eclectic Midtown neighborhood

By Andy Meek

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If a neighborhood can be said to possess whatever the real estate equivalent is of that new car smell – a sense that there’s something new here to enjoy, of possibilities, of happy things to come – Cooper-Young would seem to have that, in spades.

Pick any spot along Cooper, and it won’t be long before you’ve come across someplace where a business has newly hung out its shingle or is planning something to come. Restaurants and retail shops of all kinds, from markets to new restaurants as well as restaurant expansions, dot either side of the street, to the degree that it’s abundantly clear:

There’s something about a certain street in Midtown Memphis that entrepreneurs like Hamida Mandani, a co-owner of City Market Grocery & Deli, can’t ignore. It’s something that also leads them to decide, if they haven’t already – this is where they want to be.

Scott Tashie is one such entrepreneur. On the day of the Cooper-Young Festival last month, he opened the doors to one of Cooper-Young’s newest businesses, I Love Juice Bar.

Deciding on Cooper-Young for the Nashville-based franchise’s first Memphis location didn’t seem like a risk at all to Tashie, who’s also the owner of Cosmic Coconut in East Memphis. For years, his juice and smoothie cafe has welcomed what seemed to be a sizable amount of customer traffic from Midtown – enough that an expansion to the neighborhood not only made sense but seemed like it would fill a need.

“I love Midtown,” Tashie said. “It’s such an awesome part of Memphis. I also thought there was a need for a juice and smoothie cafe, a healthy eating spot, in Midtown.”

He’d been eyeing the space he eventually chose, at 553 S. Cooper St., for a while, deciding that it had everything – the right size, adequate parking and plenty of potential.

The juice bar is using about 2,000 square feet of the 2,800-square-foot building, which sits across Cooper from Graham’s Lighting and near Muddy’s Grind House. (Incidentally, Muddy’s Grind House is the second retail location of another East Memphis business, Muddy’s Bake Shop, and just celebrated its first birthday in Cooper-Young in recent days.)

Already, Tashie has hired 12 people for the business, which focuses on fresh juices and smoothies made to order with local ingredients. Also on the menu: essential oil shots and gourmet vegetarian fare.

I Love Juice Bar on South Cooper

(Memphis News/Andrew J. Breig)

The building seats 50 and has patio seating that overlooks Cooper. There’s also a green Volkswagen I Love Juice Bar bus to extend the brand in the area.

Meanwhile, on the same day Tashie was opening his doors in Cooper-Young, a new grocery in the area was holding its own grand opening.

Sunny and Hamida Mandani welcomed shoppers to City Market Grocery & Deli at 836 S. Cooper, situated at the corner of Cooper and Evelyn, where it serves as an extension of the City Market brand they originally launched Downtown in 2010.

The new store, which is about half the space of the Downtown City Market – around 2,500 square feet – had a soft opening Aug. 21 and has an eat-in menu that’s the same as the Downtown location, with a few tweaks, like the addition of a curry station.

A wooden deck is on the way so customers can eat outside. For now, eat-in customers do so inside, after walking through the doors over which hang the City Market logo in bright white lettering.

The hint of an apple overlooks the City Market logo, a symbol of the fresh fare inside. But the apple also bears an “M” shape comparable to that of the bridge over the Mississippi River, reflecting the owners’ love of their city.

“The neighbors have been really, really welcoming,” said Hamida Mandani. “I think they’ve been pleased to see what a night-and-day difference it’s made by the store opening at that corner and lighting up the intersection at Cooper and Evelyn, just like it did Downtown at Main and Union.

“We love having the store here in a place of such diversity. There’s a mixture of young families with kids, there’s this older group of people, there’s young folks in their early 20s – it feels really, really good to be part of this.”

Other entrepreneurs likewise working to “be part of this” include Raymond Williams, the co-owner of Soul Fish Cafe at 862 Cooper.

He’s just cleared the property to the immediate north of his restaurant after coming to the conclusion that his Southern-inspired comfort food eatery is bursting at the seams. So he’s making it bigger.

That means expanding the current 1,800-square-foot restaurant to the north, with the parking on that side of the building expanding as well.

In addition to tripling the size of his kitchen, which will allow the Soul Fish staff to crank out more dishes piled with soul food favorites like catfish with all the fixings, the building is getting a hard-roof patio in the front as well as wraparound windows.

About 24 more seats will be added inside, and the parking will double, Williams said.

As the Sept. 19 Cooper-Young Festival was drawing near and the land to the north of the restaurant was being bulldozed, Williams said the work was overdue in some respects.

Aldo's Pizza Pies recently opened a new location in Cooper-Young.

(Memphis News/Andrew J. Breig)

“We’d always talked about doing a patio,” he said, adding that he expects the restaurant there to stay busy for years to come. Indeed, cars can already be seen circling the lot and looking for a spot to grab during peak hours.

The expansion, Williams explained, “is about just doing what needs to be done” to make sure the restaurant is set up for that continued brisk business, with the work expected to be done by year’s end.

Elsewhere in the area, Pavo Salon – yet another business with an original location in East Memphis – has a new location on the way. The new salon, opening soon, will be at 2157 Central Ave., in the retail center at Central and Cooper anchored by Urban Outfitters.

Elements Yoga Lounge is yet another forthcoming addition to the neighborhood, opening in the coming days at 2163 Young Ave.

The Midtown Easy-Way location, at 596 S. Cooper St., also is about get a new lease on life. Peter Schutt, owner of The Daily News Publishing Co., has closed on the property and is in the midst of renovating it. The retail market will sell food exclusively produced within 100 miles of Memphis, including pastured beef, pork and eggs from Winchester Farm, Schutt’s 1,600-acre sustainable, chemical-free farm on the outskirts of Dancyville, Tenn.

Winchester Farm is operated around a commitment to sustainability, healthy food and supporting local business. To that end, it doesn't use pesticides, herbicides or chemicals.

Schutt pointed to the familiarity of the Easy-Way brand in Memphis, which dates back to the 1930s, as well as to the growing nexus of locally produced, healthy food businesses in Midtown as reasons for his interest in the property.

Schutt hopes to have the market open before Thanksgiving.

Other new and recent developments in the neighborhood include Memphis Made Brewing, at 768 S. Cooper, expanding its hours.

Its taproom is now open Sundays from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. It will serve favorites like Lucid Kolsch, Memphis Made’s only year-round beer, in addition to serving the two rotating seasonals, currently RockBone IPA and Soulful Ginger.

It will also feature beers exclusive to the taproom.

Earlier this this year, meanwhile, a second Aldo’s Pizza Pies location opened at 752 S. Cooper in the former Two Way Inn. It includes a rooftop patio. And The Growler, at 921 S. Cooper, has also rebranded.

It’s now Hammer & Ale, offering pints and growler fills in addition to a food menu, and seats 35 inside. It also rotates 24 taps on a weekly basis.

As a Cooper-Young resident herself, I Love Memphis blogger Holly Whitfield said she’s excited about it all – about these developments, and more to come.

“I think I've been to I Love Juice Bar and City Market three times each already,” she said. “It's especially nice to have these family-owned small businesses, because the owners and employees get to know you. That neighborhood hospitality and the increasing walkability is why I love this area.”

PROPERTY SALES 0 133 1,342
MORTGAGES 0 131 1,047