The Importance of Cooper Street

By Robbie Johnson Weinberg, director of operations at Eclectic Eye

I am a big fan of Dan Conaway. He is a keen observer of all things Memphis, and I am a bit of a stalker of his musings. He publishes a blog on his website, where he “rants” about it all. On June 12, 2014, he published a piece about Cooper Street, where he begs someone to take action and get folks moving up and down Cooper Street, whether it be by bus, bike or some other yet unknown method (since then Ride the Roo has come into existence).

Dan talked about Cooper Street being different:

“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.”

And, this is where I heard it first. “Cooper connects.” Since then, I have called our little slice of urban core, The Great Cooper Connector. I can’t say exactly what the boundaries are, but in my mind, it starts at Overton Park and ends where Cooper turns into South Parkway or at Lamar.showcase.jpgEclectic Eye sits right in the middle at 242 S. Cooper. Since Dan’s piece was published, Muddy’s Grind House, The Juice Bar, City Market and Raw Girls have all opened and are killing it in our little enclave. The Curb Market is a new fresh produce and butcher shop that should be open within the next few weeks. Redeemer Presbyterian Church has rehabbed, with the help of Archimania, a great mid-century space for their new sanctuary across from Otherlands. Fresh Market has opened, Hattiloo has opened, and they are thriving and already expanding. It goes on and on.

A few days ago I was talking to Ken Lecco, who is renovating a space two doors to the south of us for a new art studio, about our vision for our area. We were imagining all the fabulous things we should coordinate with such great creative energy all around us. He asked me what we called this area. My response was, “Well, I call it The Great Cooper Connector.” We are different, we connect, we are integral.EYE-Midtown ExteriorWhen we opened Eclectic Eye in the fall of 2002, the immediate area was still reeling from the destructive fires 25 years prior that demolished several of the buildings around where we now sit. There was still a belief that there was no possibility of midtown being a viable service, business or retail community.

One of our sole missions has been to prove that statement wrong. I think we have proven that. We will continue to be a part of connecting Cooper.