Colin Britton, one of Cooper-Young’s newest business owners, smiled as he explained the humming tuning fork mechanism that drives the hands of his 1953 Bulova Accutron watch, the height of timekeeping technology in its day.
His workshop, in the spacious upper floor of a Victorian house overlooking Cooper, is filled with wooden display cases of vintage watches for sale and paper envelopes containing hundreds more ready for repair. But this one he kept on his wrist.
They were kind of the high end during the Mad Men era,” he said.
Memphis Mean Time, the vintage watch and clock business Britton moved to Cooper-Young from East Memphis about a month ago, is one of at least 12 new businesses that opened in the boundaries of Cooper-Young in 2012 or the first few days of 2013, according to the Cooper-Young Business Association.
That’s about the same number that opened in 2011, and though a few businesses closed or moved to other locations last year (Victory Bicycles, Fork It Over and Do Noodle, for instance), demand for Cooper-Young retail space is humming.
If 2011 cemented Cooper-Young’s reputation as a dining destination, last year’s offerings diversified the neighborhood’s business base with two auto service garages (Midtown Auto Werks on Cooper and The Hub Automotive on York), a massage and yoga spa (Midtown Massage & Bodyworks on Cooper), a salon (basil bailey salon on Cooper), a takeout gourmet kitchen (Cooper Street 20/20), an art gallery (Allie Cat Arts on Cooper), retailers (Re:Collections consignment and Miss BeNea’s on Cooper and Shenanigan’s on Young) and an advertising and printing business that moved to a permanent address on Young (Ray Rico Freelance).
Add to that Bar DKDC, Karen Blockman Carrier’s long-anticipated “street food” followup to Do Noodle in that restaurant’s former space, which opened just after the New Year. Memphis Made Brewery and the Two-Way Diner (in the old Two Way Inn space) will open this year on Cooper near York, and a boutique clothing chain filed plans to open in the Central Avenue space next to Urban Outfitters.
The report from the Cooper-Young Business Association also lists 23 unleased retail spaces.
For Andrew Brunson, it was a family connection that drew him to the neighborhood: He opened The Hub Automotive at York and Meda, across the street from his mother-in-law’s house.
For Kathy Katz, who recently opened Cooper Street 20/20 just south of the trestle, it was proximity to her customers and suppliers at farmer’s markets. Katz and chef Stephen Schiara concoct gourmet meals including spanakopita and African peanut soup for sale at the Tsunami and downtown farmer’s markets. But her Cooper-Young kitchen is open for take-out weekdays until 7 p.m.
“I want to buy my tomatoes from the tomato lady at the farmer’s market and my arugula from Dodson Farms,” Katz said. “It’s kinda fun doing all your shopping where you work.”
Britton found his space above Midtown Acupuncture after he and apprentice Greg Faison set up a booth in front of the building at last year’s Cooper-Young Festival. He lives on Felix and said he tries not to leave the Parkways if possible, so the ability to walk or ride his bike to work was part of the charm of his new location.
And the neighborhood’s reputation for food and fun helps drive traffic — customers waiting on repairs will spend the extra time dining at Sweetgrass or grabbing a beer at Celtic Crossing, spinning off more neighborhood business, he said.
“I think that people like being here,” Britton said. “In a lot of ways getting your watch fixed is like business, but Cooper-Young is fun. It’s just very advantageous to be in a neighborhood where people want to be anyway.”
- David Royer