Eclectic, Artistic and Everything in Between: Cooper Young's Best Shopping

Photo courtesy of Sally Walker Davies
By Sally Walker Davies, Memphis Local Expert

In Midtown Memphis, Cooper Young is the 'it' neighborhood these days - and its shopping scene reflects the funky personality of Midtown in general and CY in particular.

The entire area includes some of the city's best nightlife and dining options, as well as some eclectic shopping. (And one combination of both - the fab Phillip Ashley Chocolates). With one exception, every store on this list is a locally-owned enterprise; a handful of these stores offer Sunday hours and some are even more limited than that, opening just a few days a week and / or by appointment.

From Central Avenue's antique and vintage clothing stores, to Cooper Avenue's old school bookseller, and with a few trendy clothing retailers thrown in, this neighborhood is undergoing a renaissance. You can walk from store to store easily - but be warned that Central Avenue is quite busy, so you'll want to cross with the stop lights. And - you may want to bring the car, anyway, as it just makes loading up on some antiques  that much easier.

On the first Thursday of every month (with the exception of January and February), Cooper Young Night Out is when retailers stay open a bit later, offerings libations, appetizers, special discounts or even special guest 'pop-up' shops. There's generally music at the neighborhood's famed intersection of Cooper and Young, too.

10. Urban Outfitters
Photo courtesy of Kerry Crawford, I Love Memphis Blog

Normally, a national chain wouldn't get much ink in a neighborhood shopping list - but when Urban Outfitters opened in Cooper Young in 2011, it truly helped bring other stores into the area, and reinvigorated a corner of the 'hood that was desperately in need. Like its counterparts across the United States, the Memphis version caters to hipsters of both sexes.The great thing about this chain, though, is that it tailors its stores to their locations, so that means you may find something in the Memphis store you won't find other places. While the focus is on uber-hipster clothing, you'll also find a fun selection of kitschy housewares, funky jewelry, and cosmetics.

9. Flashback
Photo courtesy of Flashback

You never know what you'll find at the super-fun and super-funky Flashback,a vintage store that focuses on clothing, accessories and home decor - and that's what makes it so much fun. There's always a great selection of mid-century furniture and home decor, a great selection of women's dresses and finery, and plenty of wide lapels and skinny ties for men to peruse. But what we love the most - next to the amazing window displays - is the retro holiday decor. From grinning 1960's pumpkins to cheery light-up Frostys and Santas, Flashback always amazes during the holidays.

8. Langford Market
Photo courtesy of Langford Market - Memphis

A Memphis off-shoot of a popular Houston store, Langford offers trendy clothing for 20-somethings, chic home accessories and furniture, and a variety of well-priced gifts. Tucked into a space between two other clothing stores (one of which caters to urban hipsters of all genders and the other, to slightly older female trend-watchers) Langford's a good bet for women with amazing legs who wear heels with everything, including shorts. Pricing is moderate, sales are always on, and the best bang for the buck is with the accessory lines.

7. Phillip Ashley Chocolates

Think Willy Wonka meets Superman - and that's Phillip Ashley Rix, the proprietor of this Cooper-Young neighborhood chocolate shop. Chocolates change weekly, and some of our favorites are distinctly made-in-Memphis, including a BBQ chocolate infused with barbecue sauce that's made in the Bluff City. All of his creations have a back story, and any of his staff will be happy to regale you with the tale of how each piece was inspired. Phillip Ashely is known for its wild flavor combinations; he's had everything from blue cheese to saffron to bacon and beer (not together) in his tantalizing tidbits.

6. Otherlands Coffee Bar & Exotic Gifts
Photo courtesy of Otherlands

A charming local favorite,Otherlands is kind of like that box of chocolates Forrest Gump talks about – you never know what (or who) you will find inside the funky building, located north of the main center of the CY neighborhood. While Otherlands serves wonderful pastries and desserts, it also doubles as a gift store, featuring loads of handmade items from across the globe. Think Pier 1 with loads of authenticity. Shelves are filled with jewelry and candles and small decor items; most of the mirrors and artwork on the wall is for sale, and almost all the art is local.

5. Burke's Book Store
Photo courtesy of Burke's Book Store

Burke's is one of the country's oldest bookstores - and likely one of Memphis's oldest, continuously operating businesses, having opened in 1875. Most of its history was spent in one location in Midtown; the store moved in recent years to Cooper Young. Burke's provides book lovers with what has become a rarity these days - an independent bookstore experience. With fusty and musty old tomes, contemporary bestsellers, and just about everything in betwee, the store is a local favorite. Burke's also scores local, regional, and national authors for signings, so you never know who might show up - including John Grisham.

4. Loudean's
Photo courtesy of Sally Walker Davies

This tiny shop in the heart of Cooper Young is a must-visit for women who live in linen. As the exclusive retailer in town for the FLAX company, Loudean's offers ladies of all body types the free-spirited, swing-y clothing of the FLAX line, which is moderately priced and decidedly popular. The two sisters who own the store named it after their mother, who was a seamstress that offered fine lace and linens back in her day; they keep the hours to a minimum and their focus on just a few product lines - the linen, and accessories including jewelry and purses that are locally made.

3. Palladio Antiques & Art
Photo courtesy of Palladio Antiques

If we had loads of income - disposable or otherwise - this is where we'd spend it. With an array of antiques and collectibles, and random vintage finds, Palladio offers some of the highest-end antiques in the city, as well as a fantastic collection of local and regional artists. Arranged in individual booths, we are particularly drawn to the English antiques -oh, our kingdom for an original pub sign! Palladio's sister stores are nearby and include Market Central - a less expensive version, as well as Gallery Fifty Six, the Art Factory, Architectural Arts and more. All the stores are either within sight of each other on Central, or just down Cox Avenue.

2. Sew Memphis
Photo courtesy of Memphis Commercial Appeal

Vintage-inspired fabrics – piles and piles of them, neatly arranged – are the backbone of Sew Memphis, which is, well, SO Memphis. The two mom-trepreneurs and crafty types who own the Cooper-Young area store are all about sharing their craft through teaching classes and doling out advice to those of us who are not, shall we say, quite so crafty but very enthusiastic. From basic sewing to hard-core quilting, there's a class for every level of seamstress - including special classes for the young and crafty, from fabric jewelry making to creating a custom skirt. Workshops sell out fast, so when one pops up, don't delay.

1. Me & Mrs. Jones
Photo courtesy of me & mrs jones

The totally talented Stephanie Jones set up shop in Cooper-Young, and talented DIY-ers across the region are celebrating. Jones, who shudders at the use of the word 'faux', notes that fine finishes are what her artistry is all about. She teaches hands-on workshops in her studio, sells painted furniture, Annie Sloan Chalk Paint from England, brushes, books and more - like custom stencils, interesting knobs, local travel guides, flea market finds and whatever strikes her fancy. Jones recently expanded her space, taking over the second half of the house in which her business is located - and she's busier than ever teaching more workshops. She's also starting to offer more small decorative and gift items - and trust us when we tell you whatever Mrs. Jones chooses to stock, it won't be around long. She's a true tastemaker in this town and way beyond.