External renovations on track for University District restaurant

Owner Lisa Snyder Dandridge is moving forward with plans for building and streetscape improvements at The Choo, her family-owned and operated restaurant located just west of the newly revitalized University District area at 3045 Southern Avenue.
 
The railway-themed cafe opened last fall in a 2,376-s.f. building that once served as the Buntyn Rail Station in the early 1940s but had fallen into disrepair, sitting vacant for many years until Dandridge bought it and began rehab work in 2015.
 
“I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit and my husband has restaurant experience, so the two of us just thought it would be an awesome opportunity to locate in a community where there’s a need for healthy foods,” said Dandridge, who works at the restaurant with her husband, son, mother and granddaughter.
 
They took care of the majority of the internal renovations last year before the restaurant opened on Labor Day weekend, and then she sought assistance for the remaining work needed in the form of a $25,000 Inner City Economic Development (ICED) loan from the Economic Development Finance Committee (EDGE).
 
“I’m in an inner city neighborhood within a HUD zone, and when I purchased the building it needed total renovation internally and externally,” she said. “I want to reinvest in this particular community. Our goal is to give the building a better façade and add some curb appeal.”
 
She plans to add some awnings, paint and possibly stucco the exterior, complete roof repairs and add some much-needed lighting to the street corner. The money will also be used to help with retention of four jobs and additional staff build out.
 
“The loan is designed for inner city improvement, and where we’re located has not seen much traffic coming through as far as new businesses,” she said. “We need to maintain the urban areas of the city as well as the suburban. The word is to ‘be the change that you want to see’ so I had to start with me.”
 
The Choo is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and also offers catering.

Read more articles by Michael Waddell.

Michael Waddell is a native Memphian who returned to Memphis several years ago after working for nearly a decade in San Diego and St. Petersburg, Fla., as a writer, editor and graphic designer. His work over the past few years has been featured in The Memphis Daily News, Memphis Bioworks Magazine, Memphis Crossroads, the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Contact Michael.
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  • The Choo
    Save 3045 Southern Ave
    Memphis, TN