A walk down Broad Avenue: new spots, treasured favorites

There wasn’t much to do along Broad Avenue in 1998, when I lived in Binghampton. I could order pie from Broadway Pizza, located on Broad since ‘77, or get a drink at the Beer Joint, where the Cove is now.

It was a dark and empty street and was certainly not a destination.

Like Memphis as a whole, Broad Avenue has changed exponentially over the last decade.

A new face

In 2010, passionate volunteers organized “A New Face for an Old Broad”—a street activation featuring pop-up restaurants and temporary shops in abandoned storefronts. The organizers believed Broad Avenue was the next frontier in the midtown corridor, and wanted to show what the neighborhood could become with some investment and infrastructure.

Related: Broad Avenue's future tied to Binghampton

That weekend display of tactical urbanism and plucky entrepreneurship changed the trajectory of the district.

Today, Broad Avenue is a fun, functioning, and versatile entertainment district. I often dine in at Bounty on Broad, grab a treat at Muddy’s, or pop in for a cocktail and show at the Cove. Not to mention the eye-catching water tower. And there’s plenty of growth on the way.

Related: What smart cities can learn from Memphis

Up the street
Whitney Winkler opened her art shop in 2020 in the Broad Avenue Arts District. (Sarah Rushakoff)
On Hollywood off Broad, Whitney Winkler opened her art and gift shop last year and said she has really enjoyed collaborating with other makers to sell their wares. 

“I love the bustle of the Broad Avenue District, and am so elated to see that so much growth is happening in this corner of the city,” she said.

For gifts, I like to visit lifestyle and gift shop Falling Into Place throughout the year. Mary Claire White opened the shop in 2015, the same year as two other independent retail stores came onto the scene—City & State and the on-hiatus Bingham & Broad. According to White, those three businesses changed things dramatically for the street.

“We are a part of the local landscape that Memphis cares about so deeply,” she said. “And we hope people come and enjoy that experience.”

Related: From point A to point B: New ways to connect Memphis
Candles are a popular item at Falling Into Place on Broad Avenue. (Sarah Rushakoff)
The pandemic caused some bumps, bruises, and casualties on Broad Avenue, but White managed to keep her loyal fan base engaged. She put the store inventory online and her team ended up surprising themselves with how well they were able to manage the stress and uncertainty. 

“[It] involved curbside pickup and delivery along with special sales typically reserved for holidays, including our very popular candle sale,” White said. “We saw a huge rallying cry around us because we were trying.”

Broader outlook
Sugar Ghost ice cream and bubble tea shop on Broad Avenue. (Sarah Rushakoff)
White had long thought Broad Avenue needed an ice cream shop. When the space next door to Falling Into Place became available, she knew it was time for her to make it happen herself. It started as a food truck and grew into a full-blown homemade ice cream and bubble tea shop.

Related: Secondhand entrepreneurs found success on Broad Avenue

White said Broad has an artsy “what you see is what you get” vibe, something visitors have come to enjoy and expect.

“Broad is a beautiful cross-section of Memphis. The street itself is an experience and it makes people feel good patronizing it.”
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Read more articles by Jeff Hulett.

Originally from Chicago, Jeff moved to Memphis in 1990 not really knowing much about the south. In fact, the first week he lived here he was suspended from school for not saying, "yes ma'am" and "no ma'am." Jeff has since developed a passion for Memphis and especially Memphis music. A member of several bands including Snowglobe and Me & Leah, Jeff works as a communications consultant with many non-profits including Playback Memphis, Church Health, Room in the Inn-Memphis and BLDG Memphis. Jeff lives in the Vollintine Evergreen neighborhood with his wife and two daughters.