The area now known as the Broad Avenue Arts District first emerged in the small, independent community of Binghampton, which officially became part of Memphis in 1919. Despite its role in the city’s evolution in transportation and manufacturing as well as civil rights and labor organization, the street was left neglected after a failed but still damaging effort to bisect the neighborhood with an interstate highway. Broad Avenue’s current resurgence began in the 2000s with grassroots efforts to activate and revitalize the street. Today it’s a model of tactical urbanism and collaborative, inclusive entrepreneurship. It’s also one of the most vibrant stretches of Memphis and a perfect destination for a full day of dining, shopping and exploring.
You can start your morning or evening on Broad at The Liquor Store, an upscale diner serving all-day breakfast as well as lunch and dinner fare with Caribbean flourishes like plantain wedges and Cuban pork. The curated cocktail menu complements everything from brunch onward. Just be careful how you tag that Instagram post afterward — your mom might not be pleased to see you hitting the liquor store at 11 a.m.
If you’d prefer your buzz from caffeine, City & State offers a full coffee bar next to a gift shop focused on small-scale creators from across the country. Lisa Toro, co-founder of both The Liquor Store and City & State, was initially drawn to the area because of its energy and has found a community of diverse but like-minded entrepreneurs.
“It’s an eclectic blend with something for everyone,” said Lisa. “We’ve seen more families and tourists coming to the area in the last few years, which serves as a testament to all the continued efforts and teamwork we pour into the district to keep it top-of-mind as a destination in the heart of Memphis with some of the most unique offerings in the city from retail to restaurants to art.”
You have even more options for dining as the day goes on. Broadway Pizza has been slinging “Memphis-style” thin-crust pizza since 1977. Maximo’s on Broad offers a tapas and wine bar drawing from a range of international influences. Bounty on Broad welcomes guests to enjoy family-style servings of farm-to-table dishes with Southern accents. Bounty and Maximo’s also dish out divine weekend brunches (Saturday and Sunday and just Sunday, respectively).
The district is also preparing to add a new tenant with the opening of Lucky Cat Ramen‘s new location. The restaurant began as a pop-up at City & State and then The Cove before opening its own doors on Cooper Street, and will now be returning to Broad Avenue this October.
WISEACRE Brewing became a craft beer pioneer by opening the first taproom in Memphis in 2013. Celebrate your own milestones beside their JV Northwest Brewhouse or outdoors on the patio, where you can catch a food truck for a bite.
For even deeper Memphis history, stop by The Cove, a nautically themed bar in both menu and decor. Slurp your oysters and sip a cocktail under the reclaimed art of Anderton’s, a dearly departed Midtown seafood favorite.
The retailers of Broad Avenue have something for literally everyone, including your furry friends. Hollywood Feed, long a flagship of Broad’s warehouse-laden east end, has moved to a brand-new building across the street that better features its locally made pet products, high-quality foods and knowledgeable service.
You might also see Argus, the mascot and main greeter of T Clifton Gallery, the first retailer to open on Broad Avenue in its latest iteration. Artist, design consultant and expert custom framer Tom Clifton opened the gallery nearly 35 years ago, and 10 years ago, Pat Brown joined him as co-owner after a career in banking. Pat is often referred to as the Mayor of Broad Avenue for her active role in raising the district’s profile and amenities and helping to build its business community.
“The area was perfectly suited to help local small business owners grow,” said Pat. “When you have storefronts that are reasonably priced, you can attract diverse ownership and tenants.”
That theory has proven true with every Broad Avenue business opened since 2010 boasting local ownership and more than 60% of the district’s professional tenants classified as MWBEs – minority or women-owned business enterprises. That make-up creates a spirit of camaraderie rather than competition.
“We take care of one another, and take pride in what we can accomplish together,” said Pat.
Half the fun of shopping on Broad is hearing the stories of each entrepreneur. Grace Byeitima of Mbabazi House of Style designs the clothing she sells and then sends the patterns to her original store in Uganda to be sewn. Her shop features vibrant prints and intricate jewelry from throughout the African continent.
Chantal Johnson opened her lifestyle boutique 20twelve on Broad in 2014 because the area reminded her of New York’s gritty-chic vibe. The space features anything you might find in a high-end Manhattan loft, from designer home decor to the latest runway styles.
Potter Brit McDaniel and jewelry designer Lauren Carlson became friends as students at the University of Memphis and each went on to build her own business — Brit’s Paper & Clay and Lauren’s Question the Answer — on different sides of the city.
“I was Downtown and Lauren was out east, and we both wanted to be on Broad,” said Brit. They came together in a complementary collaborative space just around the corner on Hollywood Street a year and a half ago where you can pick up Brit’s sleekly minimalist ceramics or Lauren’s dark and delicate jewelry.
The stores on Broad represent years of passion made into reality, and you can see that dedication in the quality products offered. Mary Claire White fell in love with candle-making more than a decade before opening her candle wholesale company and modern-inspired gift shop, Falling Into Place. Victory Bicycle Studio and its little brother Pedaltown Bicycle Company are part of owner Clark Butcher’s efforts to help Memphis reach its potential as a cycling city.
Everbloom Designs founder Kristin Wolter-Canfield was drawn to Broad Avenue from the moment she saw it ten years ago. “After the very first Art Walk I knew I wanted to have a shop or studio there some day,” says Kristin. “I love the artistic and urban feel of Broad. It is not too stuffy and has ‘grit.’ My design sense is the same.” Kristin not only uses her space on Broad as a floral and creative styling studio but also offers it to other artists and small businesses for pop-up events.
After strolling the shops of so many passionate artists and entrepreneurs, you’ll likely be inspired to start following your own creative urges. Well, don’t worry — Broad Avenue has room for your dreams, too! Five in One Social Club looks like a (relatively) ordinary Memphis-centric shop, but its back half provides space for craft workshops for projects like glass-blasting and printmaking, as well as the occasional game of Bingo.
If you want to step your DIY up to a professional level, check out A Makers’ Studio, which Amy Howard founded to inspire, mentor and enable other women to make a living using their hands and hearts. She created her own line of furniture decorating and refinishing products based on her own professional experience and now trains others to build careers with these skills.
Although not native to Memphis, Collage Dance Collective found the perfect home on Broad Avenue to further its mission of making ballet more accessible and representative of the community. Try to catch one of their three seasonal performances focused on reaching nontraditional audiences, or sign up for their professionally-led classes in classical ballet, jazz, West African dance and hip-hop. (And if the music has you wanting to get the band back together, head down the street to Memphis Guitar Spa to rehab your axe.)
The beauty of Broad Avenue is that once you spend a day there, you’ll have even more reasons to return. It’s a district built on connection and character, and you’ll find something new and different every time you visit.
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