In Memphis, the mom-and-pop corner store is now a nostalgic relic of a time when residents rode the streetcar or walked to work and did some grocery shopping every day at the store just up the street or around the corner. Not every neighborhood had corner stores; they were usually in lower- and middle- income suburbs developed before World War I. Idlewild, Rozelle-Annesdale, Cooper-Young, Lenox, and Tucker-Jefferson in Midtown and many older neighborhoods in North and South Memphis still have a good collection of these small commercial buildings.
These stores were pretty much legislated out of existence for suburbs developed after Memphis adopted its first building ordinance in 1909; their demise was assured with the adoption of the city's first uniform zoning code in 1921. The stores that remain were "grandfathered" into their surrounding residential zoning as "non-conforming uses." Some of the remaining buildings have been converted to residences and some still take advantage of their "non-conforming" status to serve as artist's studios, offices, or retail shops.
The cast-stone building at the corner of Meda and Walker in Cooper-Young was a neighborhood market that opened around 1905. A two-bedroom apartment connected to the store provided lodging for the storekeeper. Over the years, the building suffered from a serious lack of maintenance, and the store closed about two years ago. A total rehab of the property has resulted in a distinctive residence with a huge, loft-like open space for living and dining areas, a separate kitchen and laundry area, and three rooms and two baths up a short run of stairs. The former store area has a 12-foot-high plank ceiling, and the new, exposed ductwork contributes to the loft look. One end of the room is all glass -- two big, square windows and double doors. A jaunty, striped awning would dress up the facade a bit and screen the interior from the afternoon sun.
The kitchen has new white cabinets with granite-like, plastic-laminate countertops, and a south-facing window provides good light. There's room for a small table and a couple of chairs if someone wanted a variety of dining areas. Since the property's front yard is the sidewalk, installing French doors in the kitchen to give a view of the fenced backyard would enhance the residential feel of the site.
The former apartment three steps above the store area now has a master suite at the rear, with a full bath and walk-in closet, and a large front bedroom. A small middle room has a fireplace and would be a pleasant library or home office. The rehabilitation work was extensive and the building is ready for occupancy, but a new owner could add some Midtown touches, such as a mantel and wall-bracket lights for the fireplace and five-panel wooden doors throughout.
Because this building has not been used for commercial purposes for more than a year, zoning issues would probably have to be considered if a retail or office use were proposed. But whether it has a commercial or residential use, this once-neglected corner in Cooper-Young now has an active future in store.
1016 Meda Street
1,250 square feet, 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, $138,500
Realtor: Coleman-Etter Fontaine, Agent: Clay Templeton, 767- 4100