Portland, Brooklyn, Nashville, and Memphis. Those aren't four cities you typically see referenced in the same sentence, but last week a Wall Street Journal story cited a Cushman & Wakefield national real estate report that lumped Memphis in with those three hipster-friendly cities as one of the country's top four markets offering "the right live/work/play environment for millennials."
It was a pleasant surprise to see it in print, but the WSJ story just validates what anyone who's been living in Midtown or downtown in the past few years has seen firsthand: Craft beer breweries popping up like March daffodils, bike paths proliferating, residential and retail developments in Overton Square, Crosstown, South Main, downtown, the Edge District, Cooper-Young, and on Broad Avenue — all signaling a serious revitalization of the city's core.
Last Sunday dawned bright and clear. The incessant rain had moved out and spring arrived, seemingly overnight, with temperatures in the 70s and a sky of porcelain blue. My daughter and her boyfriend and I decided to ride our bikes in search of a friendly patio for brunch. It proved to be a struggle.
We rolled down Peabody Avenue to the Slider Inn. Nope. Patio full. Sorry. So we pedaled our way north on Cooper to the Second Line. The front porch was full, meaning there would be a wait. So on we went to Overton Square, home to at least 10 patios. It was the same story there. Patio-mania had set in. Not a seat to be had outside. So we went to Boscos and resigned ourselves to sitting inside.
And it was a good thing. A great thing, actually.
For many years, Joyce Cobb and a crew of local musicians have played at Boscos' Sunday brunch. It's a wonderful gathering, where mimosas flow and you get to hear one of the city's best singers doing jazz standards while you munch on your eggs Benedict. But this week, Joyce was singing while sitting down. Her voice was strong, but she is not these days, having gone through a number of chemo treatments in recent weeks.
The place was packed — with families, couples, black and white — all united in support of Joyce. When she sang "Danny Boy," there were more than a few tears shed, despite the seeming incongruity of an African-American woman singing a sad Irish standard.
My daughter, who recently moved here from Austin, was impressed. "Look at this place," she said. "In Austin, this room would be filled with hipsters. I love this town." So do I.
After all, it's one thing to have hipster cred. It's quite another to have heart and soul.