by Sarah Owen
Cups, a local coffee shop chain based in Jackson, is opening another branch in Midtown on West Street as a part of ELSEWorks. ELSEWorks is an entrepreneurship initiative sponsored by the Else School of Business. Dr. David Culpepper, chair of ELSEworks, hopes that Cups not only leads the way to an improved economy in Midtown but also to an improved community.
“We’ve talked to them for the past year and a half about the potential for Cups locating here, and the prospects of doing that are very encouraging,” Culpepper says, “The owner of it has an interest in the arts and taking areas that were formally blighted and contributing to their turn around.”
Improving West Street is a part of Midtown’s new master plan. Culpepper says “This new plan targets a mix economy, which means it not only includes commercial but also light industrial.” Cups also aids Millsaps’ strategic plan. Cups would create meeting space in the community for Millsaps’ students, faculty, and staff as well as artists and residents in the area. Culpepper explains “Millsaps contemplates a good deal of activity on West Street; not hiding West Street, but levering West Street and making it an asset rather than continuing to ignore it or hide it.”
Culpepper emphasizes Cups versatility. “It could be a place for artists to display their wares and—on the second floor—maybe even an artist co-op, studio-space,” he adds, “It’s bigger than a coffee shop.” Cups and other ELSEworks projects, such as business assistance and microinvestment programs, will help improve the Midtown economy.
There are safety concerns, but Culpepper is confident Millsaps will open the gate to provide students with easy access to West Street. In fact, having direct access to campus is one of Cups’ only requests.” Culpepper says “We’ve had discussions with the administration about access points. Opening the gate to Midtown has to be done in a thoughtful, systematic way. We want to improve that access in a way the college campus feels is secure and practical.” ELSEworks and 1C1C have been working together to test potential access points.“There’s been a lot progress in Midtown both economically and communally,” Culpepper says.